Generation Y, where we want to thank all of you who supported the site over the years.
Generation Y, where lolz Notre Dame and anyone claiming this was for “academics.”
Generation Y, where Jurgen Klinsmann is a god.
Generation Y, where did we mention shutting down Strasburg was a horrible decision? No? Okay well it was a horrible decision.
Generation Y, where my god…that’s the Denver Broncos music!!
Generation Y, where fantasy football drafts take clear precedence over everything, including presidential campaigning.
Generation Y, where we have fantasy blue balls this morning.
One of my favorite debates is whether or not Breaking Bad or Mad Men is the superior television series. I’ve always argued for the latter because while Breaking Bad might be a better show in terms of the form and execution, the content being delved into on Mad Men has always been, in my opinion, far more important. Whereas Breaking Bad always seemed to just be one of my favorite ways to spend an hour, Mad Men was busy deconstructing the myth that America used to be a better place in the 1950s or proving why the revolutions of the 1960s were so necessary for the social fabric of our country. Last night was the first time I ever felt Breaking Bad might be trying to make a statement about the United States of America.
Stick with me on this.
For whatever reason, our country and our pop culture in the US is obsessed with the folklore of organized crime. Almost all of the stories tap into the idea of the American dream and the criminal achieving the own version of it by rising to be the overlord of some type of criminal empire. Tony Soprano, Vito Corleone, Tony Montana…all were in search of the idea that it means something to be somebody in this country and that anyone can achieve wealth and success if only they put in the effort. And you know what, audiences loved it. All of these men are still worshipped, despite their many character flaws. It’s not surprising given the lavish and glorious fashion in which they were presented.
So last night I had this idea as I watched the latest episode “Say My Name.” Is it in any way possible that Vince Gilligan’s is submitting a five season criticism of the American dream? Furthermore, is he making it a point to show Americans just how ugly a man would really have to become in order to run an organized crime outfit? Whereas the predecessors sort of gave a romantic quality to these dons, I think it’s time we start considering the possibility that Gilligan is lashing out at the very culture that helped create Walter White.
The last thing I want to say about all that is that when discussing Mad Men against Breaking Bad I often brought up what I call the Oliver Stone problem. Stone famously directed the movie Wall Street back in 1987 with the hope that personifying greed in Gordon Gecko would inspire a generation to clean up our financial system. In fact it had the opposite effect and actually inspired a generation to try to imitate Gecko’s greedy ways. I feel Mad Men has a similar crisis on its hands in that many of its biggest fans enjoy the show because they actually desire the world presented by the show, totally going against the point of the show in the first place.
Well, the Oliver Stone problem might just have touched a nerve with Gilligan. Scarface, you might remember, was written by Stone. Like Wall Street, it has inspired a generation of wannabe Tony Montanas. To this day the character is glorified in song and art. It’s like Vince Gilligan just finally had enough of all the romanticism about criminals and decided to show us what it’s really like to be that delusional. And last night’s episode was the perfect example. Onto the recap…
“Say My Name” opens up with Walt asking the Phoenix meth king Declan to do just that while debating the terms of a proposed business deal. One of the themes of any great crime boss is that a name must mean something. It has to ring out in the streets and command fear and respect. You can’t help but love the irony that in Walt’s case it’s not even his real name (lending more credibility to my theory that Gilligan is blowing up the romantic qualities of organized crime–there will be no sympathy or love for Walter White when it is all said and done).
We then find out Walt’s hiding place for the methylamine. He left it in the freaking car wash and heads over with Jesse to remove it. Skyler, looking troubled as ever attempts to ask Walt questions about it. Walt quickly dismisses her in dickish, alpha dog fashion showing the crazy levels his ego is reaching.
My personal favorite scene of the episode then unfolds as Walt and Jesse finally have their falling out. Jesse makes it clear that he wants out and Walt foolishly believes he can manipulate him into staying again. He then launches into a tirade when Jesse proves to be impervious to his assault. Walt tries every possible manipulation on him and Jesse dismisses them all, his wide eyes an indicator of just how open he is to the monster in front of him.
It turns out Mike uses a different lawyer than Saul to distribute the money to the famous nine members of “the list.” The man heads into a bank where he deposits predetermined amounts of cash into safety deposit boxes while leaving the majority of the cash to Mike’s granddaughter. This will turn out to be problematic. The scene is followed by Walt doing a new cook with Landry instead of Jesse after the break up. One can’t help but feel this will end up being problematic as well, what with Landry taking a novel’s worth of notes and all.
