Posted by: markfender | October 5, 2011

Breaking Bad – Crawl Space

Breaking Bad season 4 is approaching its end. Before it goes, I wanted to talk about last week’s episode – Crawl Space (Spoiler lite, I promise).

This whole season has been about the consequences of last season and how they’ve slowly been building. In the way that Breaking Bad does, it all hits the fan in five minutes time. Walter realizes he’s screwed and decides to get out of town. He heads into the crawl space to get his money, only to discover it’s not enough.

And that’s where things get interesting. At least, from a cinematic perspective. Breaking Bad has always been fond of odd camera angles (if I have to see something poured onto a glass plate suspended above a camera one more time…), but this episode took it to new levels.

As Walter stumbles around below his house, we get the eerie, disconcerting music that starts up. Skyler comes in to ask what Walt is doing. Everything from her side of the conversation is filmed looking up through the floor. It’s not necessarily a good angle for anyone, but it’s used to great effect here to make things off kilter. Combined with the music and the view from her feet looking down at Walt, we have what would seem to be the natural position to film this scene from the actor’s perspectives, but it comes across as dangerously disjointed.

We then add in Walter’s hysterical laughter as he realizes the depth of his problems and his helplessness in the face of them juxtaposed with the ringing of the telephone. We’re already on edge from the music, the emotion, and the askew camera, but they’ve come and upped it again with sound effects – Walter’s teetering sanity and the brusqueness of the phone demanding Skyler’s attention. As Walter lies, dreams shattered, Marie’s scene begins where she sobs about the situation with Hank. As Skyler goes to answer the phone, we get shots of Marie – alone, in a darkened house, pacing frantically. It’s the most movement we see from this scene, but even it is adding to the tension, her voice and lack of lighting conveying her terror.

The episode ends with the pan up from the crawl space hole, Walter still lying in the dirt. The camera keeps panning up, with the already discordant music cresendoing, until the camera is above where the ceiling would be in the room, Walter and the dirt around him getting smaller and smaller. If anything, this last shot is pretty typical of Breaking Bad, but the whole scene plays quite well. This is one of the more effective scenes of the entire series and it is all due to the show’s willingness to do artistic things with the camera. While always well-written and well-acted, the camera work in this last few minutes is among the best I’ve seen on television. So much so, that I almost wish it had been the season ender. It left us perfectly aware of the situation, disconcerted us, and left us hungering for more. The fact that there are more episodes this season is cool, but I would have been happy if this last scene was all I’d gotten for a year.

Man, this show is good.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: