BREAKING BAD Returns with “Bloody Money”

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After months of anxious anticipation, Breaking Bad is back – with quite the vengeance. The episode, entitled “Bloody Money,” marks the beginning of the end for the second half of the fifth and final season of the AMC drama.

We start out with a glimpse into Walt’s future, where he breaks into his own abandoned and dilapidated house (which is still in better condition than Don Draper’s childhood whorehouse). The now full-haired Walt, who we saw in an earlier episode leaving a diner with his New Hampshire licensed car, marches straight to his trusty electrical outlet to retrieve the still-unused capsule of ricin. As he leaves the house, his neighbor stares in a trembling trance and drops her groceries as Walt mutters, “Hello, Carol.”

Flash back to Hank on the toilet in modern times. Like the emotionally unstable Hank we have come to know and kind of love, he becomes very disoriented (and the lack of camera focus doesn’t let you forget how distraught he is about discovering Walt’s dirty little secret). He stashes Walt’s copy of Leaves of Grass, with Gale’s note printed inside, in his bag and bolts with his wife. After a relatively unnecessary car crash and a classic Marie freak out, Hank is out on leave from work…again.

Soon, we come to learn that Skyler and Walt’s carwash has become a financial success – just not successful enough to launder the thousands of dollars from Walt’s meth days. Lydia, the international meth transporter extraordinaire, pays the carwash a visit and offers Walt an opportunity to come back for a big money deal. But Skyler goes into full maternal mode and tells her off like only a mother could.

Over at the Pinkman residence, Jesse and his trusty pals Skinny Pete and Badger, the latter goes on a mindless, drugged-up rant about Star Trek. I wonder who had more fun: the writers writing the scene or Matt Jones performing it?

Again, Jesse is feeling conflicted about all the money he has accumulated, so he goes to Saul to sort out his “debts,” but Walt thinks that leaving large sums of money to Mike’s granddaughter and the missing boy’s parents will only stir more police investigation. So Jesse, in a scene where Aaron Paul was clearly determined to win another Emmy, throws wads of the “bloody money” out of his car in the slums of Albuquerque.

In a chemo-induced vomiting fit, Walt discovers that his bathroom copy of Leaves of Grass is missing, which leads him to find Hank’s GPS tracker under the frame of his car. In the episode’s climax (a moment we have been waiting months for), Walt confronts Hank and they brawl. Hank comes out on top physically, but Walt pulls the “I’m dying” card and assures his brother-in-law that he will never see the inside of a jail cell.

One thing I didn’t like about the episode’s ending was the writers’ feeble attempt to make yet another badass Walter White quote: “Tread lightly.” We’ve already heard the man utter the words, “Say my name,” “I’m in the empire business,” and, “I am the one who knocks,” so I just feel like, “Tread lightly,” pushes the envelope a little bit.

All in all, I was happy with the return of Breaking Bad. Nothing crazy happened – everything went according to prediction. But what will happen in the future timeline and how will the two timelines converge? Let’s just hope Marie doesn’t have any more shoplifting urges and the show can go out with a bang.

Rob’s Book Club: THE LEFTOVERS

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Kind of like Oprah, I thought I’d start my own book club. Kind of not like Oprah, I’m the only person in my book club, which is kind of better, in a way, in that I don’t have to sift through half-assed posts about the novel or some irrelevant theories with no substantial textual evidence.

Anyway, the first book I chose was Tom Perrotta’s The Leftovers, a five-part drama set in the small community of Mapleton, after a Rapture-like event causes the disappearance of millions of people worldwide. Quite simply put, the citizens feel like nothing but leftovers from this (un)godly act – idly waiting to be plucked from the fridge and finished off like the rest of the people from the previous meal.

The novel is something of a surreal feat; a dystopian society that seemed to only hiccup on October 14th as family and friends disappeared before their loved-ones’ eyes.

Perrotta sets his book three years after what has been deemed “The Sudden Departure,” and the world is still not quite back to its old self. Sure, Congress is still in session and the MLB is back in full swing (pun intended), filling the holes in their line-ups with minor leaguers and retired all-stars, but the people are still grasping for answers.

At the center of the story lies the Garvey family. Kevin, the town’s mayor, is left to care for his bright, but troubled daughter, Jill, when his wife, Laurie, joins the Guilty Remnant – a cult draped in white that takes a Vow of Silence in forgiveness for not being taken on October 14th. Kevin’s son, Tom, has discontinued his studies at Syracuse University to follow the Holy Wayne, a sweet-talking figurehead of the Healing Huggers. Soon, Wayne is arrested and Tom is entrusted with one of his many under-aged wives; one of them, Wayne preaches, will birth the Miracle Child that will save all of humanity.

Another figure in the town is Nora Durst, also known as The Woman Who Lost Everything, whose husband and two children were victims of The Sudden Departure. Nora struggles to find meaning in life, while trying not to feed into the town’s pity for her. Oddly enough, she finds peace in religiously watching and re-watching episodes of SpongeBob Squarepants and documenting the deeper meanings on a notepad.

While this novel doesn’t have the suspenseful elements of a thriller or a traditional rising action/climax/resolution format, I still found it to be quite the page-turner. I would best describe it as a psychological character study – and a pretty accurate one at that – of how people would react to the disappearance of millions around the world.

Now, you may be thinking, “Rob, I thought this was a TV blog. What gives?” And, my response would be that HBO has picked up the pilot. It’s writer and executive producer? Lost and Star Trek writer/producer Damon Lindelof. Needless to say, I am beyond excited for how the show (or movie/mini-series) will pan out.

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So far, the casting is scattered and uncertain. Justin Theroux (American Psycho) will be playing Kevin Garvey, Broadway star Carrie Coon will play Nora Durst, and Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings Trilogy) will play Meg, a beautiful, yet timid Trainee for the Guilty Remnant.

The release date will hopefully be sometime in 2014, which gives you ample time to be a hipster and read the book first!