Mike’s world then gets blown to pieces. First the DEA busts his lawyer friend for shelling out the dirty cash. The lawyer then agrees to flip on him. And finally, the cops show up at the park in an attempt to arrest Mike. He’s forced to make an extremely painful decision in that he must leave his granddaughter behind without ever having said goodbye. It’s a cruel fate but in the moral world of Breaking Bad it makes sense. Mike did horrible things. Mike must pay the consequences. Action. Reaction. Breaking Bad.
The final sequence has been a bit of contention among television critics. Many believe that Mike relenting and allowing Walt to bring him his getaway bag was simply too unrealistic, given how flawless Mike has always been in his execution. It’s understandable that it came off as a bit unbelievable that Mike would make two mistakes in two weeks with regards to Walt, most especially because he loathes him so badly. This week’s mistake costs him his life.
When Walt shows up an argument of course ensues and Walt absolutely blows his gasket. He catches Mike off guard and helplessly strapped into the front seat of his car and shoots him with his own gun, a shot which proves to be fatal. Ever the minimalist, Mike tells Walt to shut the f— up when he tries to apologize for how things turned out. The episode leaves us with a gorgeous shot of Mike falling over next to a flowing river. RIP to one the best characters in the show’s history.
The bodies are stacking up though, and as of yet Walt hasn’t paid the consequences.
1. “Shut the f— up, and let me die in peace.” -Mike to Walt (after the latter shoots him)
2. “Say my name.” -Walt to Declan (in proving his alpha dog-ness over his rival druglord)
1. Walt and Jesse’s breakup
2. Mike’s death
3. The opening meeting between Walt and Declan
Generation Y, where RIP Mike Ehrmantraut.
Every professional athlete is cheating, in some capacity.
I’m not saying that every successful athlete is taking testosterone shots to their back side three times a week. I’m not saying that all pros are ingesting HGH at carefully selected points during the month. But on some small level, every modern athlete is cheating. The level at which that cheating is crosses over from “strong work ethic” to “performance enhancing” is arbitrary. Sports science and sports medicine have both developed to the point that we need to consider the possibility that we need to get rid of the idea of cheating via PEDs all together.
That Lance Armstrong allegedly was “blood doping” during his seven Tour de France titles matters not. After all, as was pointed out today, 41 of the 70 riders who finished in the top tens of those races has been busted for PEDs as well. This is a sport where one could argue that you weren’t even really competing unless you were cheating. And that’s pretty much true for all sports in the modern era.
While the extent of the cheating varies from sport to sport, it exists in every major professional sport. It’s a product of the unquenchable thirst to push the boundaries of the human body farther and faster than they’ve ever gone before. A wide receiver loses a step or two, get him off the field! An outfielder only has warning track power, cut him! Shooting guard X can’t even dunk anymore, leave him on the bench! We’re all to blame for it which is why we shouldn’t care that it exists in any capacity. These athletes are obligated to cheat if they want to compete at the insane levels required of professional sports.
Let’s just get this over with really quick. The common misconception with PEDs is that athletes use them primarily to get stronger. While getting stronger can be considered a nice consilation prize, the primary purpose of using PEDs is to recover more quickly from injury, however major or minor that injury might be. Basic excercise “injures” the muscles in some small capacity and through the body’s natural processes, the muscle rebuilds itself stronger for the next time. The faster that rebuilding process takes place, the better. By having muscles that aren’t injured, the body is more responsive in athletic activity.
Ask yourself an honest question, at what point does an athlete’s use of a foreign substance constitute cheating in your mind?
How can a person honestly argue that ingesting a protein shake after a workout is any different than using HGH? The desired outcome is the same. Both protein and HGH work to help the body recover from the workout. Why is one substance perfectly normal and accepted as a legal rehabilitation method while the other is not? Protein powder is a manufactured substance, mass produced for the sole purpose of helping people recover from workouts. Why isn’t HGH available in the same capacity?
