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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. For previous recaps, click here. Note: I skipped over episodes “Fly” and “Abiquiu” due to traveling (one leg of which sent me to Puerto Rico for the return of Kenny Powers).

This week, we discuss the shocking semi-finale “Half Measures” and the season’s flaws with the culture writer, white rapper, and L.A. personality known as Sven Barth. A discerning barbarian of boob tube and skateboard culture, Barth’s creative endeavors span the single “Baby I’m Black” and the cooking series The Shredding Chef on Fuel TV.

Hunter Stephenson: Okay Sven. I think we both agree Breaking Bad is superior to most TV series currently going. But I want to ask you: is the third season where the show went from being a great series to a good if uneven one? When the Cousins exited—empty characters hyped as a death rattle but comparable to a violent psych-out—I was hopeful the season would upswing. Instead, we got Rian Johnson‘s episode “Fly,” which was the best ep of the season but it also inadvertently juxtaposed how little time and writing was spent in other eps, before and after, on rewarding character development. The writers focused so intently this season on viewers’ anticipation of bad shit happening and murderous voodoo tension that Walt and Jesse often registered more like pawns of doom than people. “Fly” explored and deepened their individual personalities and psyches, and reexamined their flesh and blood bond. Nevermind that it was executed, due to sheer genius or budget restraints, in a one-room setting. Am I being too critical, or do you agree?

Sven Barth: I’ll start by saying Breaking Bad is, without a doubt, one of the best cable shows of the past few years. But to me, this season continues to have several problems not present in one and two. I was still excited to watch each episode but Jesse in particular became closer and closer to a mall-type caricature as the season marched on. And yeah, “Fly” was excellent. It hearkened back to the season two episode, “4 Days Out” about the RV battery. “Fly” exemplified why I got addicted to this show from day one, back when I was tuning in because I was invested in the characters foremost, sudden thrills second. Walt’s and Jesse’s day-to-day was more tangible, convincing. Now that they’re certified bad guys, that’s missing.

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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

The calamitous, nail biter episodes that were “Sunset” and “One Minute” were followed by two quieter if unsettling installments. The first, “I See You,” focused on the mortality and health of several characters, and the latest, “Kafkaesque,” naturally dove into the resulting problem of money and insurance—the serpentine topics at the series’ core. The salad days of stashing illegal monies behind air vents and under the kitchen sink are long gone for our beloved meth-slinging duo. Their conversations and the scope of their operation have expanded into the tens of millions, if not more, and in this ep we see how differently they continue to (forever) handle greed, contentment, and “taxes, yo.”

Their cash problems lie not only in finding and purchasing physical space needed for money laundering, but mental space as well. It’s the latter here that unleashes a whopper of a lie. Taking the lie into context, an unrelated scene where Walter informs Gus that he wants to “Lay the cards on the table,” bites with considerable irony. After the jump, we welcome your comments in anticipation of Sunday’s episode, “Fly.” Don’t miss it, it’s the best and easily the most creatively daring of the season (and some fans will say ever), directed by no less a talent than Rian Johnson (Brick).

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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

In movies, when bank robbers and gangsters grumble, “I’m never going back to jail, they’ll have to kill me,” the statement does not uniformly rule out visiting peers who are incarcerated. On the other side of the glass, a visit can be a sobering reminder against surrender, and a satisfying reassurance of dominance to the criminal mind—”Better him than me”—all the while keeping the enemy close. Walter White has never served a prison sentence, but he’s weathered a death sentence as a patient confined to a hospital. The time served there, the loss of freedom and control over his life, forever skewed his outlook on mortality and morality. The hospital is a sort of prison in Walter’s psyche, and in season three, he seems to gain an introspective satisfaction in visiting others there—standing over their beds, his hand—or in the enemy’s case his eyes—on theirs.

Episode seven, and especially episode eight, entitled “I See You” (a play on the acronym for “intensive care unit”) demonstrate how smoothly Walt operates in this setting when he’s not the patient. “I hide in plain site, same as you,” Gus Fring tells him. And in this episode, Walt is never far from a character who is bruised, bloodied, unconscious, emotionally scarred or confused, characters snagged directly or indirectly in the wrath of Walt’s crimes, and thus weaker than him. The hospital scenes in “I See You” are an affirmation for Walt of a reality in which he’s the patriarch of survival, his facade the armor.

