'Breaking Bad'
'Breaking Bad'
‘Breaking Bad’

This past Sunday, “Breaking Bad,” the hit TV show on AMC, aired its first episode of the second half of the fifth season. My question is, who has a “final season” broken up into two halves? As they say online, “Grr.”

Even more annoying, die-hard fans had to wait an entire year between episodes! That said, I, along with a record 5.9 million viewers for Sunday’s show, would probably say it was worth the wait. (Speaking of the Nielsen Ratings, do you have a Nielsen box hooked up to your TV? For that matter, do you know anyone who ever has?)

If you haven’t watched “Breaking Bad,” the first four seasons are on DVD at our wonderful Santa Monica Public Library and by the time you’re done, the library will probably have the fifth season. (Hoping with that shameless plug SMPL might waive some of my outstanding overdue fines.)

Initially I didn’t watch the series because I waste enough time as it is. I’m an expert on the subject. If there was a Ph.D. in “wasting time,” I’d be called Dr. Neworth.

I blame my current addiction to “Breaking Bad” on my friend, Russell Braunstein, a handyman extraordinaire in Santa Monica for over 20 years. In case the FBI is reading this, he “purchased” the first four seasons. (Wink, wink.)

“Breaking Bad” is brilliant, but some have gone a little overboard. One reviewer compared Hank, a DEA agent, catching Walter, his methamphetamine manufacturer brother-in-law, to Ahab finally catching the whale in “Moby Dick.” (Moments later Melville was heard spinning in his grave.)

By the way, the term “breaking bad” is Southwestern slang for “defying authority.” (Thank you, Wikipedia.) Certainly, with all its cutting edge direction and unique characters, the show does that. But consider the plot and you tell me.

Walter White, a respected high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Understandably, he’s concerned about the financial future of his family after he dies so, naturally, he decides to go into manufacturing meth. Huh?

You see Hank takes Walt along on a bust of a meth lab. (Don’t all DEA agents take their brother-in-laws on raids?) It’s Hank who tells Walter how much money there is in the illegal meth trade. He does so just as Walter sees Jesse, his handsome and rebellious former student, fleeing from the residence. Does Walt alert Hank to Jesse’s escape? (If he did there’d be no show!)

So Walter blackmails Jesse into becoming his partner in the meth business. And four-plus seasons later, schlemiels like me are on the edge of our seats. Now, it’s just a matter of time (seven episodes to be exact) to see how Walter, family man turned sociopath, will meet what has to be a very grim end.

If you’re going to check out “Breaking Bad” from the library or order it on Netflix, you might skip the next paragraph or two. Translation: Spoiler alert. Walter is a friggin’ genius and knows everything about anything, which makes him fascinating to watch. He’s also brilliantly acted by Bryan Cranston, who probably needs a self-storage locker for all the Emmys he’s won.

So does it make any sense, other than in the OZ of TV-land, that Walter would do the following? He inadvertently leaves a collection of poems by American poet Walt Whitman on top of the toilet along with magazines. Keep in mind this is perhaps the only bit of evidence that could tie him to the entire meth empire he’s built so carefully. (For that matter, who reads poetry on the toilet? Sports page, yes, but poetry?)

Of course, a few seasons later Hank and his wife, Marie, (a chronic shoplifter) are over Walt’s for dinner. When Hank uses the bathroom he casually picks up the Whitman book. His eyes lock onto the incriminating inscription from chemist Gale Boetticher whom Walt had Jesse brutally murder. (Are you following me?)

Suddenly, Hank realizes his brother-in-law Walt is the meth kingpin whom he’s been hunting for 52 episodes. One wonders if Hank had been constipated how would the series have ever ended? (With idle speculation like this you can get an idea of what I mean about being a Ph.D. in wasting time.)

Walt soon discovers the Whitman book is missing and confronts Hank, who accuses him of being a murdering sociopath. Walt doesn’t exactly deny it. It’s more like another example of “Guilty, but with an explanation.”

Well, dear reader, we’ve come to the end of our weekly little get-together. If you need a great handyman (or someone to answer questions about “Breaking Bad”) Russell is your man. In the meantime, only seven more episodes until I’m released from this addiction. Unless, of course, they’re tricking us and this isn’t really the final season. Grr.


Russell Braunstein is at rjaybraun@gmail.com. Jack can be reached at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or via e-mail at jnsmdp@aol.com.

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