The ONLY, and there is only one, ONLY argument that can be used to stymie the use of performance enhancing drugs is with regards to the safety of the human body. To which I’d counter, regulate it! Regulate it like alcohol. Regulate it like tobacco. Make people aware of any health problems that come with its abuse but then let them have at it. To come up with an explanation that some substances provide individuals a significant advantage while others do not is as asinine as the NCAA trying to justify the existence of amateur athletics. There is no point anymore. Let’s get rid of the hypocrisy all together and just admit it happens and try to regulate it so that some teenager doesn’t cause long-term damage to his kidneys by secretly shooting himself up too often with anabolic steroids.
And this doesn’t even get into the really ground-breaking area of PEDs, the type which Armstrong’s case ventured into. What if performance enhancing drugs come from the very body with which they will eventually go back in to? That’s sort of complex. Here’s the easy way of saying it: how do we feel about guys like Kobe Bryant having their blood withdrawn, spun in a centrifuge, and then shot back into parts of their body? It’s not a natural process but the ingredients, if you will, are all natural. Are we as a society really going to try to sit down at a table and figure out which procedures like this are okay and which ones constitute cheating? I don’t see columnists and sports anchors across the country crying foul over Kobe, but I’ll be god damned if Lance Armstrong dropped a little EPO into his blood! That’s a god damn shame I tell you! A shame! And, oh yeah, what does EPO stand for again?
If there’s one thing that history has taught us during steroid scandals, it’s that the scientists and the athletes are always three steps ahead of the people trying to regulate it. There are vastly superior resources devoted towards always pushing the bounds of sports science as opposed to regulating it. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and emotions to keep insisting that we need to continue persecuting the alleged “cheaters.” Instead of having another pointless Salem Witch Trial, why don’t we take a proactive step and actually encourage safe experimentation and consumption of these products? End the charade once and for all and I promise we’ll all be a lot happier as sports fans.
So seriously, sit down today and try to come up with “the line” at which you consider an athlete cheating today. Hit me back in the comments even at which point I’ll dissect your argument 1,000 times over for its flaws and hypocrisies. And if you still think PEDs are the devil, well, you’re probably a fan of the BCS and Skip Bayless.
Generation Y, where Lance Armstrong using PEDs bothers us not at all. Livestrong suckers.
Generation Y, where we’d like to apologize for unintenionally predicting Bartolo Colon’s PED suspension yesterday.
Generation Y, where we really hope to learn that Roger Clemens got the Bartolo Colon surgery this offseason.
Generation Y, where we’re shocked, SHOCKED that Michael Vick got hurt again.
In what has been an awesome season thus far, even by Breaking Bad standards, it’s hard not to feel disappointment with “Buyout,” the sixth and latest episode. It had nothing to do with the acting and more to do with the fact that it felt like the show was trying to push too much into a single episode. Because the first eight part mini-season culminates in just two weeks, it seemed like Vince Gilligan and company wanted to rush through some issues so that we can get to a climax soon. I’m not complaining. I personally can’t wait for a showdown or an ultra lavish purchase to take place, but for a show like Breaking Bad that is usually so methodical with the details, it didn’t feel right.
The episode opens with the crew cleaning up the mess brought about by Landry in last week’s “Dead Freight.” Without a single word being uttered, the crew disposes of the dirt bike and dead boy. The cleaning solution of choice is hydrofluoric acid which the guys are more than familiar with. It’s a sad look at just how far into hell these souls have gone. The whole process is mechanical. They know exactly what to do and exactly how to go about it in the fastest way possible. There is no wasted effort in the whole sequence. Walt and Jesse have come a long way since that first acid bath incident. While well executed, this is the kind of event that used to have an impact for several episodes, whereas now it only takes an opening sequence.
The DEA is then watching Mike watching his daughter play at a local park. The two agents are taking the whole event way too seriously and easily fall for Mike’s prank of leaving a note under the trash can. The agents go into a frenzy believing he’s just made a drop of the product. In reality Mike delivers a simple note. A simple four letter word is involved. It’s all pretty hilarious. It reveals two key things though. The DEA is getting zealous in their pursuit of Mike but also that Mike is extremely aware of this fact.
At their latest cook, Walt and Jesse kick back after completing another batch. Because Jesse still has a soul, he flips over to the local news where they are discussing the missing boy. Walt launches into yet another monologue where he convinces Jesse that they’re not really monsters and yet again Jesse seems to buy it. I have to admit even I am impressed with Walt’s acting abilities these days. Unfortunately for him, he blows the whole charade by immediately delivering a whistling concerto just moments after consoling Jesse. It’s very clear that Walt doesn’t much care for anything but dominating the drug business anymore. Jesse may finally be opening up to that possibility after catching him doing his best seven dwarfs impression.
