Monday, September 16, 2013

“Ozymandias” Cements Breaking Bad’s Legacy

I've never written a TV review before, but just had to after last night. Although  I have tried to write about Breaking Bad several of times, but the problem is words just doesn't do the show any justice. It is so prodigious that it is  honestly surreal. I'll try and do my best. And if people like them, I'll review the last two shows.

Well, anyway, a lot of people call the Wire the greatest show ever, but there is no bleeping way that it is better than this. Breaking Bad has become the most compellingly vigorous serial show that has ever been constructed.

And nobody anticipated it to be…..

Vincent Gilligan, to most, was a rather unknown writer, with his popularity mostly coming from writing episodes for the X-Files, and Bryan Cranston was famous for being a ridiculously goofy comedian. Now, he is playing one of the deepest characters ever, and with skillfulness and some luck, Gilligan has written a chef-d’oeuvre that is going to be known to many as the greatest TV show of all time. There are just so many remarkable things about Gilligan’s writing in Breaking Bad.

For starters, his aptitude to develop relatable, yet enormously multifaceted characters, is off the charts. Look no further than at Walter White for an example. Much like the typical Bryan Cranston played character we are used to, White is introduced as a misfortunate spineless nerd, who is underachieving as a high-school chemistry teacher. His less-than-stellar life takes an immense turn once he is informed that he has cancer and also when he meets up with an old high-school student: Jesse Pinkman.

Over time, he ends up undertaking every conceivable illegal activity—not because of him being a deranged psychopath; instead, to protect himself from being caught or murdered. Regardless of being an ingeniously shrewd, calculating murder, Gilligan does an impeccable job of keeping Cranston’s character both sympathetic and amiable. Whether it is because of his cancer, handicapped son, unfair wife, or him continuously trying to protect Pinkman’s well-being, or something else, there are certain merits White has that figuratively enforces someone to cheer for him. His walks a really narrow line that is vulnerable for blemishes, and yet miraculously has virtually none.

There is no doubt about it, developing characters is a very significant layer of writing. However, it pales in comparison to storytelling. Breaking Bad has an exquisite storytelling, and it is obviously because of Gilligan. He has mastered every fa├žade of both writing and telling a story. As a result of his virtually flawless writing, he has made his followers exultant, infuriated, perplexed, and traumatized. Another remarkable thing about the show is it has a payoff in every episode, yet that doesn't derail or slow anything down. The show is also is layered with unanticipated twists and turns that still remain true to the characters. And suspense is splendid, the action scenes are penetrating, and the dialog is piercing as a stiletto.

Gilligan has taken his followers on a compelling journey of Walter White’s life, using tons of twists and turns and yet not derailing its lucidity at all. Whether it is by creating an intriguing conflict or stacking colossal odds against the main characters, it always has its viewers addicted.

Due to its virtues, season four could have been an admirable culmination to the show, particularly because of the chess match among Walter White and Gustavo Fring, translating into the most intense conflicts of all time and therefore making Season 5 essentially a bonus.

And what a bonus it  has turned out to be!

It seems like Breaking Bad is not in it just for the money. It has too much dignity, and it cares too much about ending on a high note rather than milking the cow until it becomes entirely dry. Even if it is going to be a sad day when it climaxes, it is the right decision. After all, all good things have to end, and there is no better way than going out at the best time. But seriously though, I still just do not get how each episode just keeps outshining the other. I mean every one in this season has been virtually perfect, but somehow the next one is even better than the former. It is effectively and exquisitely escalating and intensifying all the way to the crescendo.

After last week’s controversial ending – instead of stretching and delaying the gun scene out as far as possible –  they gave us the pay-off right away. The scene established that Walter White has some good morals left since he negotiated with Jack to keep Hank alive. He offered him every penny that he had saved in order to keep the same guy alive that wanted him arrested and to decay in jail.  Even though Hank was ruthlessly emotionless towards Walter, he wanted to keep him alive because he was family.

It did not work, though. Hank is now dead, ending the cat-and-mouse game among him and Walter. This twists the narrative in a downright unpredictably stimulating direction, as everyone thought the finale would be an ultimate showdown between the two. 

