TV Talk: BREAKING BAD 5.04 “Fifty-One”

Henri gets way too distracted by the episode title and the further reminder that all of this craziness has gone down in just one year.

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One fucking year? Seriously?

Okay, I know we already knew that it had only been one year, and I know that the 52 Bacon in the premiere's flash forward was there to let us know that shit will be hitting the fan exactly one year after the events of Sunday’s episode, but still - one year? Is it at all possible for all of this insanity to have happened in one single year?

I mean, the incredible number of events is one thing. But then there are all the changes to the characters. Forget the fact that it's been less than a year since Jesse was kicked out of his parents' house. Even with just our main man Walter White - the whole point of this entire show, as we’ve been pointing back to almost every week this season, is that Gilligan is going to change Walt from Mr. Chips to Scarface. But can that much darkness really grow in a year?

First, of course, there’s the diagnosis of cancer. A diagnosis that happened one day less than a year from when this episode picks up. I accept that learning that you’re going to die - to really die, soon - is an incredibly tragic and soul-cracking event in anyone’s life. I accept that that can lead you to start living your day-to-day life differently. But it only took, like, six weeks after Walt’s diagnosis for him to meet Jesse and say, “Oh, fuck this. I’m going to start cooking meth.” Okay, fair enough. The man had been put through the wringer, and he saw that as his only possible way out after a lifetime of what he considered to be unfulfilled promises. No problem.

But then it’s only another thirteen weeks before he’s cool with murdering-by-not-saving Jane? Three months? The guy was a high school teacher, whom we are led to presume cared about the kids in his class a little bit. Even Jesse. But it only takes three months before he's able to be all, "This girl's stupid and it's messing up my profitable drug running business. I'm going to watch her die." Three months.  One summer. WTF?

And then less than two months later, Gus offers Walt a multi-million dollar deal. That’s like six months into it, and he’s being offered three million dollars for three months of work. After six months. How could he not totally revert and have a long bottle episode where it's just him sitting in his car instead of cooking meth with Jesse? I see Walt talking to himself just saying, "Okay, this is insane. This is NUTS!" Instead Jesse is the only one who does any of that, but even he doesn't react much to how totally different his life really is. After SIX MONTHS.

Of course, this timeline has been established all along, but without a bunch of cues throwing it in my face, I never stopped to think about it. But with “Fifty-One” it was almost ALL I could think about. Can any of us really change that much in one year? Or was this Scarface buried beneath Mr. Chips all along?

That got me thinking that I’d really like to see a full flashBACK. I want to see more of Skyler and Walt when Walter Jr. was about seven or eight years old. Long enough into their marriage to see them established, to see the cracks breaking through any honeymoon period, but not up to the diagnosis. Would there be cracks? If we could see that far back, would we recognize that Walt’s belief that he was just cooking meth to look after his family was always a lie he was telling himself?

Way too many questions, I know. But I’ve known a lot of people who have read a lot of self help books, and most of them can’t seriously change who they are. I guess I’m finding it hard to suspend my disbelief that so many people in America can’t stick to a diet for more than three weeks but Walter is able to go from loving and caring husband to total dickwad murderer in less than a year.

And if that’s possible in the world of Breaking Bad, then holy shit what else is going to happen before we get to the events from the flash forward at his fifty-second birthday? At this rate I expect that his gun is actually for killing Martians, who by then will clearly be mad at us for disturbing them with Curiosity, and Walt will be running every cartel in Colombia.

I don't know... I think if it had been five years my brain could handle it. People definitely change every five years or so as we react to the world around us and our own aging bodies. But one year? That’s just nuts! If you know someone who has changed a ton in just one year, though, I want to hear about it in the comments!

In fact, I’m going to break up my post this week into two posts, so we can keep two different conversations going. This one will be all about ONE YEAR?? and next up I’ll get something going about the great Walt v. Skyler war of the roses.

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