Breaking Bad, Season 5

I did it.

I did it! It feels good. Mostly because I don’t have to stop people from talking about it anymore. (Spoilers below, obviously.) But it’s still an American pop culture accomplishment.

Truth be told, while I really did admire the brilliance of the writing and the uniqueness of the premise, I didn’t finish this show with it ranked as my all-time favorite like I know many others did. It’s certainly great, but it’ll remain as such for now. I didn’t grow particularly attached to Walt (Bryan Cranston) as the show went on, maybe that’s part of it. If anything, I was more attached to Jesse (Aaron Paul) — and quite stoked to know that he survived it all. When it came down to that final scene (which I totally knew was coming because how could Walt not die?) I guess I didn’t care anymore. I was just relieved it was over, for the sake of the White family. Walt got what he deserved, albeit from a person who didn’t deserve to give it to him.

On the one hand, it would have made so, so much sense for Hank (Dean Norris) or even Skyler (Anna Gunn) or Marie (Betsy Brandt) to off Walt, given that they dealt with him for five seasons’ worth of shit. Hell, what about Jesse or Saul (Bob Odenkirk)? Of course, the ultimate would have been Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) or another of his equally-matched past enemies, but that was out of the question. So when Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) and Todd (Jesse Plemons) and the rest of those hooligans were actually the ones to do the deed, it seemed anticlimactic and… almost unfair. They had no clue who they were dealing with. They did something that so many people had wanted to do for so long.

On the plus side, Gilligan figured out how to keep us glued to the very end by twisting and turning the plot like so. I never would have expected Walt to go the way he did, nor Hank, for that matter. Though it was easy to tell he was a goner the moment he called Marie in celebration of catching Hank, his death still didn’t feel inevitable. Gilligan did such a beautiful job of completely redeeming Hank throughout the season — softening him, making him heroic and sympathetic — that his death was truly heartbreaking. Despite his easily hatable personality, he was a good guy, working for a whole bunch of good guys, and he wasn’t ever able to serve justice the way he wanted to. I suppose an inferior show would have left us feeling completely settled and comfortable with the ending, though, and this was not a show about feeling either of those things.

Speaking of Marie, I think Brandt is the unsung hero of this entire season. She is a gifted actress — I’ll reiterate my love for her on the short-lived MJF Show — in that she’s able to be the other comic relief (besides Saul) and the other voice of reason (besides Skyler), and never betray anyone. As this season progressed, she kept demanding information she couldn’t have and kept getting her heart broken by people she loved, and it was staggering to think that that exclusion and ignorance saved her.

I wish we had learned more about the fate of Flynn/Walt Jr./whatever (RJ Mitte) in the final episodes. Of course, he lives, but what does he become? We’ll never really know, and that’s disappointing, because the only certainty is that he’ll need extensive therapy. Skyler’s future is a little easier to predict — I imagine she’ll get her son to college just fine, and then somewhere in Holly’s single-digit childhood, she’ll have a complete breakdown. Maybe that’s Flynn’s fate — to parent his sister. Dark.

To reuse a transitional phrase, “speaking of” dark, light-haired Plemons went pitch black here, which was especially disorienting for us FNL fans. Didn’t quite know that Landry had it in him to gun down a kid! Oh, and the episode that contained that scene, “Dead Freight,” is maybe the most exciting and fucking stressful piece of television I’ve ever watched. I paused it at least four times, I moved around my apartment, and I definitely called my parents after I was through with it. I couldn’t bear to watch these tiny human men attempt to outsmart the momentum of a giant freight train. The obliviousness of the truck driver who thwarts Kuby’s (Bill Burr) plan didn’t help. I think taking a final exam in college was easier for me than getting through those 50 minutes. But it was worth it. George Mastras, the episode’s author, is a damn wizard.

One of these days, I might go through some sort of Albuquerque-landscape-related withdrawal and tap into Better Call Saul. I know I’ll miss seeing Cranston slay lines (and, uh, people). But I’m glad the show ended when it did. Gilligan got to tie it off the way he wanted — and he kept us guessing until the brutal end.


Stand Up Guys

Good and holy mother of dog, I was looking forward to seeing this movie. I don’t really think I need to justify my reasons, but I’ll state them anyway, in order: Pacino, Walken, Arkin. Old guys! The best guys! The guys we all do impressions of! The best actors in the business. Come on. Stand Up Guys, in my eyes, was going to be the best film of the year. Obviously.

It wasn’t though. I’m not the first to say this. It was terrible, and almost painfully so. The script was so empty, so devoid of wit and punch, that I was truly amazed these three dudes signed on for it. Maybe they wanted a last hurrah of some sort, no matter the cost (which is actually sort of the plot of the movie, go figure), but its utter lack of grace was appalling. Each sentence they uttered should not have come from seventysomethings. In theory, maybe, thirtysomethings, but most of the sentence structure was too generic for any one demographic to stake claim over it. Of course, the three amigos being pros and all that, they sold their lines as best they could, but I can’t imagine it was easy. Or maybe it was too easy, and I was fooled by their cool demeanor. Maybe they just phoned this whole thing in.

The premise here is that Val (Al) and Doc (Walk) are besties, and Doc comes to pick up Val from being in jail for half his life, and Val wants to go on a hardcore bender and have a great time because he knows that Doc is eventually going to kill him. Turns out, half a lifetime ago, Val killed Mr. Shickadance‘s kid, and he wants Val dead, and he ordered Doc to do it. Because they did this for a living or whatever. So, Val and Doc proceed on this bender, picking up their old driver Hirsch (Ark) from the nursing home and proceeding to bang hookers, take drugs, cross paths with a looming Bill Burr every once in awhile, and hang out at this one diner a whole lot within a span of about 18 hours. Though the diner scenes were a bit much, particularly because I’m pretty sure Val orders a steak every damn time he’s in there, which would have killed him even without the drugs, they did provide the setting for the more meaningful interactions of the movie, which were between Doc and his granddaughter, Alex (Addison Timlin), who is adorable. Between Alex and and Sylvia (Vanessa Ferlito) and Wendy (Lucy Punch) and the lineup of other young females strewn about this movie, unknowns got more screen time with three legends than they’ll ever know what to do with, and they all actually handled it beautifully. They put up with all the sexist bullshit, and yet they had complete control over all of the bullshit, too. Timlin was particularly sincere, and her storyline with Doc was borderline sentimental, as their grandfather-granddaughter relationship wasn’t fully realized until the end of the movie anyway. I’d have said spoiler alert, but you would have already seen this movie by now if you really wanted to. Don’t worry about it.

So, of course this thing culminates in a big shoot-em-up finale, which seems absurd, but it’s totally fine. This is a bad movie, but it’s enjoyable if you enjoy the trifecta, because their presences alone up the ante. Even though they’re spouting generic one-liners (and one truly genius comedic spat about bees and dicks, just trust me), they still manage to tug at your heartstrings a tiny bit and make you think about mortality and time limits and living life to the fullest and all that. Or maybe it was just me. What can I say? I had a great time watching this awful movie. Maybe you will, too.