Tag Archives: walter white

Better Call Saul – A Great Show with a Stinky Ending

BQB here.

So, obligatory SPOILER WARNING. If you don’t want to know how BCS ends, look away now. No one else reads this blog anyway so feel free to join the club.

OK.

If you saw it, here’s my list of reasons why the ending stinks:

#1 – While the last few Gene-centric episodes were fun, they aren’t really fitting with the character. Saul was always a contradiction. Very loud, flamboyant and obnoxious but also very devious in his planning and careful in carrying out his plans. TBH, it’s hard to believe a guy on the run with a bag of diamonds and a recognizable face/highly wanted man wouldn’t just lay low in a hole in the wall apartment for a few years before going out into the world as a Cinnabon manager, but they wanted to turn that line from BB about him managing a Cinnabon into something real so, OK.

Fun as the last few episodes were, it’s hard to believe that Saul, when being harassed by a dude from ABQ who recognizes him wouldn’t just call the vacuum cleaner repairman and relocate again.

But OK, I’ll buy that “Gene” was bored, restless, got a taste for scamming, went back to his old ways, got greedy, and got caught.

#2 – One of the central themes of the show is that the legal profession is a very rich and very pedigreed club. If you want a job at a prestigious big city law firm, you might be one of the lucky few who gets there on their own, but more likely you a) need a rich family who can bankroll you through a prestigious undergrad and a prestigious law school as well as the connections to get you in and all the coaching on how to get in i.e. entrance exams, applications, interviews and so on, not to mention all the internships and experiences you’ll need to get to the big time. Ultimately, if you’re a slug like Jimmy McGill, you need not apply and thus, that was the heart of the show. The slug runs circles around the fancy lawyers all the time.

Jimmy’s brother Chuck is the rare top firm lawyer/self-made man so it is tragic when Jimmy bests him. The rest of the fancy lawyers are all country club dimwits who would be working at a drive-thru burger joint without family connections and money. Admittedly though, smarmy pantload that he was, it was still horrible what Jim and Kim did to Howard Hamlin.

Ultimately though, when Saul talks the big time fancy hot shot US attorneys from like, a bazillion years in prison all the way down to 7 in Club Fed, this is like Saul’s masterwork. His entire joy in life was bamboozling top shelf lawyers who view him as pond scum because of his American Samoa degree.

So, I have a very hard time believing that Saul, as in the character who has been built up over the past 14 years, would ever crap on his greatest legal wrangling achievement by copping to the whole enchilada thereby opening the door for him to get slammed with 86 years. I just don’t buy it.

I sort of get what the show was going for. There’s an argument that Saul was such a slippery weasel that the only lawyer who could successfully prosecute Saul was Saul. He wasn’t going to give it to the prosecution. He needed to make them know that he had the power to get up, do a song and dance about how Walt made him afraid and yeah, Walt’s reputation for murdering those who disobeyed him was so well known it is believable that one juror would have bought it and he only needed one.

So he let the fancy lawyers know he could have beat them, and essentially he did, then copped to it. Essentially, he prosecuted himself and put himself away for far longer than a whole slew of fancy US attorneys could have.

This is something that would have only happened on TV. Frankly, the 7 year deal was a stretch. I debate that. He did still make a boatload of money and surely there are money crimes but I suppose he could always argue Walt made him do it.

It’s just very unbelievable that the world’s most slippery weasel would have bailed on such a fabulous deal.

#3 – I do get it is the BB-verse and here, this is a place where crime never pays. Everyone who so much as bites a slice of the forbidden fruit that is the rotten apple of crime pays and pays dearly. So it would not have fit that theme if Saul had won. I think we all wanted to see Saul end with a big legal showdown where he walks scot free and maybe even goes back to practicing but ok. In the end, Jimmy felt bad about how he lived his life, wanted to atone, and saw the only path to pay for his evil deeds was to go to jail forever. In real life, I don’t buy it. Jail is a horrible place. If you can get off in 7 in a quasi resort style jail with golf and ice cream, literally no one will say no please send me to the supermax. Yes, the show was clear to point out that all the inmates love Saul for his defense of crooks everywhere but yeah, not all are going to love and protect him forever. Again, jail is a horrible place.

All in all, if they wanted a Jimmy redeems himself or pays for his crimes ending, another route might have been plausible.

#4 – A lot is left on the table and unanswered or at least I don’t understand it. Is Kim still on the hook for Howard? I feel like Jimmy copping to it only makes her situation worse, not better. Think about it. Kim admitted to a lot of bad stuff in her affidavit. They won’t prosecute because there is no body and neither Jim or Kim know where it is? OK. Not sure but I believe that is true. If there is no body then they could never 100 percent know for sure that a murder took place.

