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Breaking Bad Webliography

by Grubby

An annotated list of links to articles and interviews.

Added today:

Skyler fan hate in context
Skyler neither victim nor villain
BB superior for eschewing relativism

Work in progress. Post a comment if you know of something else that belongs here.

Articles

Themes

 

Breaking Bad’s Skyler White: Victim or Villain. Lindsay Beyerstein and Sady Doyle. inthesetimes.com.

Skyler has outgrown her early function of decrying and fearing WW’s anti-heroic adventure, not by joining him, but by finding “agency” within the confines of the world he has built around her. She refuses to be defined as a victim, both by taking an active role in the Heisenberg enterprise and by refusing Hank’s self-serving offer of rescue.

Doyle: “She had to be broken to the point of suicide before the fandom accepted her again, and that was only because she’d entered the safe, “female” powerless-victim position.”

Beyerstein: “As viewers, some of our anger and resentment towards victim characters is probably a reflection of our own anxiety about losing control. Walt’s greatest flaw is that he needs to control everything and everyone around him. Skyler may have sealed her fate by buying into that same mindset.”

Doyle: “I don’t think she’s showing loyalty to Walter, let alone forgiving him for what he’s done. She’s claiming the right to tell her own story, to control her own end game.”

 

Bad Decisions: Why AMC’s Breaking Bad Beats Mad MenThe Sopranos, and The Wire. Chuck Klosterman. grantland.com.

According to Klosterman, most attempts to crown one of the four shows which critical consensus has established as the best of the past decade rely on “crazy and hyperspecific” criticisms of the other three. Klosterman argues that what sets BB apart is a clear sense that individuals are responsible for their moral condition.

[CRITIQUE] He is unclear about why this would be a good thing for a TV show, especially since he claims that The Wire‘s relativism is “closer to how life actually is.”

 

Anna Gunn and ‘Breaking Bad’s’ Skyler White: Just the Tip of a Very Big Iceberg. Maureen Ryan. huffingtonpost.

Anna Gunn’s assessment of fan hatred of Skyler overlooks the inferior development of her character in the first two seasons, reflecting a pandemic of thinly written female characters on television. Ryan praises the BB writing team for giving her character a more complex role in the later seasons, subtly subverting the dominant TV paradigm by  “quietly insert[ing] a heroine’s journey — or a believably nuanced woman with heroic qualities — into an anti-hero drama.”

Quotes
    • Ryan: “Why does it surprise anyone that some viewers feel comfortable heaping scorn on female characters when so many shows treat the women on screen with indifference, confusion or even disdain?”
    • Ryan: “Skyler may well be the hero of the intensely moral “Breaking Bad,” because her goal — to ensure the safety of her kids — is selfless rather than self-serving.”
    • Ryan: “Message-board haters, for all their energetic wrath, have far less power than Hollywood executives and storytellers who don’t ask themselves tough questions about what kinds of characters they’re putting on our screens and why.”

How Breaking Bad Broke Free of the Clockwork Universe Problem. Todd VanDerWerff. avclub.com.

Unlike other shows that have attempted to create a “clockwork universe” in which cause and effect draws three-dimensional characters into an inevitable arc, “Breaking Bad” resists the unruly expansion of the story typical of television. In contrast to the Greek three-act structure associated with a divine or generalized fate, “Breaking Bad” follows a Shakesperean five-act pattern and makes the main character himself (not the gods or fate) the source of the unstoppable sequence of events.

Lots of discussion in the comments about spoilerphobia and the nature of tragedy.

Quotes:

    • VanDerWerff: “At times, it felt as if the mechanics of the plot should have swallowed the characters whole, but Breaking Bad has succumbed only rarely”
    • VanDerWerff: “Everything since Jesse Pinkman pulled that trigger and killed Gale Boetticher has been blood and horrible falling action.”
    • VanDerWerff: “What Breaking Bad has pulled off so brilliantly—that has saved it time and again from locking into the rigidity of clockwork plotting—is an intense, almost maniacal focus on its central arc and its central theme… In a way, this is the show simply taking the greatest weakness of clockwork plotting—a tendency to make everything all about one thing and the emptiness of character and theme that can provoke—and turning it into a strength through sheer relentlessness.”

“The Empire Business:” Breaking Bad, Capitalism, and the Family. FedRev. fedrev.net.

WW is motivated not so much by altruistic concern for his family as by the realization of his image of himself as an effective patriarch. FedRev attributes the drive for this particular form of legitimacy to an atmosphere of capitalism allied to a “traditional” loyalty to family.

[CRITIQUE] While I find the analysis of WW’s motivations more convincing than the usual good-man-under-pressure stuff, the author’s critique of family seems to confuse natural preference for one’s kin with the traditional interpretation of this preference. I argue that the problem with WW’s “protection” of his family is that he is missing precisely this tradition; he doesn’t know what to protect his family from.

Breaking Bad: Hank Isn’t “The Good Guy.” FedRev. fedrev.net.

Hank, often touted as the hero of “Breaking Bad,” is actually a hypocritical tool of the state, and not without violations of the law himself. He’s “almost equally bad” as WW, but comes out clean because he is backed by the system.

[CRITIQUE] Hank isn’t clean as a whistle, true. But his humiliating experience of living as a cripple may have moderated his character. And the state is surely less horrible a monster than even the most dispassionate of drug lords (Gus Fring).

Farewell to Great Drama: Why Life Won’t Be the Same Without Breaking Bad. Archie Bland. independent.co.uk.

