Breaking Bad is legendary in the television space. It is a show that has a look, feel and quality which is consistently at the top of its game for the entire five season run of the show. Despite the fact that each season has a very different trajectory from the others, one thing that is consistent throughout the show is a feeling of dread. Dread of Walter’s cancer returning, dread of the criminal elements of Albuquerque, and dread of the inevitable consequences of one’s actions.
The sinister mystery element of Breaking Bad‘s second season allow for a special kind of dread to permeate the show.
It is this final dread, the dread of the unknown, that permeates season 2 of Breaking Bad. Beginning with a black and white cold open at the start of the season, and a decidedly contrasted pink teddy bear, showrunner Vince Gilligan built a sense of mysterious and sinister dread that had fans speculating through the entirety of its thirteen episode run.
Three further cold opens were peppered through the season as well, with each one offering a further trickle of new information. The ominous nature of these openings, along with the iconic picture of the scorched pink bear, an obvious child’s toy, left viewers fixated on what would be the source of oncoming horror down the road.
The first one, in “737”, only confirms that whatever happened, the police are on their way to the White residence. The second, in “Down”, added the details of hazmat workers combing the residence and collecting evidence, including a pair of glasses that looked strikingly similar to Walt’s. The third, in “Over”, added further gravitas, by panning over two body bags on the driveway. The final one, in “ABQ” gave us a plume of smoke rising above the neighborhood, before fading into the present, telegraphing to the audience that the day they’d been dreading had arrived.
While the premise of Breaking Bad, and the brutal consequences of operating in the drug trade, had already given us plenty of awful circumstances to chew on, it turned out that everything most fans had predicted, from the murder of Walt’s children to a meth lab explosion in his home, had been way off base. Only fans shrewd enough to know the names of the episodes, and piece together the names of the 1st, 4th, 10th and 13th episodes, had even a sniff at predicting the true nature of the disaster: 737 Down Over ABQ.
The truth was, as we all now know, that Walt had inadvertently caused the deaths of hundreds of people through a butterfly effect-like series of events. After allowing Jesse’s girlfriend Jane to die of an overdose, her grief-stricken father had returned to work prematurely in his role as an air traffic controller. When he begins sputtering, and slipping the name of daughter into directions, he fails to notice two planes careening into the danger zone. As Walter looks on in his yard, he witnesses the carnage firsthand, and as the pink bear plummets into his pool, he is forced to look his demons in the face.
There is a near-Shakespearian element to the tragedy, as Walter only allows Jane to die because he thinks it will save Jesse from the certain doom their mutual addiction is forcing him toward. Since Jane got Jesse addicted to heroin, and is egging Jesse into antagonizing Walt for the money he is owed, she is the driving force that may not only get them both killed, but also jeopardize Walt’s freedom as well. He weeps as he allows her to die, and then is forced to face the unintended disaster he created as a result. He has become monstrous, and must look upon the carnage that his monstrous alter ego, the villainous Heisenberg, has wrought.
This horrendous tragedy is added a further flavor of poetic irony when you consider that Walter had a chance encounter with Jane’s dad in a bar, where they both ruminated about their troubled charges, not knowing that the two were related to one another. Facts such as these eventually allow Walt, and others, to piece together how and why the deaths of so many occurred, though only Walt is forced to live with the terrible guilt of what his actions inevitably caused.
The red herring nature, and the sinister mystery element of Breaking Bad‘s second season, allow for a special kind of dread to permeate the show. While other seasons would encapsulate and further their own agendas of suspense related to oncoming events, none match the tone, pacing and sheer shock of season two.
‘Mr. Robot’ Just Changed Everything with a Shocking Reveal
There have been a lot of moving parts put into place over the course of Mr. Robot’s fourth season. Several of them just came together, in devastating fashion.
There have been a lot of moving parts put into place over the course of Mr. Robot‘s fourth, and final, season. On Sunday night, however, several of those pieces came together for one of the best episodes of the entire series in “Proxy Authentication Required”.
The reveal of a trauma so intense and horrific allows the character of Elliot to make so much more sense – so much so it almost warrants an entire series rewatch, to search for other hints.