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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

With “One Minute,” the most engrossing arc of the third season has landed in Hank‘s lap like a decapitated, shrunken head exported from Juarez. And with five episodes left before the finale—should we begin deciphering ep titles like last year?—it will be difficult to surpass the shock of the bloody, unsettling ending here. “I swear to god Marie, the universe is trying to tell me something, and I’m finally ready to listen.” “One Minute” is the second consecutive episode where a mysterious phone call launches Hank’s life down a menacing pinball alley (ruled by fate or chaos?). But unlike last time, we’re unsure over who exactly was on the other line. We also received an origins story for the Cousins of Death, and finally learned the duo’s beer-bobbing Christian names: Leonel and Marco. And in a sign of future grisly decision making, Saul Goodman laid out a not-so-last resort for Walt.

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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

This is my own private domicile. I will not be harassed, bitch!” – Jesse Pinkman

From an opening shot of two blazers belonging to the Cousins of Death hanging on a clothesline against a glaring desert “Sunset,” the sixth episode was imbued with the showdowns and imagery of a modern Western. The structure was free of flashbacks and high on pressure-cooker drama, with no less than three showdowns, the most memorable of which saw Walt and Jesse unexpectedly mourn a great, unsung character of sorts. And the season continued to focus on Hank’s wellbeing and search for self, the loner sheriff to Jesse and Walt’s bickering cocksure outlaws. Between the panic attacks, the fast food stakeouts, and a strenuous, ever-lonely professional and domestic life: will Hank break before he breaks the case of his life?
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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. For this installment, /Film discourses with Natasha Vargas-Cooper, a sharp-witted, caps-friendly writer at The Awl and author of the new book Mad Men Unbuttoned, due this July from HarperStudio. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recap and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

Hunter Stephenson: Before we discuss the hell-tinted game-changer that was “Mas,” tell me where Walter White resides in your obsession with masculine anti-heroes in current TV and film. What does Breaking  Bad tell us about the state of the modern man?

Natasha Vargas-Cooper: Walter White, thanks to magnificent Bryan Cranston, has quickly ascended into the highest echelon of beloved Manly Men Who Do Bad Things. He is Sopranos status for me. I think what White has—what you see echoed in characters like Don Draper, Tony Soprano, Jim McNulty—is fragmented existence. In their professional lives these men are the masters of their craft and at home they are considered failures.

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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

In previous recaps, I have discussed the slower pace and subdued tone of season three, and several Slash readers have noticed the slight change as well. The initial episodes haven’t been subpar or boring, but for the non-diehards and for curious surfers, I imagine Walter White‘s broodiness and the larger-than-life, some have argued “cartoonish,” enigma of the Cousins is off-putting. But overall, the season’s kick-off is realistic. Figurative dust continues to settle after season two’s finale, and several main characters have used the shadow of tragedy to privately search and await a sign, an epiphany, or any justification to grasp at what he or she selfishly desires most.

Aptly titled, “Green Light,” the fourth episode shoves these characters’ ambitions and longings forward, and fans may have noticed the writers lacing the ep with the humor and foreshadowing that hooked us back when Walt still had hair/manners. After the jump, I’ll cease saying anything further about next week’s episode, but I will say it’s even better than “Green Light.” Season three’s slow burn is about to ignite into a highway to hell. (Yay?)

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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads and readers’ thoughts welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

The third episode of the third season, “I.F.T.” continues the series’ slow burn this year and we have to admit, the percolating (and/or slightly tedious?) tension has us counting the days until death knocks on someone’s door. It was an ep highlighting connections and inevitable reveals. Until the final seconds, the meaning of the titular acronym rained a mystery—and when viewers figured it out, I’m pretty sure Walter White was considering a revision to his “honesty is good” policy. Or perhaps he simply reacted by storming out for a signature bender in his tighty-whities.

Other reveals dealt with the degrees of separation between the Cousins of Death and a pivotal character from the series’ past, and an unexpected flashback on Danny Trejo’s thug.

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