Quickly, White becomes evil again by showing a vulnerable Jesse Pinkman no remorse when he discovers him hiding under the car and then points him out to the neo-Nazis. He does not change his mind, either, as he gives Jack a subtle nod to do the job. But instead of killing Jesse, the neo-Nazis say that they are going to “get information out of him” ( in reality, they are using him to cook them meth) and then kill him afterwards. Just as Pinkman is being dragged away, Walter tells him he watched Jane die when he could have saved her, which was a playback to an earlier episode.

What a cruel bastard!

Rian Johnson was a perfect selection as the director, as he created a subtle, detailed, artsy and sophisticated masterpiece.The minor details are insanely well-done, as they are barely recognizable, but they do such a phenomenal job in intensifying the scene.

For example….

When Hank gets shot, it echoes off the mountains and an insufferable noise plays, portraying that Walter is shell-shocked and stunned.

When Jesse is soon to be expired, he looks up and sees the birds flying around, which was a moment of clarity of the situation and him seeing his life flash by him.

The greatest directed scene, however, goes to the scene where the White family separates, wherein Walter packs his clothes and other stuff up in order to escape from the major problems surrounding him, but his wife keeps asking the same questions over and over again, even though Walter keeps insisting that he will explain it all later. She then grabs a knife and actually slashes White’s hand. He is in shock by her actions, and to display that, a puzzling-type sound plays in the background, exemplifying total astonishment.

Then, they wrestle over the knife while their baby loudly cries, adding more power and intensity to the scene. Flynn eventually saves his mother by knocking his dad off her. Everything becomes too peculiar for Walter — as he mutters out, “What are you doing!? We’re supposed to be a family!? The camera then zooms out, displaying that Walter is dizzy and perplexed, and not able to fully digest all that has happened today.

In a heartbreaking moment, Flynn turns on his father by calling the police and telling them that he pulled a knife on his mother and killed someone. Their relationship, which had been tremendously strong and bursting with oodles of affection and love, becomes blemished in such a short time. As White is leaving the house fully aware his family has become dismantled, he takes the only person part of his family who does not hate him: his baby.

Soon after, Bryan Cranston delivers his best soliloquy of all time when he unleashes his thoughts on his wife. He was so convincingly believable and everything felt truthful. At the same time, in his irregular way, he essentially saved Skyler from getting in trouble, as something tells me that he knew the cops were listening, by putting the entire blame on himself. Even though it was likely to save her, him going off on her was one my favorite moments in TV history. I hate Skyler so much, and I just hope that she fully gets her comeuppance for being, in Walter’s words, a bitch.

The line, “I still have things to do.” by Walt is a perfect way to explain the final two episodes left of this show. The pieces have been impeccably  put in place of building and completing this masterpiece, but it is not over yet.  This episode was exquisitely written, acted, and directed. It was terrifyingly forbidding, disconcerting and downright malicious at times, and it was the most penetrating, cruel, horrific, and elegantly written episode of the season.

It is almost scary to think that we have two more left that could be even better.

87 comments:

  1. I've never understood the backlash against Skyler. Is it some kind of repressive macho thing where the "bitch wife" is holding back the guy by forcing him to have a normal, non-glorious life?

    Anyway, yeah, Ozymandias was simply one of the best television episodes of all time.

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  2. I love to hate it. I'm pretty sure we're supposed to. She just treats Walt like shit, even before she found out about his illegal activities. Fuck, she dumped him when he had cancer. Isn't that the biggest no-no ever?

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  3. It's one of these things where folks don't understand that unlikeable characters are unlikeable on purpose, so they hate them and want them off the show. It's the same thing with Dexter and his girlfriend in the early seasons. Yes, she's grating, yes she's needy, yes she's annoying, but that's the FUCKING POINT.

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  4. Was that "He made up his mind 10 minutes ago" thing a reference to Watchmen, or does the Ozymandias poem feature similar lines?

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  5. I think it was certainly a reference to Watchman.

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  6. davidbonzaisaldanamontgomerySeptember 16, 2013 at 6:32 PM

    Fuck me. My favorite character on the show is gone (at the end of the series run, but still). Who does Gilligan think he is, Joss Whedon?!

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  7. He's a leaf on the wind.