Bland reflects on the development of WW’s character in parallel with a shift in tone from dark comedy to occasionally humorous tragedy. He understands the progress of the show as a moral challenge to the viewer, who must ask whether he has any reason to resist his own desires.

[CRITIQUE] Why does it seem so 2-dimensional to paint Walter White’s internal struggle as a conflict between sinful urges and moral self-control? It’s not like WW is out getting high and getting laid. This analysis is missing the vital ingredient of thumos.

Quotes
    • Bland: “[WW’s] malice is impossibly seductive, and not funny at all.”
    • Bland: “Walter – and through him, the viewer – is being asked: is there any reason to live a moral life? If you can shrug off the guilt, why should you not do exactly as you please?”
    • Bland: “He tries to plumb the depths of his own aptitude for malice, and finds that every wicked act simply makes its successor a little more palatable.”

Process

The Cars of Breaking Bad and the Guy Who Found Them. Craig Fitzgerald. boldride.com.

This description of the logic behind the choices of cars for characters illustrates both the deliberate and the improvisational sides of Gilligan’s vision. Cars were chosen with great care but in some cases were rented instead of purchased because no one knew how long the character would be alive.

How Breaking Bad’s Science Adviser Keeps It (Mostly) Real. Denise Martin. vulture.com.

More interesting than it sounds. The BB writers saw a science adviser not as a guarantee that the science itself would be completely correct but as a model. Dr. Donna Nelson provided both facts and  a voice.

The Beginning of the End with Breaking Bad. Alex Strachan. montrealgazette.com

Not much here, but a few words from Gilligan I don’t see elsewhere:

    • Gilligan, on collaborative control: “If you let the folks in front of the camera and the folks behind the camera add their personality and their intellect and their artistry and their talent to the work at hand. And, provided everybody’s pulling the rope in the same direction, wonderful things happen from that.”

Interviews

Bryan Cranston

Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston on Walter White’s last stand. Paul MacInnes. theguardian.com.

This is actually more of a desultory article than an interview. As usual Cranston has high-sounding things to say. MacInnes has some good insights.

Quotes
    • MacInnes: “A suspension of disbelief is rarely required, so consistently applied are the rules of cause and effect.”
    • MacInnes: On the vial of ricin: “surely Breaking Bad’s equivalent of Chekhov’s loaded gun”
    • Cranston: “He’s feeling everything and he’s alive. He hasn’t been alive for most of his adult life but now he is, it’s just for two years but he’s fucking alive.”

Anna Gunn

She Broke Bad, Too, Just a Bit Later: Anna Gunn on the End of ‘Breaking Bad.’ Jeremy Egner. nytimes.com.

Gunn appreciates the dramatic necessity of making Skyler unlikeable in the first season, and speculates that the appeal of the show is due to its revelation of the vainglory lurking under the surface of people whose lives have made them unremarkable.

Quotes
    • Gunn: “She thinks she can fix things and control an uncontrollable situation though her intellect. She decides, “If we’re going to launder money, let’s launder money the right way.”
    • Gunn: “Not only did Walt have all these dreams of becoming this great, successful man, but I think Skyler had lots of ideas of becoming a formidable or important person in her own right.”

Dave Porter

[VIDEO] ‘Breaking Bad’ Composer Talks Vince Gilligan and Final Season. Brad Wete. billboard.com.

Porter stresses the level of detail considered in the auditory atmosphere of the show, down to the ringtones. Two clips demonstrate the interaction between rhythms and found sounds and the events on screen. Silence is deliberately an important instrument: Porter and his staff “watch the show meticulously, scene-by-scene. [We talk about] whether any scene needs music at all.”

‘Breaking Bad’ Composer Talks Vince Gilligan and Final Season. Melinda Newman. hitfix.com.

The show and the characters change so much from episode to episode that Porter rarely if ever reused music. Found sounds borrowed from the show interact with events. Porter deliberately avoided the instrumentation of traditional westerns.

Michael Slovis

Gliding Over All: An Interview with “Breaking Bad” Cinematographer Michael Slovis. rogerebert.com.

Slovis describes the texture of the show as it evolved, explaining that the use of handheld as “white noise” makes the strategic use of steadicam emotionally pointed. He praises the strong production team and collegial environment as factors supporting cinematographic integrity and flexibility. He acknowledges budget constraints as a positive force.

Quotes
    • Slovis: “I believe there’s a certain simplicity and elegance—and if you really look at the shots in “Breaking Bad,” they’re like simple black dresses. They really are not complicated. They’re just properly placed, and the camera is often times really just in the right place to tell the story, that’s all.”
    • Slovis: “The joy for me in directing there was the embracing of my cast and Vince and the writers. It was the most wonderful place in the world to direct. You feel like you’re protected by your family. And they trusted me, because I directed a bunch of reshoots during the second season, my first season there.”
    • Slovis: “When we had stories to tell, sometimes the stories were so complicated and they expected so much of us that the only way to really come up with something interesting…a lot of those interesting shots were the result of a budget limitation.”
    • Slovis: “Every single storyline will be buttoned up, and there will be no loose ends. It’s going to redefine last seasons of television. It’s going to redefine series finales, which are almost inevitably disappointing.”

Other Things

‘Breaking Bad’ Recapped in Under 5 Minutes. cracked.com

This is What Breaking Bad Would Be Like in an Alternate Reality. kotaku.com

Breaking Bad infographics. vulture.com.