Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

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.

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