Even so, she did admit to fraudulently painting a prominent attorney as a drug addict, going so far as to even drug him so it looked like he was on drugs, for the purpose of damaging a law firm’s reputation so as to convince its clients to take a settlement offer early rather than continue with the case just so she and Jim could get their pay days early…come on. That’s a prosecutable crime, isn’t it? Doesn’t Jimmy’s confirmation hurt her?

Again, all crooks pay in this universe, so Kim will face a big time civil lawsuit. Still, eh…even without a body I’m pretty sure there’s some stuff that as long as she said she did it, she can be prosecuted for it. Jimmy could be prosecuted too.

Oh, that and they kinda sloughed off the whole forgetting to prosecute Jimmy for drugging and robbing a bunch of rich guys then threatening to strangle an old lady with a telephone cord to keep her from calling the police.

#5- There is a lot of good writing here. The time travel thing comes up again. The first time, Mike says if he could time travel, he’d go back to the first time he took a bribe and not take it, presumably to ensure that he lives a decent, law-abiding life. He regrets the path he took and understands the money isn’t worth all the evil he has done and a life as a regular, middle-class Joe would have been better. He also says he’d go to the future to check on his family. A laudable goal.

Saul says he’d go back in time to when Warren Buffet took over Berkshire Hathaway and invest 1 million so that it would be worth multi-billions today. Jerk. All about the money.

Time travel comes up again with Walt. Walt is his usual dickish self and as usual, blames Gretchen and Elliot rather than conceding he might have been a dick about that whole friendship breakup. Still, he brings himself to admit he should have stuck with the duo for he’d have big legal and legit bucks today. He at least sort of admits that he is a prideful dick.

Saul would go back to a time when he broke his knee in a slip and fall and not slip and fall so hard. Nothing about, oh I don’t know, not slipping and falling altogether.

The third time, Chuck tells Jimmy it’s not too late for Jimmy to change careers. Jimmy scoffs, telling Chuck that Chuck never changes so why should he? Jimmy leaves and Chuck picks up a copy of HG Wells’ Time Machine. Presumably, this is a sign that both brothers dream about time travel and the ability to go back and right their wrongs and fix their mistakes. If only their relationship was better, they could talk to rather than past one another and figure out how to help each other be happier.

So in the end, Jimmy does finally learn that it was wrong for him to be a scumbag and he sets forth in a very unlikely way to pay for his scumbaggery.

There is also great symmetry when Jimmy and Kimmy share a smoke in the end, as they did in the first episode where they first became co-conspirators/love interests. I think here, if they ended it with Kim saying with a smirk, “OK how do we get you out of here?” that would have landed the dismount. In other words, Saul copped to his wrongdoing, went to jail, now can these two tricksters figure out a way to get him out? But I suppose that wouldn’t be Jimmy paying for his crimes.

SIDENOTE: I have a hard time believing that Kim would still have a New Mexico bar card after that affidavit she signed.

IN CLOSING: Thanks Vince Gilligan and co. and cast and crew for the 14 years you spent on creating a very riveting TV show universe. BB had a great ending. This one, I really expected it would but was disappointed. I’m not sure how it could have been better. I suppose we all wanted to see Saul outwit everyone and I suppose an argument can be made that he did, but I just didn’t buy it.

I will give it credit. This is one of those shows that was hard to quantify. It was a legal procedural, but also a comedy about a scumbag who took pride in his scum-baggery and his absurdly humorous scummy methods, a saga about cartel gangsters at war (where many of such episodes rarely even involved Saul), and a show that was part prequel and part sequel, going back and forth to points in time before and after Breaking Bad yet somehow it did it well.

I just don’t buy Saul giving up a 7 year deal. Crime doesn’t pay and that’s one of the things this show gets right, but if they wanted Jimmy to take responsibility for his crimes, they might have found a more believable way. What that way would have been, I’ll admit, I don’t know.

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TV Review – Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

I am the one who reviews!

High school chemistry teacher with cancer + his former student who calls everyone “bitch” = show that most critics would agree is the best television show of the twenty first century thus far.

BQB here with a review of Breaking Bad.

When this show came out in 2008, someone close to me had just died from cancer, so I wasn’t interested at all.  I saw the previews for it and was like, “eh” then I saw the previews for Showtime’s The Big C, a show that came out around the same time about a woman trying to keep her life together while fighting cancer and I was just like, “Look Hollywood, cancer is not funny or glamorous and it is the last thing I want to see on TV when I’m looking for an escape, thank you very much.”

So the years passed and then somewhere in the early 2010s I heard people talking about this show so I gave it a chance on Netflix and was immediately hooked.  And from what I’ve heard, the invention of streaming media breathed life into this and a lot of other shows.