Staged like a five act play, and utilizing a cinematic aspect ratio, “Proxy Authentication Required” immediately lets viewers know that it’s doing something a little different. While this may not be a huge surprise for fans (Mr. Robot just did a dialogue-free episode two weeks ago, among other experimental efforts throughout the series) the reason for it is fitting.
Essentially a bottle episode, “Proxy Authentication Required” takes place entirely in the apartment of Elliot’s former therapist, Krista. As such, the five act structure makes it even more like a play than it already is. Moreover, the episode is very dialog heavy, with almost no action.
Still, with a meaty chess match between Elliot/Mr. Robot and drug dealer Fernando Vera making up the majority of the episode, the dialogue is weighty enough to justify this structure. The first round goes to Vera, who obviously has Elliot over a barrel, having kidnapped both he and Krista. However, Mr. Robot turns the tables in the second round, pointing out the lack of originality or planning in Vera’s drug-fueled, mystically-advised bid to take over New York City.
Finally, the third round comes: the tie breaker. As Fernando orders Krista to have an impromptu therapy session with Elliot, the most shocking reveal in the series is laid bare. After a tense build-up, and against the protests of both Krista and Mr. Robot, Elliot finally digs up the truth behind his alter ego. Mr. Robot wasn’t created after Elliot had an accident, he was created to protect Elliot from a series of traumas that came before it.
In an emotional moment sold gloriously by Rami Malek, Elliot accepts the truth: his father molested him throughout his childhood. In one fell swoop, so much of what we know about Elliot suddenly makes sense – and the fact that Mr. Robot looks like his dad is just the beginning. There’s also the details of the trauma that we’ve had up until now: that Elliot told Darlene to hide when he heard his dad coming; that he grabbed a bat to defend himself – and, finally, that he threw himself from the window when he feared he couldn’t best his father in the altercation.
The reveal of a trauma so intense and horrific allows the character of Elliot to make so much more sense – so much so it almost warrants an entire series rewatch, to search for other hints. Certainly it’s more logical that Mr. Robot was created out of these terrible memories rather than materializing after the injuries sustained during Elliot’s fall. It also lets the viewer know that Mr. Robot had a history of altering Elliot’s perception and memories long before the events of the series.
Even more disturbing is that the creation of false narratives and fake memories is actually a real-life coping mechanism used by survivors of sexual abuse, especially children. As such, the reveal fits naturally into the character of Elliot – but it’s a huge shock to drop on the audience a mere three episodes before the end of the show.
Of course, the reveal will no doubt ignite debates as to whether Mr. Robot creator and showrunner Sam Esmail planned this backstory from the start, or whether it was concocted as a wrench to throw in the gears at the last minute. Either way, questions remain as to how this new information will affect the remainder of the series.
Will Mr. Robot be back or is he gone for good, now that his job of protecting Elliot from the truth has become obsolete? Did/does Darlene know? Will this affect the plan to hack the Dark Army that has been building all season? All of these questions and more will be answered in the next three weeks but in the meantime, we’ll be waiting with baited breath.
Watchmen Podcast: Breaking Down “Little Fear of Lightning”
This week, Watchmen delves into Looking Glass’s past and revisits one of the biggest events from the comic: the “interdimensional” squid attack on New York that kills over three million people and psychologically damages millions more. “Little Fear of Lightning” the finest hour yet, a focused character study that connects past and present in fascinating ways. And as always, there’s a lot to digest.
Our Watchmen podcast will see Simon Howell and an assortment of guests tackle the entire series (or at least the first season). In this fifth episode, Simon Howell, Sean Colletti, and Randy Dankievitch, take a deep dive into “Little Fear of Lightning” and note some of the more astonishing facts of the episode you might have missed.
And for those of you wondering, in order to keep things simple, we’ve decided to upload each episode to the same feed as our other podcast, Before the Internet.
The Career of Seth Rollins: From Face to Heel at Lightning Speed
It wasn’t that long ago that The Shield debuted on Survivor Series, setting the main event careers of three talented wrestlers in motion. Dean Ambrose, Roman Reigns, and Seth Rollins all came to the WWE through NXT. In and out of The Shield, each man has held multiple championships and has had great success.
