Friday, May 24, 2013

Breaking Bad: S2, E11, Mandala, pile up

Just watched this episode, “Mandala,” in season 2, episode 11. It has the kind of coincidence that is neither here nor there as far as realism in concerned, but that very much IS central to the aesthetic technique of the show.

Jesse’s new girlfriend, Jane, also his landlady, is a recovering addict. We met her several episodes ago, after Jesse got kicked out of his aunt’s place (owned by his parents, who let him live there). Jane has relapsed and done meth with Jesse. Now, in this episode, she introduces him to heroin.

Meanwhile, the murder of one of their dealers, Combo, has forced Walter and Jesse to seek help from their (very shady) lawyer, Saul. Saul hooks them up with a distributor, Gus, who can move their 38 pounds of prime meth. But he’s cautious and admonishes Walt for having an addict for a partner.

And then Walt’s wife, Skyler, who’s taken a job, discovers that her boss and company owner has been embezzling to the tune of one million dollars. She agrees not to snitch, but also decides to quit. (Maybe. But she goes back to the office after having left.)

Walt’s in class and he gets the call. He’s keeping his second cell phone, the one he uses for the drug business, in the ceiling of the classroom. While it’s on vibrate mode, still, the class hears it vibrating up there. Walt has made a stupid Jesse-class mistake. Still, the students leave, Walt retrieves the phone, and gets a text message. The deal is on. He’s got an hour to deliver the full 38 pounds.

Of course, he doesn’t have the stuff, Jesse does. And Jesse isn’t answering his phone. Why not? Because he’s high on heroin, remember? Walt breaks in through the real door, manages to get Jesse to tell him more or less where the stuff is and Walt finds it. As he’s loading it into a garbage bag he gets another text, from his wife. She’s going into labor.

End of episode. We’ve got to wait for the next one to find out what happens.

Of course, I’m watching on Netflix, so I don’t have to wait. Instead, I’ve decided to knock this note out, fast. Just to get it on record. An example of the show’s real-time technique.

Realistic? Yes/No. Take it or leave it. In life, yes, shit happens. Things are all lined up nice in a row. But this is a real pile-up: the Big Deal is on, Jesse’s stoned, Skyler’s in labor. All at the same friggin’ time.

I don’t think so. This is aesthetic technique, not mimetic necessity. And what’s the effect of having all this take place inside of 47 minutes. No time to think. You just have to go with this crazy flow.


Notice, by the way, Skyler’s now (provisionally) implicated in something illegal.

More later.

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