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The Crawl Space Horror - The Ex-Communicator

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September 29th, 2011


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03:51 pm - The Crawl Space Horror
I keep wanting to write about Breaking Bad - there are only two more episodes to Season 4. But I hardly know how to begin. It is a masterpiece of TV writing, with direction and acting to match. It's like a master class in how to pack maximum significance into the available significators.

One of the ways it does this is to use tools taken from other genres. I wrote before about how it used eroticism as a tool, using romantic language and scenes transposed onto the three-way relationship between the main characters. But there are loads of other examples.

A small example from this week: character falls to the ground. Oranges drop onto him. This is a reference to The Godfather trilogy, in which oranges are a symbol of death. But it also works if you don't know the Godfather. The oranges fall, bounce. He's dead. And in fact, the scene is also quite like a scene from Fargo too, and the contrast in feel between the two types of gangster film is also significant. This type of direction maximises the carrying capacity of each frame. The use of orange is also an example of the way colour is employed very deliberately - and I think this season more than ever - like a sound track.

There are also cross-references within the series - what a swimming pool means, what cleaning the equipment means, what hair means. Because of the intricacy of the whole, there is a backlog of significance to draw on.

In short, there's always extra content being conveyed by making maximum use of details which in other shows would be left to chance. Everything is layered, meaning other things. I often have to stop the playback and get up and walk around. It takes me about an hour and a half to watch 45 minutes.

This season they are increasingly taking symbols and tricks from the horror genre. The end of the most recent episode 'Crawl Space' was - if I say chilling it doesn't really convey. It was like David Lynch or The Shining. Crawl. Space. It's like HP Lovecraft. And there was nothing supernatural - there never has been anything unreal or uncanny. And yet it is all now uncanny, as if the characters this season have passed out of the normal world.

I can remember an example of this from The Wire - the Chief of Police drives around Hamsterdam, to see what he has wrought. Although in some ways the logic of The Wire supports what he has created, this scene is like a horror film. It's like hell actually. When Jesse had his breakdown earlier in the season his house became like Hamsterdam.

The end of this episode. If I describe it, you won't be any the wiser. Skyler walking up the corridor, and the sound of Marie talking on the answering machine in the kitchen, and Walt laughing in the background. That tells you nothing. The atmosphere for that little scene was - it was ghastly. It was pure horror.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:September 29th, 2011 03:22 pm (UTC)
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I have *no* idea how they can have another season, when the combined life expectancy of the entire cast is about 13 minutes.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 29th, 2011 04:03 pm (UTC)
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I know. Have you caught up with the story? I don't want to give anything away. Season 3 grew organically, and they changed their minds about how certain issues (like The Cousins) would be resolved. This season seems to be carefully constructed like a complex trap, funnelling everyone into some kind of dungeon of horror.
[User Picture]
From:executrix
Date:September 29th, 2011 04:21 pm (UTC)
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I read the AV Club write-ups every week, and the equation of N people trying to kill every character x N people trying to kill 'em right back gets larger and larger. Not to mention that fact that even if Walter were living a life of exemplary rectitude (...and getting the excellent treatment that his criminal activities are paying for...) he'd have a sell-by date anyway.

BTW I don't think I've seen it mentioned, but Walter's oncologist looks like Gus' Non-Evil Twin.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:September 29th, 2011 05:06 pm (UTC)
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It never occurred to me but you are right. The cartel chemist that Jesse bossed around last week looks like Walt - bald with a goatee. I expect that added some energy to Jesse's ferocity.
[User Picture]
From:tehomet
Date:September 30th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
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It sounds amazing. And horrible.

I must check it out! Thanks for this.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 1st, 2011 05:39 am (UTC)
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I think it is amazing, but I think quite a few people can't understand what I see in it. It starts as a comedy and gets darker, and it's not really a comedy at all now.

PS - but I think even if it's too dark for some people, it genuinely is a work of complete genius

Edited at 2011-10-01 07:49 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:squonkfan
Date:October 1st, 2011 06:51 pm (UTC)
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I often have to stop the playback and get up and walk around.

Yes. So do I. And Vince and others have talked about hearing from viewers with the same compulsion.
[User Picture]
From:communicator
Date:October 1st, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
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Really? I often feel like a I'm dumb. Why do I have to pause this show I have been waiting all week to watch? But sometimes it's just so intense.
[User Picture]
From:squonkfan
Date:October 5th, 2011 06:27 am (UTC)
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John De Lancie related a story about an acquaintance of his who said he had to pause playback, get up, and pace around the living room periodically during BB. Vince has definitely mentioned something about hearing similar stories since then. He's also said that some people can't even bear watching the episodes during the regular season because it's too nerve-wracking from week to week. They have to wait for the DVDs and watch them all in one go!

I definitely have gotten stuck at certain points in episodes, especially this season, where I have to go fuck around on Twitter or something for a while before I can go back to it.

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