Saturday, October 05, 2013

Spoiler Warning

(The following review is mostly ambiguous, but it does kind of give the entire thing away, so if you haven't seen this TV series DON'T read this, even if this is essentially the reason why you should watch the TV series.)

Your next box set: Breaking Bad

"Convince yourself, you are someone else..." Is a line from a song, by Swedish band Junip, which was used to preview the finale of this TV series. In a way that is entirely what Breaking Bad is about - convincing yourself you are someone different.

We came to this series very late. In fact, we started to watch it just as it was entering the end game in real time. Real time... yeah, I think that was one of the things that surprised me so much about this TV series; at some point in season 5 the main cast are sitting round the pool in Walter White's modest Albuquerque home and they are talking about the last 12 months - the entire life of the series we were watching. Was it really just 12 months in the lives of these 5 people?

This is the story of a mild-mannered chemistry teacher who has let the world walk over him; has lost a potential fortune and is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He is married to a selfish woman, has a son with cerebral palsy and a baby daughter on the way and he's just turned 50. This is bad enough, but through a series of events he loses just about everything he had left, except his family. It is when he has nothing left that he comes up with this idea that he could make crystal meth - a highly addictive drug that is common in the USA but has not really made the inroads in the UK - all he needs is the right people to help him.

Enter Jesse Pinkman - a feckless waste of space ex-student of Walter's who really is just a complete and utter dick, but through Jesse the next 12 months unfolds in some of the most jaw-dropping TV moments you will ever witness!

But... it's about a chemistry teacher and a wanker, how can it be so good?

I think that's why it took us so long to watch it and why there are so many people out there professing to have never seen it: the premise, on paper, looks a bit thin. It's the only thing that is.

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul - the protagonists - are chalk and cheese, yet soon you see something developing between them - a chemistry, if you will. Plus the meth they cook is so good everyone wants a piece of the action, which links the two of them together even more. As the short first series segues into series two, we are introduced to the 'real' supporting cast - not Walt's family, but the likes of 'the lawyer', 'the fixer' and the 'villain' - three utterly crucial elements for making this TV series as good as it was.

Saul Goodman - a lawyer (just), who has his fingers in more pies than you could imagine. Mike - a hitman and problem solver who works for Saul, but really works for... Gus Fring, the head of massively successful chicken restaurant chain who is also the largest drug baron in the southern United States. Three characters who would help turn this into quite possibly one of the most spectacular TV shows ever made.

By the end of series two you are still rooting for Walt; he's still the 'hero', but from season three on, Walt really becomes the chemical mastermind persona he has invented for himself - his is Heisenberg and you start to see the flicker of megalomania behind those dark, bespectacled, eyes.

To say that carnage rules the next couple of series is a slight overstatement, but it's never too far from the surface. People get killed that you just wouldn't expect to die and things are never predictable. You think you can guess what is going to happen next and its the last thing that does happen! This is what made this series so enjoyable, you kind of had to give up second guessing it because anything you thought might happen wasn't a patch on what they actually opted for.

Then, at the end of series four, you wonder what the hell a fifth season could have in it. It ends; just about every loose bit is tied up in that explosive perfect season finale. When the final series begins it acts almost like an epilogue - the loose ends of the loose ends seem to get tied up ... But that was the TV show's charm, the ability to lead you down a path only to be rugby tackled from the side. Series five proved that not all of the loose ends were tied up; in fact the ones left were a lot more unpredictable than Gus Fring. As the final series progressed, things just got grimmer to the point where you knew, deep down, there wasn't going to be any form of happy ending...

I liked the analogy that for the entire series Walter thought he was in charge, but in reality he was never 'in charge'. He was always controlled by something - whether it was Fring or his own love of being a super villain. How he took control in the series' final episode and did everything the way he wanted it done was a fitting tribute.  A good friend of mine said he felt the finale was rushed (it was 75 minutes long) and I can see that, but I can also see that it was necessary. The time frame of the series: 12 months pass between series one episode one and series five episode seven, but a further 12 months pass from that point by the swimming pool and the bloody riot at the very end, in fact, all the finale action largely takes place on Walt's 52nd birthday.