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  8. She was a bit annoying in the first season, I thought. She was an asshole to her husband that has cancer, and rather one dimensional. But I think they flesh edher out and she turned into an excellent character.


    If people still feel like she has been 'holding Walt down' then they are missing the point... of the whole show.

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  9. He had been lying to her. For months.

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  10. I think if you think we're supposed to hate her and that she gave Walt a raw deal, you certainly have a very unique perspective on the show, I'll give you that.

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  11. Yeah, people that hate Skylar make no sense. She married a chemistry teacher. She didn't agree to supporting a meth cook/murderer/kingpin.

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  12. As sad as it made me to see Hank die, it had to happen, and I loved how he went out as a badass. No begging, no letting Jack call him "Hank", telling him to go fuck himself, then looking him in the eye and telling him to do what he had to do. Hank knew there was no getting out of it.

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  13. Opps, I went to edit my post and deleted it. Anyway, like I said, I like Skyler. I just love to hate her.

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  14. The lines are blurred in the first season or two and you are meant to have sympathy for Walt.. but viewers still feeling like that about Skylar at this stage are missing the point.

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  15. Absolutely. My post was meant to be a diplomatic way of saying that. Skyler has made mistakes, yes, but she was a normal woman thrust into a horrific, terrible situation by her husband and tried to deal with it as best she could.

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  16. Well, they actually explain it in "Talking Bad". Before, she was not on Walt's side. They told this by her wearing different colors. Thereafter, she joined his side and started wearing his same colors.

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  17. It's not. It's a reference to the poem.

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  18. But she becomes just as evil and greedy. In fact, she encourages Walter to kill Jesse.

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  19. She's trying to protect her family. She knows he has killed people. She doesn't care about Jesse.

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  20. Gomie is cool and all but favorite character?!

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  21. He's no Skinny Pete.

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  22. Is Huell still in that room waiting, scared for his life?

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  23. Hasn't Walt done the same too?

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  24. Of course. And he considered Jesse family. She doesn't. So what's the difference?

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  25. I'm just saying that she is bad too. In fact, everyone is, however, in a certain way. The only goody-goody character is pretty much Flynn.

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  26. davidbonzaisaldanamontgomerySeptember 16, 2013 at 7:10 PM

    I'm talking about Awesome Hank =(

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  27. I wonder if they intertwine him into the next one, possibly trying to kill possibly Saul, as most of us completely forgot about him since this episode was so newsworthy.

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  28. He's with his minerals now.

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  29. That was the most emotional episode I may of seen of anything, my heart felt like it sunk into my stomach when Hank got killed. Maybe the best episode so far, and scarily I think it will get even better in the last two (is that possible?).

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  30. He must be hungry.

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  31. Yeah, I don't get that one at all. She eventually accepts her life as it is because when she tried to get rid of Walt, he just came back; she saw no end in sight. Yes, she got involved and certainly isn't a clean character, but it's as textbook of a case of battered spouse syndrome as you can get, imo.

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  32. Well, he doesn't make as much as he used to as Mabel.

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  33. She was temporarily seduced by money. Then she saw what she caused to happen to Ted and it shocked her to her senses.

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  34. For the record those thoughts he gave his wife were to literary absolve her of all wrong doing. He was making that up.

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  35. Uhhhhhh, the author pointed that out. He said that he did it to save her from getting in trouble by putting the blame on himself

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  36. Yup I was going back to edit my post to note that, but you got me lol.

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  37. You shut your whore mouth about The Wire, sir.

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  38. I was pretty sure that the final episode's title ("Felina") was a reference to the old Marty Robbins "El Paso" song prior to this episode, but after the way this episode shook out, now I am absolutely rock-solid positive.

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  39. Damnit, Marie, they're minerals, not ro...oh, you said minerals, nevermind.

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  40. It's also an anagram for "Finale"

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  41. Poor Hank. Only if he didn't have to take a shit in Walt's house. He would be still alive

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  42. Yep, works both ways.

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  43. Would it not sort of make sense if this was the last we saw as Jesse?

    We pretty much saw him suffer his fate: enslaved to the neo Nazis to cook meth until they kill him. Or they kill Andrea and Brock.