Because when you think about it, a show about a high school chemistry teacher dying from cancer doesn’t exactly sound like good time appointment viewing, but once it was available in a format for people to check out when they had a free moment, boy howdy did they get hooked.

And truth be told, the show isn’t so much about cancer as it is a study of a) the sadness people feel when they reach the end of their lives feeling like they never reached their full potential and b) how much the legal system keeps us all behaving like good doobies without us ever realizing it.

Remove a) the fear of dying because you are already dying and b) the fear/humiliation of ending up in prison (because you’re dying) and the nicest person you know might end up walking down an evil path.

The set-up – Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was, in his youth, a promising chemistry scholar who starts a business with friends Elliot (Adam Godley) and Gretchen (Jessica Hecht).

Walter sells his share of the company early, the company becomes huge, like Facebook huge.  Meanwhile, Walter grows old and bitter, having spent his life in mediocrity as a high school teacher with a part time job at a car wash just to make ends meet.

Somehow he manages to snag a hot wife, Sklyer (Anna Gunn) while his son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) oozes happiness and gets along as a typical teenager despite a handicap.

When Walt is diagnosed with terminal cancer, his despair over his untapped potential haunts him. He’ll die without using his genius brain to make it big.

Alas, his brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris), a DEA agent, takes Walt on a ride along.  Walt catches a glimpse of just how much cash a good drug dealer rakes in and the little hamster starts rolling around the wheel in his brain.

What begins as an idea to use his chemistry know how to cook crystal meth in order to leave some extra cash behind for his family turns into a long journey into the proverbial heart of darkness, as Walt uses his smarts and fearlessness (because, hey, he’s dying anyway) to rise to the highest ranks of the criminal underworld.

He takes on Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), his former student turned junkie as his partner in crime and together, they become expert meth cooks.  As Jesse becomes like a second son to Walter, their relationship is sometimes tragic and sometimes even hilarious.

Add to the mix criminal lawyer (the show stresses you are to read this as a “lawyer who is a criminal”) Saul Goodman (veteran comedian Bob Odenkirk) who steals the show with his obnoxious TV lawyer ads.  Saul teaches the boys how to launder their money, dodge law enforcement, get out of trouble, etc. etc.

Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is the old ex-cop/problem fixer that Walt works with. The combination of the grizzled old man who has seen and done it all and the chemistry teacher who sees things through gentrified eyes is comical.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo Esposito as crime boss Gus Fring is one of the scarier bad guys on television.

Throughout the series, Walt struggles to keep his public and private lives separate.  He continues to pose as a good dad and husband while sneaking off to cook meth and deal with criminals with Jesse.

All the while, lovable Hank, and I do mean lovable, is chasing some criminal without realizing the man he wants is his beloved brother-in-law that he spends the weekends with grilling burgers and shooting the breeze.

If anything, the Hank/Walt dynamic is what really makes the show. The show runners could have made Hank the stereotypical tough guy cop but instead they made Hank an average joe.  He loves his wife, Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), loves his in-laws Walt and Skyler, loves his nephew Walt Jr. and brews beer in his garage as a hobby.  He is, one might say, a true mensch.

The star of the series is Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator and man behind the scenes.  Every detail, every little thing that happens means something.  Take notes as you watch because if someone so much as sneezes it will turn out to be important later. Not letting a single second of time go wasted has become Gilligan’s signature.

So many shows take off and then descend into chaos.  The actors get too big for their britches and want to leave for bigger, better things.  Ironically, prior to this show, Bryan Cranston wasn’t that well known, his other biggest acting gig having been as the father on Malcolm in the Middle.

Like Walt, Bryan found fame and fortune late in life (albeit legally) but he never forgot the viewers and juggled all the big movie roles that came his way with Breaking Bad, keeping it all together to keep the show going.

And sometimes writers run out of gas, but Vince and company keep viewers on the edge of their seats to the very end.

In fact, if you’re a wannabe writer, I highly suggest checking out this show. (At present, all five seasons are available on Netflix.)

And catch the prequel, Better Call Saul on AMC. It doesn’t have a lot to do with Breaking Bad but you get to learn how Saul and Mike worked together before Walt came along.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Walt Whitman’s O Captain! My Captain!

Written to honor President Abe Lincoln after his assassination, Walt Whitman’s  O Captain!  My Captain! compares the end of the Civil War to the end of a long ship voyage, and Lincoln to a journey weary Captain. Makes sense, as Lincoln did guide the nation through some very choppy seas.

O Captain!  My Captain!

By: Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
But I with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

The poem is often used as a tribute to leaders in general, and was prominently featured in Dead Poets Society, starring Robin Williams.

Fun fact – a Walt Whitman poetry book carelessly left on a toilet tank would go on to play an important part in AMC’s Breaking Bad.

So, good for you, WW, you honored a great president, and you were featured on a cable drama.

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