In the end most people got what they deserved; like real life some things were fairer than others. I'd spent three seasons hoping that Skyler White would die in the most horrible of ways and, remarkably, that Hank, the consummate professional cop would get his man, because it was what he deserved. Or that Jesse would actually live happily ever after with that cute girl and her son; but nothing I 'wanted' happened yet it was still one of the most mind-blowing TV shows ever and like The Sopranos its kind will probably never be repeated.

I watched the finale last night, after managing to avoid most spoilers (no thanks to Malcolm Alsop for almost killing my enjoyment by using his Facebook status to tell the world what had happened) and worked it out that we started to watch the series midway through August (so about 8 weeks in total to watch 60 episodes) and yet I feel as though a huge hole has been excavated in me, one that I don't see any other TV show filling at the moment.

People will tell you that you really should have watched it. Trust them; these people are right. This is essential television; it is culturally superb; it is what television was created for, to entertain, to shock, to get a reaction. Vince Gilligan cut his teeth on The X Files but will be catapulted into the same arena as Joss Whedon and JJ Abrams on the strength of this show. Bryan Cranston is already a huge star and I expect a bright future for Aaron Paul, whose character, at the end, got what he deserved.

So did we.

Rating: 10/10

Addendum: This is the music used to preview the finale: it is possibly the loveliest song I have heard all year and the words... Jesus, you would have thought they had been written specifically for the final episode...

Thursday, October 03, 2013

1000 Yard Stare


Remember me? I used to be prolific, now I'm just tired.

I am of the opinion that for someone who thought that time was speeding up (without humanity being perceptively aware), by immersing myself in doing so much has just exacerbated the situation and weeks seem to be whizzing past at a rate of knots. The thing is, if this is the case, the winter will zoom in and out, it'll be next spring before you know it and we'll be watching our lives just dissolve away. At the least the weather has been reasonably benign...

Obviously Borderline Press has been monopolising my life. I eat, sleep, breathe it. I seem to spend time I didn't think I had sorting out problems, smoothing over cracks and generally being 'in charge' and yet we have nothing to show for it and I appear to be, on many occasions, at the mercy of people I'm depending on, but being the new cog in the wheel doesn't afford me any favours, in fact, at times, I think I'm having the piss taken.

Banks have been a burden; printers have been slovenly; creators have tried it on and organisationally it's just planning, replanning and throwing away ideas and starting again. Someone said, 'You'll learn from your mistakes." I said, I don't want to be seen making too many mistakes because by the time we get it right everyone will think we're shite.

But, you know, I have the other blog to talk about Borderline Press. I actually do that semi-regularly. This blog is about my life and the stuff that goes on around it... and... at the moment the only thing happening is Borderline Press.

The quiz team is averagely consistent still; I missed God Is An Astronaut live and was so distraught about it I didn't realise I'd missed the concert until two days after it was on - I've wanted to write my personal scathing review of their new album - Origins - but I haven't had the time to sit down and tell you how dull, boring and uninspiring it is - and that after 5 particular solid and enjoyable post rock albums, the band appear to have lost it. With due deference to Roger, perhaps GIAA should become God is an Accountant...

We've just about caught up with the rest of the world on Breaking Bad; it finished last night, we have 1 episode to watch - so no spoilers!

I have to admit that the last couple of months have been so busy and full of stuff that at times I have found myself staring - in my head - at not just a big bag of tobacco, but at mixing the big bag of tobacco with illegal substances - especially when I lie in bed at night with my mind racing and wishing that I could Just. Go. To. Sleep! But I've not gone down that route because I actually feel pretty good now that I'm nearly 14 months into it and I like being alive, even if life seems to be whizzing past ...

