One of the reasons I finally forced myself to finish The Sopranos is that I started watching Breaking Bad--I'm two episodes into the second season now and so far I'm impressed. The cast deserves the gushing letter of praise Anthony Hopkins sent them--something I consider to be one of the biggest reasons Bryan Cranston won the SAG award last night. Which is not to say I don't think he's amazing. His is the best performance of a show filled with good performances, partly just because he's the central character and has to carry more but also specifically because of the kind of character he plays--a man who's gone along with what his family and society want and need against his own feelings for so long that it's built this constant emotional wall around him. Cranston conveys this while at the same time conveying specific emotional motives for each scene. It reminds me a little of Cary Grant's performance in Notorious.
But, again, the rest of the cast is great. What I especially like is how these are kinds of people one knows from life without being sitcom stereotypes. Particularly Walter's cop brother-in-law who could very easily be the dumb, authority obsessed cop stock character. But even when he's ridiculous, like when he takes Walter's son on a misguided "scared straight" field trip, he's believably human. Which is crucial as he represents one extreme end of one of the show's driving forces, the debate over recreational drug use. Though it's perhaps a tad too obvious when he unselfconsciously produces a box of Cuban cigars to share with Walter.
Walter himself is an effective point for an argument not merely about anti-drug laws but about lazy, selfish thinking that expects invisible forces of law and social decency to sort life out. I remember seeing articles with headlines asking why we sympathise with Walter even though he's clearly a villain. I haven't seen anything so far that clearly casts him as a bad man but, assuming he eventually is firmly established as one, I would say what makes people so invested in him is that he's a character who decides to break out of this artificial world that has kept him emotionally pinioned for so long. The fact that he makes ultimately unwise or flatly bad decisions only strengthens the appeal because it acknowledges the usefulness of social contracts. It's a more honest comparison that way so that we can ask ourselves, is the sort of freedom Walter chooses worthwhile even if he fails?
Twitter Sonnet #587
Tiny colourless crabs glimmer for ships.
Cypresses lean in the shade of a house.
Hands and mouths reflexively clutch the chips.
Pink fan fiction builds around the lab mouse.
Chrysler oaks're swallowed by chrome sparked fog.
Treasonous surveys foiled crab congress.
Lamps are hewn of a legless old spruce log.
Emerald needles crown a waiting empress.
Diplomatic diplodocus can dream.
Kinetic treacle can tap a deep well.
Ornate ornithology can redeem.
But bicycle salad dressing can't sell.
Crustaceans short-change challenged blue granite.
Uncharged coils linger in our bonnet.