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Maximising the signal: More Breaking Bad - The Ex-Communicator

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April 27th, 2010


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09:24 am - Maximising the signal: More Breaking Bad
I think what every quality drama has to do nowadays is maximise the carrying capacity of the signal. They do it in different ways. New Doctor Who manages to do it in a populist and accessible way by referencing a wider canon, not just of Who but of all SF and all popular culture, so each face and trope is freighted with allusion. It's a brilliant solution to maximising the signal, and perhaps the only one which would work at 6.30 on a Saturday night on BBC1. Other series like Mad Men and The Wire are not so accessible, because you have to absorb quite a lot of content on trust before they start to deliver at full force in through your eyeballs. Breaking Bad does it by heavy freight on a small number of characters, and they are lucky that they have got two leads who are exemplary. The signal is increased via intensity rather than capacity.

Last night I watched episode 6 of season 3 of Breaking Bad and was thrilled to bits. In Season 2 Walt and Jesse did terrible things, led by Walt. In the first 5 episodes of season 3 they barely meet. Jesse keeps reaching out pathetically to Walt and Walt keeps rebuffing him more and more coldly.

So, as had to happen, events throw them together, in a brilliant 'closed room' scene, they are trapped together in an RV full of meth equipment, on a parking lot, with a narc outside rattling the doors to get in and get them. It's just so exciting. How will they get out of this? And in this extremity they revert to their dysfunctional partnership. When the narc rattles the windows, Jesse unconsciously reaches behind him, and touches Walt, literalising the previous five episodes, and this time Walt stays where he is, and lets Jesse touch him. (ETA that pic is slow to load - livejournal capacity issues I suppose - so I have linked instead of embedding. Worth looking at though.)

And then there is an evocation of the confined space of the RV, full of golden light like my icon, with them moving about inside it. And like my icon there is a use of religious imagery, with Jesse kneeling at Walt's feet, stretching his hands out like a supplicant in a mediaeval tableau.

Photobucket

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[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:April 27th, 2010 01:05 pm (UTC)
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Alas, I'll have to wait a while to see S3! I did think the closed-room scene in S2 with the battery was pretty damn brilliant. (And an argument in favor of learning science!)

Well spotted St. Cat's on the religious imagery--I think of the guy kneeling at the side of a medieval painting as the donor who paid for the whole thing, which is not untrue of Jesse's role.

[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 27th, 2010 01:10 pm (UTC)
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Yes, it's the same RV, and the same despair. 'It's an old wall, it waits' as Servalan would say.

You are right about the supplicant being the one who pays for everything. Poor, poor Jesse I do love him.

We were talking on your blog a wee bit about Jungian analysis and I think Jesse is a very similar type to Vila, but less outgoing, more vulnerable. Walt is a somewhat less kindly disposed Avon. So really I have rediscovered my Ur-partnership, which was my first fandom pairing back in 1995 or something.
[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:April 27th, 2010 02:09 pm (UTC)

Be Very Afraid

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And Walt, like Avon, starts out by thinking he's doing it all on behalf of someone else although he can't be bothered to tell the other person. (And Walt *does* have the option of talking to Skyler whereas Avon doesn't find out that talking to Anna is an option until much later....)

Perhaps Jesse's problem is that, unlike Vila, he doesn't have the advantages of being brought up in dire poverty. And whatever the truth value is about Vila's saying he could have been a Space Captain, he certainly doesn't want to be a leader, and after two seasons I can see Jesse was happy enough recruiting his no-hoper dealers, but had no ambitions to become the Avon (!) Barksdale of Albuquerque.

Walt is definitely a Shadow King--and Jesse is one of the children devoured by Kronos.

As for the subject line, I'm sort of thinking about writing a story called Breaking In the Latin, because surely what the world needs is a BB/Firefly crossover. It's mostly about eyebrows.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:April 27th, 2010 02:19 pm (UTC)

Re: Be Very Afraid

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Avon should have shaved his head in Season 4 to indicate that he had gone bad ass. His chosen solution - tin foil spaceman - didn't really send the right signals.

I think Vila's parents probably loved him much better than Jesse's did, which makes a big difference to a poor lad.

Would love to read the cross-over.
[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:April 27th, 2010 02:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Be Very Afraid

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They already had a Travis, they couldn't cope with Travis Bickle!

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