Monday, September 30, 2013

"Breaking Bad": The good and bad of the finale

Posted by on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 10:09 AM

When "Lost" had its finale three years ago, I didn't think there would ever be another show that could drag me in like it did. My friends would always tell me about shows they liked on TV, and I would always react with a, "Pshh, it's not as good as 'Lost.'" In a sense, I was being bitter.

One of those shows people always mentioned was "Breaking Bad," but I never gave it a chance. I finally watched a few episodes on Netflix last month, and a few weeks later I would end up catching up to the current, final season. Along the way I see-sawed between liking Walter White and hating him, but after he poisoned a kid I was fully in the anti-Walt camp. I didn't think there was any way my allegiances could change. But then the finale happened Sunday night.

Unlike some much-talked-about finales from recent years ("The Sopranos," the aforementioned "Lost"), "Breaking Bad" didn't leave anything open-ended. There's not going to be any debates about what the ending means, only discussion on whether or not people found it fitting. Save for one far-fetched moment, I thought the finale achieved pretty much perfection.

Note that there are spoilers below, so if you don't want to know what happened, you should probably stop reading now.

The Good

The suspense: Pretty much every scene had me on the edge of my seat, and by the time of the epic final scene my heart was going so fast I thought it was going to explode.

Walt making sure his family gets his money: Even though they made it clear they didn't want his drug money, Walt still found a way to get it to them. He did put himself first throughout most of the series, but he always cared about his family.

Walt finally being real with Skyler: Finally hearing him admit he was doing everything for himself was very gratifying. It gave so much insight into his character when he said his ordeals in the meth business made him feel alive.

Laser pointers: This scene was great not only for the dark humor, but because we got to see Badger and Skinny Pete one last time. What would a finale have been without them?

The final showdown: This scene is going to get so many views once it starts appearing on YouTube, and for good reason. It was brilliant. You were kept guessing right up until the gun in the trunk. Then we got to see some of the best moments of revenge in television history, as Walt killed Jack Welker and Jesse killed Todd. You could argue that throughout the series, Walt went bad. But it was a temporary thing, a mere blip on the radar in his life. Jack and Todd were evil incarnate, and seeing them getting their comeuppances was oh-so-satisfying.

Walt and Jesse's goodbye: People were probably hoping for some more dialogue between the two, especially since the last time they saw each other Walt told Jesse he let Jane, the love of his life, die in front of him, and that he could've saved her. Only a few words were exchanged, and it was nothing particularly significant. Before Jesse gets into a car a drives to his freedom, they look at each other and exchange a nod. On Walt's end, I think the nod said, "Sorry for everything I put you through," while on Jesse's it said, "I forgive you." Maybe that's not what the writers intended, but that's how I like to think it went. I cried real tears at this part, something only a few other television shows have ever made me do.

Walt's death: If Walt and Jesse's goodbye made me cry, this took it even further. He got to be with his pride and joy one last time. The soundtrack ("Baby Blue" by Badfinger) went so well with the scene, one because of the lyrics ("guess I got what I deserved") and two because the meth was his baby, and it was blue.

Redemption: Walt's actions in the episode certainly don't give him redemption, but it shows he never went completely over to the dark side. For the first time in a while, he wasn't fighting for Heisenberg, he was fighting for Walter White. This made me respect his character so much more, seeing as he almost broke last episode and turned himself in. He righted all the wrongs he could before his time was up.

The Bad

The ricin in Stevia packet: There were a few things that bothered me over the course of the series, but none that came close to this. How could Walt have possibly put the ricin in a Stevia packet? I mean, was it just me or was the packet not sealed? Does he have a connection at the Stevia plant who he got to fill a packet with ricin for him? I'm not a sugar packet-ologist by any means, but how could you reseal a sugar packet? We saw Lydia rip the packet open, so it was sealed to begin with. I don't think this is really possible. I know Walt's supposed to be all-knowing, but I don't think that means being a magician. This didn't seem to bother my friends with whom I watched the finale, but it sure bugged me. Maybe I missed some really explicit detail, but I watched it three times over and didn't catch anything. I think the show asked a little too much out of our imaginations for this one.

Friday, September 20, 2013

REVIEW: The Onion at UR

Posted by on Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 2:51 PM

Two staffers from satirical newspaper The Onion gave a presentation at the University of Rochester's Strong Auditorium Thursday night, and not surprisingly, hilarity ensued. Head Writer Seth Reiss and Features Editor Cole Bolton discussed the "history" (I use that term loosely) of The Onion, some of the most famous headlines it has printed over the years, the creative process that goes into an issue, and read some of the angry letters received by the paper.

If laughter really is the best medicine, the people in the audience got a heavy dose. The event seemed more like a stand-up comedy show than anything else, but it was also surprisingly educational. It was obvious that the duo knew how to work a crowd, Reiss in particular, and it was not much of a shocker when he said he worked in sketch comedy for several years.

The presentation had the same mentality as The Onion in general: anything and everything is fair game. This was especially notable when a section of the slideshow popped up revolving around famous people the newspaper has had "killed" over the years. Among them: Mother Teresa and University of Rochester president Joel Seligman, which easily drew the best response from the mostly student-filled crowd. They also showed charts ranking their journalistic integrity versus other publications such as The New York Times, and even University of Rochester's campus publication The Campus Times. (Not surprisingly, The Onion was ranked with a perfect score, while the other papers were given a sliver of its integrity.)

One of my personal favorite segments from show was when Reiss and Bolton did a reading of Neil Armstrong's moon landing, which was filled with more four-letter words than the average person probably hears in a week.

Perhaps the best thing that was discussed was how The Onion has fooled other news outlets around the world numerous times into thinking their stories are real, and subsequently running the satirical stories. Stories like the $8 billion Abortionplex, and a frustrated Barack Obama writing the entire nation a rambling 75,000 e-mail were just a few that have duped big names such as Fox News over the years.

While the Strong Auditorium was mostly filled with laughs during the presentation, things did take a more serious turn during the Q & A session afterwards. After somebody asked about the fallout from the Twitter incident at this year's Oscars, in which the paper referred to 9-year-old nominee Quvenzhane Wallis with an incredibly crude term, Reiss was hesitant to jump into it. But Bolton kept the issue alive and it was discussed for several minutes. This was probably the only span where the audience's roaring laughter was absent for more than a 30-second span. It was interesting to hear their side of the story, because all you really heard from The Onion before was their apology.

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