TV Review: Breaking Bad—”Fifty-One”

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Can you believe it? We’re already HALF way through Season 5 of Breaking Bad. It feels like it has only been a week since season premiered, doesn’t it? I guess it’s true what they say; time flies when you’re having fun. Also, this season is about five episodes shorter than the last three, so that factors in as well. But even then, I’m dreading the days until I won’t be able to catch a new episode of Breaking Bad on my TV screen. Thankfully, we have for more weeks left.

Four more weeks. In four weeks times, things are bound to hit the fan. So far, things have been going pretty damn well for Walter White, but we know that’s not going to last. Hell, we saw that things somehow take a horrible turn for White on his 52nd birthday—exactly one year from when this episode takes place. And that’s where this timeline has me worried.

BreakingBad FiftyOne

I’ve heard a lot of people complaining that the idea of the past four seasons taking place in just one year is crazy. And well I’ll admit it’s a pretty busy year, I don’t find it too unreasonable. Sadly, we’re just suffering from TV timeline fatigue—what happens on screen doesn’t happen for 13 weeks and then take a break for 40. It keeps going. So if you did the math, every episode would take place over the course of about a week. And I don’t find that too unbelievable.

That said, I would find an entire year occuring over just 12 episodes a little ridiculous. And it seems like that’s destined to happen here. Technically, this is only the half way point of the series’ plot line. But it’s the final lap for the series itself. So now, every episode should be cherished, and used well. And that’s why, in my mind, “Fifty-One” is the weakest episode of the series so far.

BreakingBad Birthday

Not to say I didn’t enjoy the episode—on the contrary, I thought it was quite good. But with so few hours left, I’m hoping this is the last episode of this kind we ever get…we simply can’t afford another one. This is a character study episode, akin to something like “Four Days Out” and “Fly.” And well I loved those two episodes, I think that format is less effective here, mostly because of who it’s focused on—Skylar.

Unlike most of the people who watch Breaking Bad, I like Skylar. She’s a good foil for Walter White, and I constantly find myself rooting for her. That said, I’m not a huge fan of her character transformation this season. I found it to abrupt, and a little bit too ridiculous considering her character (who, at times, is just as good at manipulation and taking control as Walter White). Well seeing Walt act like a creep to her is fun, and Anna Gunn was delivering a fantastic performance, the plot line was doing nothing for me.

BreakingBad HollyWalt

Most of this episode centers on that plot…with a twist. Yes, Skylar is still acting all mopey and frightened, but this time, she’s using it to her advantage. Seeing her manipulate Hank and Marie was a real treat, as was her first scene where she performed Walt’s usually birthday breakfast ceremony of turning his bacon into a number (albeit with a pretty intense attitude this time). But the big winning scene of tonight’s episode was easily her argument with Walt, where she basically says that she wants him out of her family’s life. Seeing the two bounce off each other was fantastic, and it was great to see Skylar act like Skylar again. Tremendous acting and writing from all involved.

But like I said before, this episode just didn’t thrill me as much as the previous three have. It was more of a character building episode than a plot moving episode…which would be fine if we didn’t have such a limited amount of episodes to spare. At this point, every minute should be cherished. And I just don’t think this episode was a good use of those minutes. A good, fun episode of Breaking Bad…but by no means an essential one.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

BryanCranston BreakingBadLoose Ends:

-The side plot in “Fifty-One” was centered on Lydia, who I’m hating more and more every episode. Seriously, I want to murder her everytime she pops up on screen. Then again, that seems to be the writer’s intent, so I’ll give them a pass for now.

-Some wonderful direction this time around, courtesy of Brick director Rian Johnson. Johnson previously directed Season’s 3 Fly, another character driven episode with a crap ton of fantastic imagery. This episode follows that trend, with beautiful shots of the pool, the watch, the frequent use of the Number 51, and the blood mixing with the shaving cream when Walt cut himself shaving. Any others I missed?

-Skylar stole a piece of bacon from Walt Jr….she messed with the boy’s breakfast. She’s going to be killed by Walt Jr. in the series finale, isn’t she?

-One of the weakest openings in a long time, once again due to how overall useless it is. Well directed with some good music, but do we really need to see Walt galivate in his new car? R.I.P The Aztec though. It’s served as well in the last year, murdering thugs and catching airplane debris and what not.

-So the 50th episode of Breaking Bad is called “Fifty-One.”  Vince Gilligan, you clever bastard you!

-Walt Jr. finally got his Challenger. Spoiled asshole.

-Next week’s heist episode looks to be a doozy. Will we finally get a hint at why Walt’s in the bad shape he’s in on his 52nd birthday. I certainly hope so!

—Matthew