BREAKING BAD vs. the Decay of Pop Culture (VMAs)

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Sunday night is usually my favorite part of the week. I get to make some popcorn, put my feet up, dim the lights just right, tune into AMC, and watch Breaking Bad in the company of my Twitter friends. But last night, something disturbed my peace and focus. Millions upon millions of Americans reverted to their pre-pubescent girl mindsets as Miley Cyrus twerked her way across stage, followed by the quiver-inducing reunion of N*Sync. Needless to say, I couldn’t find my usually Twitter friends in the muck that littered my feed. Anyway, for those so-called “adults” who were busy watching the decay of pop culture in America, I hope you see this and I spoil last night’s episode of Breaking Bad for you. You kind of deserve it and you kind of know that.

The episode opens with a somewhat humorous encounter between Adam and two of Lydia’s henchmen at a diner, where Walter’s former apprentice relays the story of their great train heist. The crew rolls out with a tank full of methylamine as a cheerful tune plays from the stereo.

Over at the White household, Walter stops Flynn from going to his Aunt Marie’s by sweet-talking him and revealing to his son that his cancer is back. Flynn, being the oblivious sucker that he is, takes the bait as Marie waits anxiously for her nephew to come over – thinking that she can protect him from the drug lord and his many burnt bridges.

Later, Walt, Skyler, Hank, and Marie meet at a restaurant, where the conniving duo ask that their children be left alone. Before they even order appetizers, Walt and Skyler leave, placing a CD on the table as they go.

Standing speechless in their living room, Hank and Marie play the video: a twisted confession from Walt that recounts the entire past year from his perspective as Hank’s coerced sidekick in the meth empire. Walt sites the $177,000 that he was “forced” to give to Hank to pay for his treatment and physical therapy after the shooting.

Meanwhile, Walt advises Jesse to leave town. After some tears and a weird Voldemort hug, Saul sets the young apprentice up with a new identity and a ride to Alaska, but not before Jesse realizes that his ricin-filled cigarette is missing.

Jesse misses his ride and goes ape-shit in the office of Saul Goodman, Attorney at Law, and ultimately snags a pistol off the conman, who reveals that Walt has the ricin. For those who don’t remember, this is troubling to Jesse because he now has proof that Walt was responsible for poisoning Brock at the end of Season 4, even though the ricin was never used (he used the berries from the plant in his backyard). But still, Jesse’s rage continues as he barges into the seemingly empty White household and dumps a can of gasoline in the living room – which we know will be burnt from Episode 8’s flash forward.

Then it goes to black. Is anyone home? Flynn? Holly? Will the fire take anyone’s life? Will anyone actually die in this show? With only five episodes left, I expect each and every one of you to never take a Sunday night for granted ever again – looking at you, Miley.

MAD MEN On Drugs

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In the latest installment of everyone’s favorite period drama, the crew at SCDP(CGC) calls in a doctor for some much needed psychiatric treatment. Instead of the twenty-first century approach that psychiatrists use today, the doctor simply had the ad men drop their pants and he injected them with a mystery substance. Adrenaline? Liquefied crack? I don’t know what it was, but it promised 72 hours of creative focus, but really just made a crippled Ken Cosgrove tap dance.

Much like Don says he is “feeling a lot of emotions,” the episode is one long emotional roller coaster.

Fred Gleason, the artistic genius of CGC (and Phil of the Future’s dad…), dies after suffering from incurable cancer. Awkwardly, half of the staff mourns and the other staff pretends to have sympathy for a man they never knew. That being said, the former CGC staff head off to his funereal, while the SCDP crew works through the weekend on the Chevy account – with the help of the doctor’s mystery drug.

The staff is full of energy, having races around the office and playing human darts, which leaves Rizzo with a pen pierced into his forearm. Luckily, Peggy is drug-free and cleans out the wound, leading to yet another kiss scene for Elisabeth Moss’s character. After Rizzo opens up about his cousin being killed in action, Peggy realizes he is just using her to cope with his sorrows. However, she gives some keen advice to her co-worker, saying that he needs to express his emotions. “You can’t dampen them with drugs and sex,” she adds – a message Don and Roger have yet to receive.

All the while, a random psychic, who we later discover is Fred Gleason’s daughter, comes back with the CGC staff from the funeral and tells Don that she can’t feel a heart beat on him. Yet another point for my “Don Draper is dead” theory.

Over at the Draper apartment, Megan is in a jam. Don’s kids have arrived and she needs to go to a casting meeting – but Don is all drugged up to realize he needs to come home. Dilemma!

Megan leaves Sally in charge and goes to change the world or something. However, in the middle of the night, a mysterious black woman comes into the apartment, waking Sally. She claims that she is her grandma, Ida, and that she raised Don when he was kid. Soon, Bobby is up too, and the two of them are convinced of her sincerity. Sally even gives her an awkward Voldemort hug! A confused Bobby goes on to ask his sister, “Are we Negros?” which has to be the funniest thing ever said in the history of Mad Men. You go, Bobby. You go.

Over at the office, Don is coughing up a lung as he has flashbacks to his adolescent years at the whorehouse – specifically when he lost his virginity to the prostitute Aimeé – “with two e’s and an accent.”

When Don returns home, he finds police officers, accompanied by Henry and Betty, who tell him that a black woman has robbed his and many other apartments in his complex. He passes out after Betty goes off on him. Smooth move, Don.

In a shocking turn of events slash proof of character development, Don greets Sylvia into the elevator on his way to work the next morning and the two don’t have sex! Progress.

When Ted comes back to the office after the weekend, he finds that half of the work is gibberish and that the drugged up creatives managed to spell Chevy wrong in their slapdash work. Furious, he confronts Don, but all Don has to say is, “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse,” alluding to Joan’s stint as a prostitute to get the Jaguar account. With Chevy, the whorehouse is more symbolic, thus the flashbacks.

One of the last scenes of the episode struck me as the most tragic. Don calls his daughter Sally to apologize for not being home when the woman robbed his apartment. Sally is embarrassed because the woman was able to answer every question about Don that she could think of. “Then I realized I don’t know anything about you…” she closes. Maybe this will inspire Don to be a better father and a better person? Most likely not, but maybe…just maybe.