Cover of Prizzi’s Honor
“They say Sicilians would rather eat their children than part with their money. And they love their children very much.” ~ Prizzi’s Honor
With two episodes left and another unpredictable cliff hanger, “Breaking Bad,” is now brutally honest. Hank and Gomez are dead along with their hi-jinx that kept the “bad,” somewhat sane. The ugly truth behind Walter White‘s calculated chess game has come to pass and our cult hero is rapidly falling out of grace with us but we still want him to finish business. He’s fled town, we assume, with a new identity. Jesse Pinkman is held hostage by the Aryan brotherhood and, perhaps most importantly, the creepy Todd.
Walt is Emerson’s man living a life “of quiet desperation.” Whether you or he likes it at all, the truth is that he is all of us– ordinary. The cancer diagnosis simply reminds him that he has a mediocre life. What makes him a bit different is having sold his billion dollar idea for five thousand dollars, and now, a barrel filled with ten million dollars.
Aaron Paul, Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston of AMC’s ‘Breaking Bad’ with producers (left: Josh Sapan, President and Chief Executive Officer AMC Networks; right: Charles Collier, President and General Manager AMC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We felt his world crumble apart last weekend but we know he’ll be back. Junior knows everything and both of his idols are gone: one dead, the other fleeing for his life. Skylar and Marie are reunited with a common goal: get Walt. Saul‘s still out there but his highest paying customers are dead or awol. If Walt is the devil, Lydia is the evil step-sister and we have to assume her fate is sealed in the cinematic words of Don Corrado Prizzi, “the girl’s gotta go.” Don’t be surprised if Todd is the guy who “offs” the girl. There is not a particle of hope for a happy ending for anyone.
Maybe the best metaphor yet is Walt rolling his barrel in the desert. Jesse astutely said, “I’m coming to get you where you really live.” All Walt has left is the barrel of millions, a defiant revenge streak, and a hatred for anyone who has ever taken anything from him. Do you really think he’s going to let the Nazi‘s keep his $70 million? He’s not Sicilian but he sure loves what he thinks his money is doing for his family.
Jesse’s demons are represented by the three by five inch still pic of Andrea and Brock that Todd placed in the lab as a reminder that, in Todd’s world, there are no boundaries.
Jesse wrestles with his guilt, and sorrow like most of us while Teflon Walt enters the van with his barrel and a plan you can deliberate at the water cooler all week.
If it wasn’t crystal clear to us by now (we are very forgiving of folk heroes) it’s in our face: drugs, greed and pride are, literally and figuratively, deadly to you and the people around you.
In TV, movies and literature, there can always be a happy ending. Not this time. We loved Walt sticking it to “the man” and Fring, and Crazy Eight, and Jesse’s assassins and so many more. But he crossed the line at Jane and then Mike. Seeing his rage against the insurance companies, the traffic tickets, the stupid boss and job and the rest of the conformist rituals we all despise is our cartharsis. We now know for sure that our quirky folk hero is really evil. But he’s still got unfinished business. Finish the job, Walt. You are going to die anyway, so let’s see it unfold.
Walt lost his vision and got blinded to see what could have been, and he still believes it was all for the benefit of his family.
We’re still not sure if Walt, in all his apparent love and compassion for his wife and kids, really ever knew that ordinary is good, and like this: one day you wake up and see the last of your five children packing his car to go off to college. And when you see that, you realize that that home, fed by an unconditionally loving mother, is the only life that that kid knows and now he is leaving her nest. You hope that he remembers the love and laughter his parents and brothers and sisters shared with him. You hope that you’ve taught him well enough to handle the noise you are sending him into. And then you start remembering everything he means to you.
His leaving is the absolute truth that this part of your life is over. His leaving to conquer the world is a permanent change for you. Now, all five kids are gone and you remember every birth, birthday party and every kid who ever came to your house to those parties. You recall every first day of school, science experiment, father’s day card, little league game, play, piano lesson, pet, dance recital and bicycle. You remember every dance, middle school graduation, Homecoming, argument, Christmas, Thanksgiving, first girlfriend, first boyfriend, first date, prom, breakup, high school graduation and every kid going away to college.
You remember that each time your household grew smaller by way of college, you looked forward to that day when the last one would leave home and what would be left is you and that woman who did everything in her power to make sure you and those kids were loved. You two would be together, alone, like you were in the beginning– before you created those beautiful children with her and that it would be a glorious day knowing he was ready to leave.
But then you see him packing his car and preparing his bike for the trip to his first day away home and your heart hurts because you really love him and his brothers and sisters. And you miss them all. You realize that over the years, they have enriched your life beyond anything you ever imagined. And then you turn around and walk to your room and close the door as he continues packing and you cry like a baby because your youngest—your wife’s baby– is leaving home and you can’t do anything about it. You are really going to miss him and you’re afraid he doesn’t know that. He, just like the four before him, really wants to go take on the world. He is not leaving for the wrong reasons. He’s leaving because you taught him all along that this day would come and going away to college is something to look forward to. His leaving to start his own life is a good thing but it’s really hard to do. And all of it is so ordinary and beautiful.
Walt lost his perspective. Ordinary is okay. It is not filled with athletic, movie, or rock stars. It’s not winning the lottery. It is the kids, the friends, the school events and summer vacation. It is not living in a sitcom or scandalous drama. Ordinary is what everyone is. By day’s end the Mumbai rickshaw driver and the Wall Street CEO each goes home to have dinner with his family as do the celebrities, intellectuals, garbage collectors, drug dealers and cops.
As Walt travels to New Hampshire, I hope he is thinking about what he has done. But I assume he won’t for very long. He’ll be back, ricin in hand, with his next move: fully impersonal and calculated because he still believes his intellect is a get out of jail free card. He will refuse to die without trying to convince everyone that he is blameless for anything he ever did and that he is anything but ordinary. He’s smart enough to know, like everyone else who has done it before him, he will die alone. He probably does know that nobody will go to his funeral.
Ironically and scientifically he knows for certain that when he is six feet under, the miracle of the chemicals of his body human body that create the electrical impulses that make him what and who he is will be dead— a useless pool of liquid, and then dust, just like everyone else.
Wouldn’t it be fitting to bring Fring back from the dead to say, “is this the way you want to be remembered Walt: an ordinary rata?”