    So...we basically saw Jesse die.

    But I don't think that'll happen. Doesn't seem like Gilligan's MO.

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  44. I think Walt will seek his revenge on the neo-Nazis and then wind up saving Jesse. But I just don't know anymore. This show throws so many unexpected curve balls.

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  45. Congratulations on missing the whole point of the Skylar / Walt relationship.

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  46. skylar's going to walk because she's one of Walt's main victims assface.


    Also, did you fucking even WATCH the end sequence? Walt's acting like a shit on the phone to basically convince the cops that Skylar had nothing to do with his crimes and at worse, was living in constant fear of her life if she did not do exactly what her monster husband said.



    also Vince Gilligan "unknown"? brother please...... He was one of the most acclaimed writers on the X-Files, penning numerous numbers of show's most acclaimed episodes (one of which, as fate would provide him, was where he first met Cranston).

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  47. Walt has been abusing, lying to, and stalking, and flat out TERRORIZING Skylar ever since she found out his evil secret. The only reason she stuck around is that she realized that the only way to get away from Walt was to expose him and that would basically destroy her kids lives. She put up with a TON of Walt's shit, trying her damnest to help him if only for their mutual survival and to compensate for Walt, stupid arrogance.

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  48. Jesse will be around. His arc is not over. He's more than likely the reason Walt has come back to town, as Saul has probably told him that the Nazis are making blue meth and basically forcing him to cook it to his quality level.

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  49. Not exactly. But Hank's final words held the same sort of tone Rorschach expressed with his dying words, in that he would rather die than compromise and more to the point, he knew Manhattan had already decided to kill him the moment he went out to talk to him

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  50. Yeah...kind of rich coming from Baker

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  51. Can you ever just enjoy something without making up some elaborate plot of how things should turn out, thus making yourself disappointed and angry when they don't follow your plot exactly?

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  52. I took it as a reference to Ozymandias telling the others that he had already put his plan into motion 35 minutes before.

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  53. Sons of Anarchy > Breaking Bad.


    Not saying that as a dig, I'm just saying that if someone held a gun to my head looking for the two best shows currently on TV, they're it and I'm saying SoA first.


    I *CRIED* when Opie died and didn't care as much when Hank got shot in the head.

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  54. I loved the Wire, sir.

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  55. Walt comes back, kills Neo Nazis. Jesse thanks him by killing Walt.


    -fin-

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  56. She's Tony's wife in the Sopranos. She could have walked away and didn't. Blood is on her hands, too.

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  57. Soon after, Bryan Cranston delivers his best soliloquy of all time when he unleashes his thoughts on his wife. He was so convincingly believable and everything felt truthful. At the same time, in his irregular way, he essentially saved Skyler from getting in trouble, as something tells me that he knew the cops were listening, by putting the entire blame on himself. Even though it was likely to save her, him going off on her was one my favorite moments in TV history. I hate Skyler so much, and I just hope that she fully gets her comeuppance for being, in Walter’s words, a bitch.


    You should have read this before you went after me. Also, just because you knew Gilligan doesn't mean most people do. In fact, most people when the show started had no idea who he was, ass face.

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  58. I'd go one further: Weeds > Breaking Bad....


    Drops Microphone................

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  59. I didn't cry when Opie died, though I was speechless. Opie's wake made me bawl like a bitch. The music plus Jax's look when he says "See you later, brother".

    Kurt Sutter is a dick. A talented dick, though.

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  60. I used to be bothered by Skylar through season 2 but I've softened on her since then.

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  61. People hated Rita?

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  62. That's one thing I've never understood about those who view Skylar as a "bitch" who deserves "comeuppance". Did these people miss the entire season where Walt abused her? Intimidating her into staying with him and sleeping with him despite her very real and justifiable fear that his actions may bring harm to their family? Do these people forget the two murderous Mexican brothers who walked into the White family's house in search of Walt? What if Skyler or Flynn had been there?


    It's an amazing show and there's many blurred lines and shades of grey but Walt is not the hero and Skyler most certainly is not the villain.

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  63. mineral-solid positive, Marie. Mineral.

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  64. Back in the days when Dexter was competently written and the audience could feel something for the characters other than bafflement and exasperation.