These days, look a lot different for the former Shield members. Dean Ambrose left the WWE for AEW to wrestle again as Jon Moxley and Roman Reigns took a step back from the spotlight after warring with cancer. Meanwhile, the career of Seth Rollins has taken a turn of its own.
Becoming Seth Rollins
Colby Lopez joined the WWE in 2010 as part of Florida Championship Wrestling under the name Seth Rollins. He was there when it was re-branded in 2012 as NXT and became their inaugural champion. Seth Rollins turned heel in epic fashion by betraying The Shield and embarking on a huge singles career after his main roster debut.
Rollins hitting his Shield brothers with a steel chair still rates as one of the most shocking turns in WWE history.
More recently, Rollins had two wars against Brock Lesnar over the Universal Championship. Rollins won the Royal Rumble, using the title shot he earned to beat Lesnar at WrestleMania. Then, Lesnar somehow won a Money in the Bank match he wasn’t technically involved in. He used that shot to get his belt back. Rollins would then reclaim the title at SummerSlam.
It was a repetitive feud.
Rollins vs. Lesnar Into Infinity
The back and forth between Rollins and Lesnar became exhausting to fans. Not shockingly, WWE viewers were already sick of Lesnar being an absentee champion by the point that Reigns finally took him down. When he reclaimed the belt after Roman’s cancer announcement, the focus turned to Rollins hunting Lesnar.
Even when someone else like AJ Styles or Baron Corbin got in the mix, fans knew they wouldn’t win. It was always going to be about Lesnar and Rollins so fans started to turn on Rollins. His Hell in a Cell match against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt was the final nail.
Top Face or Top Heel?
There was a time long ago that fans over the age of eight cheered for John Cena when he came out to the ring. At some point, it became cooler to boo him. The same is true of Roman Reigns, who had to go through a traumatic personal experience to get fans to ease up on him. In both cases, they were the corporate champions chosen to lead the brand.
In reality, fans didn’t really care if they were good wrestlers or not. It’s just something they chafe against.
The boos echoing through the arena are growing louder and louder for Seth Rollins for similar reasons. That’s due in no small part to the long, tedious promos he’s sent out to give to personally connect with the audience. Play that card too often and the opposite becomes true. WWE was frequently guilty of the same thing with both Cena and Reigns.
Watch the video from the night when Reigns made the announcement of his hiatus to fight cancer. Fans were reflexively booing him because they figured they were in for another long promo. The mood changed quickly when Roman started talking about leukemia.
Things Go Wrong at Hell in a Cell
All of this was already building to a head when Hell in a Cell came along.
Universal Champion Seth Rollins was set to defend his title against ‘The Fiend’ Bray Wyatt in the titular main event. Unfortunately, WWE had painted themselves into a corner. They wanted Seth to retain, which he did, but couldn’t use the traditional DQ or count out to do it. Instead, WWE went for some weird finish where Seth hurt Wyatt so much so the ref stopped the match.
Essentially, a DQ in a no DQ match.
Rollins became the focus of much of the rage for the bad finish but the feud between him and Wyatt would continue. Wyatt finally won the Universal Championship and took it back to SmackDown. The side effect of this would be Lesnar returning to Raw with the WWE Championship.
It’s inevitable that Rollins and Lesnar will cross paths for the WWE Championship. Unfortunately, fans will have to choose between the two. They’ll end up cheering Rollins on as the lesser of two evils from their perspective.
The main miscalculation that WWE made at Hell in a Cell is the same one they made with Reigns and Cena. They assumed that being the top face in a match makes you the fan-favorite. Bray Wyatt is, by far, the most over wrestler in the company. People love Firefly Fun House and they love ‘The Fiend.’ Rollins simply couldn’t compete as any ending that wasn’t Wyatt with a belt would not be satisfactory to fans.
Seth Rollins’ Next Phase
Now, Rollins is stuck in a weird limbo. The top face on Raw for management that’s morphing into a heel based on fan opinion. His heel run alongside Triple H was some of his best work and he is still a superb in-ring performer. WWE should let what’s going to happen by letting Rollins perform to his strengths.
Let Rollins burn it down as a heel one more time.
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