Anyhow... I'm now stuck for stuff to write about, so I think it's time for...

Fishwife Tales (episode 273)

Mr Miserable, the guy who lives next door to the Lithuanians (formerly known as the Sexually Explicit Family) upped and left his wife for a younger woman about three weeks ago. At first we thought there must have been some form of tragedy over there; what with all the red eyes and hugging, but it appears that the bald cunt who has never spoken a word to me in 13 years because his former next door neighbour didn't like me, has run off with a 40 year old woman who has three divorces behind her. Mr Miserable had been with his partner for 33 years; they were childhood sweethearts. I suppose it was a bit of a tragedy.

The Lithuanians have been extremely quiet.

The Wide Bwoy and his pregnant spouse are still in the throes of renovating the Dead Bloke's old house and they appear to be doing a good job, even if the constant presence of builders - coupled with a water main bursting in the street - has made our normally quiet little road a hive of activity and noise. The downside of Wide Bwoy is the amount of friends with kids they have. The street has been slowly filling up with families - young families - and I think the wife and I are looking at an exit strategy at some point.

Fuckwit continues to spend money like its going out of style and while I have no idea of his circumstances, I do know he is on DLA and she gets benefits for being his carer. I was told the car valeting I see every three weeks or so might be paid for by Motobility - but I've since found out that that applies to new cars. They've downsized from their focus back to a Y reg WagonR, but still pay some guy to clean their car - they must be filthy...

They have also had all the soffits replaced and that thing that sits above front doors in old houses - the thing that usually stops the rain from falling on you - they had that replaced with something that looks like it wouldn't be out of place on TOWIE. The house is covered in scaffold; they've had gardeners in again and frankly if they can afford any of this without their benefits they shouldn't be on benefits and if they are paying for all of this with benefits then I'm getting to the stage in my life where I find that offensive and I might have to mention something to someone...

**UPDATE** Fuckwit found over £5000 to have his house tarted up from the outside. £5000 for soffits, and a new thing over the door? You are having a laugh? But Fishwife told me and he knows everything. If Fuckwit and Fat Lass have forked out £5k then I really want to know how he's getting this money and I am so, so, impressed that someone ripped him off!

That brings us to the inevitable Fishwife. How do you think I know about Mr Miserable? Fishwife knew. How did I know about Wide Bwoy (and his mortgage woes)? Fishwife knew. We've had some pretty good weather for sitting on the patio doing some work on the laptop - I've resorted to wearing headphones, even if I haven't got any music on otherwise he'll be leaning on the metaphoric wall and start shooting the breeze with me - whether I want to or not. In fact, because I have been so busy recently, I've got quite abrupt with him at times and while I worry because my dogs do make some noise, they don't make half as much as Fishwife's two boys, who currently seem to be on a 'let's see how much I can wind my brother up' campaign.

Yesterday, the eldest was riding his bike on their decking - a game that is becoming increasingly difficult as they are growing exponentially - and decided to start ringing his bell. I was attempting to take ten minutes to read some of the new Stephen King novel and literally five of them were non-stop ringing of a bicycle bell. Had I been nearer the kid I would have ripped the bell off and shoved it down his throat... Noisy little shit...

I fear going out in the garden at times, especially if he's there, because he'll want to talk and he'll gossip and I seem to have grown out of it. When I had nothing better to do it was fine, but I struggle with time management at the moment; Fishwife doesn't appear to believe in it at all...

Which brings me to the distinct possibility that we're going to move in the next couple of years, depending on the success of Borderline Press. As long as I have broadband we can live just about anywhere and the destination of choice appears to be the south Scottish coast along the Solway Firth. Provided we can afford to move there, this is the embryonic plan. I will end up with a Scottish fishwife and fuckwit, but at least their accents will be mellifluous and different - for a while.

Until then, I shall sit here in my office and when I'm not stressing and up to my eyeballs in work, I will stare out of the window and dream...