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  65. They're both great but in totally different ways. To me, they're like comparing Deadwood to The Shield. Both would be in my top ten shows ever made but I couldn't put one above the other as they just don't compare. One's a Western with shakespearian dialogue and one's a balls-to-the-wall macho thrill-ride. Same goes for Breaking Bad, which is a tense, layered, thoughtful show rich with symbolism and whatnot, whereas SOA is, well, another balls-to-the-wall macho thrill-ride.


    Plus, much as I loved Opie and Hank, no character death will ever match the one from The Shield. I won't spoil for those who haven't seen other than to say SHANE, I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU! Forest Whitaker, either, fuck that guy!

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  66. I think the point is that people use that argument to justify hating on her in basically a sexist way (doesn't mean it's intentional or you're actually a sexist), instead of seeing her as an individual who acts pretty logically given the extreme circumstances... having a new baby, a son with cerebral palsy, and oh yeah your nice husband responding to his impending death by cancer diagnosis by becoming a murderous meth kingpin. It took a few seasons for me to come to terms with why I disliked her so much, and why she's actually one of the more interesting characters on TV in spite of how "annoying" I might sometimes find her.

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  67. I actually missed that point while watching the ep live. Then read a review where the reviewer missed it, and everyone pointed out what a f*cking idiot he was for missing such a clearly obvious plot point that was obvious to any average viewer watching the show. I wonder how many other people missed it.

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  68. Never watched SoA, but it's been one of the first shows I plan to watch after Breaking Bad is over. I imagine I would bawl too if fucking Ron Howard died.

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  69. Goddam yet another suggestion for ways to replace my Breaking Bad void with popular shows I never watched. But how can I deny BakezDaddy and his impeccable tastes?

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  70. Left shoe or right shoe? :)

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  71. I will admit that I watch SOA, but lets be honest, that show is fucking stupid. They're the good outlaw biker gang! They smuggle aids drugs! Be nice to prostitutes! We embrace other races! It's so dumb.

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  72. Please don't ever pick that microphone up again.

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  73. Tony's wife knew what she was getting into. Skylar married a high school teacher.

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  74. Sorry man, but for me your writing is very hard to read. Your sentences run on too long and you use too many commas where there shouldn't be commas (there should actually be semi colons and periods in a lot of places instead of commas). A lot of the grammar and formatting is off as well, with words being missing, wrong words being used (seems like you used a thesaurus incorrectly in a lot of places), and double spaces where there should be single spaces. I'm sure you have valid points, but I couldn't read through the whole thing because of these errors. But that's just my 2 cents.

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  75. Minus this guy, I guess. I couldn't look at John Lithgow the same way for months afterward.

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  76. I liked Rita and didn't find her annoying. I know many people did find her annoying, but I don't feel she was at all intended to be an unlikable or annoying character.

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  77. Definitely - that guy's death was absolutely heart-wrenching.

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  78. I disagree - she "broke bad" just like Walt did. She got greedy, backed Walt against Hank, and refused Walt's offer to turn himself in and take all of the blame (when he was on the floor after burying the money). Plus, she knew that lots of blood was spilled for it.

    Most of the characters have "broken bad", actually - Jesse having killed Gale, Hank handling his investigation in an illegal way, Gomie going along with it, Marie condemning others despite being a klepto...

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  79. No, I think Baker is onto something:

    Walt and Jesse definitely have a love/hate relationship, I can see Walt saving Jesse from the very predicament that Walt arranged.

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  80. I was so engrossed by what Walt was saying that I didn't realize it right away, either.

    I figured that Walt had some sort of plan, as I doubted that he wouldn't realize that the cops were there, but I couldn't put my finger on exactly what his plan was until I had slept on it.

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  81. This season sure is a fuckin' train-wreck, isn't it?

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  82. I don't think Miami Metro have solved a case all season? And Vogel was the world's worst psychiatrist yet somehow a lauded expert in her field. And Masuka has a daughter for some reason! Seriously, I've been doing vague recaps on a forum I frequent after each episode and it's amazing when you sit down and think about an episode how absolutely nothing makes sense.

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  83. That's shocking. I loved Rita and avoiding spoilers....I hate John Lithgow.

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