Reviews

Breaking Bad: Season Two Premiere

Sarah Hentges

The second season of Breaking Bad promises to be quite a ride.

Breaking Bad

Airtime: Sundays, 10pm ET
Cast: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Aaron Paul, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte
MPAA rating: N/A
Subtitle: Season Two Premiere
Network: AMC
US release date: 2009-03-08
Website
Trailer
Amazon

Walter White (Emmy-winning Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher. During the first season of Breaking Bad, he learned he has lung cancer and decided to cook and sell meth in order to provide for his family. Nothing went as planned for Walter and his partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul), a former student who did not do well in chemistry, or, for that matter, in life after high school. Walter tried and failed to keep his secrets -- his cancer, his self-preserving murder of a drug dealer/DEA snitch/cousin, his use of pot -- from his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn).

The revelation of Walter's bad-ass other life impressed his disabled and moody son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte), though he was also annoyed by his father's apparent lack of will to live. He and Skyler have chosen to help Walt hide his criminal activities from Skyler's sister, Marie (Betsy Brandt), a chronic shoplifter in denial, and her husband, Hank (Dean Norris), a crude, yet thoughtful DEA agent.

As Season Two opened this past Sunday, a charred stuffed animal was sinking in the Whites' swimming pool. Not a good sign. Jesse and Walt were making a drug deal with Tuco (Raymond Cruz), visibly shaken after he beat one of his associates to a bloody pulp for "almost nothing." Seconds later, Tuco demanded that that Walt "do that thing" and Jesse "breathe into [the bloody pulp's] mouth," even as the man was already dead. If Tuco wasn't, as Hank describes him, "a psychotic piece of shit" and scary as hell, the scene would have been hilarious. But the tension combined with comedy to produce a different effect, the sort of brilliant, complex emotional mix that Breaking Bad conjures consistently.

Though Walt had calculated that he only needed 11 more drug deals to pay for two college educations, the mortgage, and 10 years of "cost of living" money, he and Jesse are now on the run from Tuco. Increasingly frustrated, Walt is seeming less and less "like himself," going so far as nearly raping Skyler in the kitchen, a startling act that left a smudge of her face mask on the fridge -- a clue to mayhem that Walt, Jr. spotted when he arrived home moments later. Further evidence of Walt's loss of control, his new sexual appetite was the seeming result of his near-death experience, courtesy of Tuco.

Skyler has other problems as well. She and Marie are on the outs and when Hank tried to intervene on her behalf, Skyler let loose, complaining of her "spoiled, kleptomaniac bitch sister,'who 'always manages to be the center of attention.'" Hank urged her to be supportive because, after all, Marie is seeing a counselor (kind of). The more immediate source of tension between husband and wife has to do with Skyler's increasing sense of abandonment by a husband and son who "disappear for hours" and barely talk to her -- and of course, the overdrawn checking account and the faulty water heater. The best he could come up with was to offer to take a look at the utility closet.

As Jesse and Walt plotted to get rid of Tuco, cooking up some poison for this task, Hank and the DEA continued to investigate local meth-related crimes, including Walt and Jesse's theft of chemicals ("Try rolling it morons, it's a barrel") and, later, the murders of two of Tuco's associates. Despite Hank's inability to see how Walt fits into the picture, he's quite good at his job, noting their suspects have chemistry skills, "Book smarts but no street smarts." Most often, Hank's job amuses him, whether he is laughing at the "world's dumbest criminal" or posing next to a body at a crime scene. Hank was so amused by this last that he sent Walt a picture via cell phone, leading immediately to Walt and Jesse's panic -- as they were witnesses to this particular brutality.

This first episode of Season Two ended like all the other episodes -- at the cusp of the next chapter. Just as Walt was trying to figure out how to tell Skyler all the problems he's facing, Jesse showed up at his house. "What the hell are you doing here?" Walt demanded, just as Tuco emerged from the back seat of Jesse's car. Walt had no choice but to get in. Again, Breaking Bad promises to be quite a ride.

9

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less
9
TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less
9

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
9
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image