And then things got really, really rushed. Mike and Jesse arrive early to the weekly meeting of the partners and when Walt gets there they tell him they’re retiring. They have a buyer in Arizona who will pay $15 million for their methylamine. This is the kind of decision that usually would take episodes and episodes to build up but here it happens matter-of-factly in a couple of seconds. Walt isn’t pleased but tells them they can do what they want but he will push on with his third of the stolen chemicals.
Mike later has Saul pull off what might be his last funny stunt of the series. While there is no doubt that we all love the crooked lawyer, there might not be a place for his relief and humor in Walt’s personal vision of hell. Saul provides Mike with a 24-hour window to avoid tails by actually filing a restraining order against the DEA on behalf of his client. It’s then when we meet the meth king of Phoenix, named Declan. He proves to be wise in making it very clear that he isn’t just buying the methylamine, he’s buying to have Heisenberg’s blue off the streets. One condition is made though: it’s all the methylamine or no deal.
The best extended scene of this particular episode takes place when Jesse goes over to Walt’s house to try to convince him to take the buyout. As is mentioned many times in the last weeks, the lighting (or: lack of) at the house is beyond ridiculous at this point and is becoming so blatant that it’s worth exploring. Breaking Bad might have made it very clear that they intend to create a suburban New Mexico version of Scarface, but the lighting at the house is a very clear tribute to a very different organized crime drama. I’m of course talking about The Godfather trilogy. Take a moment and watch this brief interview clip where the cinematographer Gordon Willis explains his use of lighting in the movies:
Further research reveals that the lighting is clear nod to the darkness of the characters. Michael and Vito in particular are almost always shot in dark settings when discussing matters of the family business. And thus the inspiration for the White household’s lack of interior lighting. You may remember in the movies that Michael was once a dapper war hero full of optimism about life and marriage with Kay. He originally made a point of saying he would never join his father’s business. He eventually turned to the dark side though just like Walt. And hell, why not even throw in a Scarface reference while they’re at it by having Walt sinking deep into his chair and a glass of Whiskey while explaining himself. It’s very reminiscent of a coked out Tony Montana sitting behind his desk as everything crumbles around him.
Jesse is shocked when Skyler then returns home and Walt refuses to allow him to leave without eating dinner. There are so many ulterior meanings going on at the dinner scene, it’s hard to keep track. First you have Jesse standing in as a surrogate son. Next you have Walt and Skyler seated on opposite ends of the table, clearly at odds with one another. And on and on it goes. Jesse, helpless in the uncomfortable silence of the married couple, attempts to mumble his way through the experience before Skyler ends the dinner by putting Walt in his place and retiring with her wine. Only after her departure does Walt reveal to Jesse that he really has nothing left besides the meth empire. His wife hates him and willingly admits she is waiting for cancer to come back and kill him.
Armed with the knowledge that his potential future business is about to be cut by two-thirds, Walt attempts a heist of the methylamine from partnership HQ. Mike of course is way too smart for such a misguided attempt and catches him in the act. He then forces him to sit there all night and uses an industrial tie to chain Walt to the radiator while he steps out to take care of something. Walt then shows his most animalistic side in a daring escape. He uses an electrical cord to melt the tie, severely burning and scarring (!) the flesh on his wrist in the process. He seems unfazed by it all though and proceeds to steal the goods.
The episode culminates with Mike having to be convinced not to kill Walt upon discovery of the theft. Walt makes a daring promise to him and Jesse that: “everybody wins.” It’s hard not to believe that “everybody loses” when dealing with something as cancerous as Walt though. The next episode should be outstanding now that the rest of these plot points were dealt with, but it definitely came at a cost to this episode.
1. “Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?” -Jesse to Walt (in trying to convince Walt to take the buyout)
2. “Jesse, you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” – Walt to Jesse (in explaining his rational for refusing the buyout)
3. “My wife is waiting for me to die. This business is all I have left now … And you want to take it away from me.” -Walt to Jesse (telling the truth)
1. The dinner
2. Walt’s escape from the industrial tie
3. The evidence disposal in the beginning sequence