Breaking Bad 'Phoenix' TV Cultures


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This slideshow is presented to you by Rachel Cassar, Michael Kean, Clementine Zawadzki and Tim Heal as part of an assessment for TV Cultures.

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Breaking Bad 'Phoenix' TV Cultures

  3. 3. LET‟S TALK GENRE Seemingly impossible to constrict the long-form serial narrative Breaking Bad down to one genre Thick crime drama filled with killings, suspense and mystery that leads you to the edge of a cliff Laugh out loud comedy mixed with black humour and characters that don‟t fit the generic serious „crime‟ mould Breaking Bad is a complex narrative series. Complex television employs a range of serial techniques, with the underlying assumption that a series is a cumulative narrative that builds over time – with the imagined audience searching for clues, hints or hidden meanings - rather than resetting back to a steady-state equilibrium at the end of every episode.
  4. 4. MEET THE CREATOR "Television is historically good at keeping its characters in a self-imposed stasis so that shows can go on for years or even decades. When I realized this, the logical next step was to think, how can I do a show in which the fundamental drive is toward change?” - Vince Gilligan (Klosterman, 2011) The narrative thrust behind Breaking Bad is much more forward moving, with minor insights and flashbacks peppered throughout the series revealing key aspects of a character‟s history rather than creating deep mysteries for viewers to attempt to piece together.
  5. 5. „PHOENIX‟ EPISODE: SERIES 2 EPISODE 12 Both Bryan Cranston (Walter White) and Vince Gilligan have noted today‟s excerpt as one of their favourite scenes as it is one of the most pivotal to the Breaking Bad plot (Breaking Bad Wiki, 2011). Also IMBD users have rated it in the top 10 most crucial moments in Breaking Bad history.
  7. 7. THEMES O Life and death are prominent themes O The episode‟s title „Phoenix‟ foreshadows the events that follow and culminate in this scene O “To rise from the ashes of the phoenix” is to experience a rebirth or renewal - communicated through the birth of Walt‟s daughter and the death of Jane O A juxtaposition of innocence and purity O Walt plays God and deals fates hand
  8. 8. IMAGERY O The colours red and yellow are reflected in the landscape O The building is yellow, as are Jane and Jesse‟s sheets O Red steps lead to a tattered torn doorway, as red cloth covers broken windows O „Yellow‟ suggests caution, prompting the viewer to expect something O „Red‟ indicates anger, self-loathing, passion, addiction, power and death
  9. 9. SCENE ANALYSIS O A long shot of Walt approaching Jesse‟s front door O Wind whistles in the background with no response from Jane or Jesse - this gives the viewer a feeling of desertion O This shot could be an early signpost for Jane‟s passing O „Red‟ is again shown in the red brick archway O The archway could have a religious connotation O „Red‟ candle symbolises an inflammatory presence, but also represents vitality, courage and determination O The genre of „crime drama‟ is shown through Walt dressing in black from head to toe
  10. 10. SCENE ANALYSIS O Shots appear to be handheld, which makes the viewer feel a part of the scene, and communicates a feeling of uncertainty O Has the nature of a traditionally action-less scene, but the slightly shaky movement builds anticipation - this is emphasised when the camera follows Walt to the back of the house
  11. 11. SCENE ANALYSIS O The scene purposely does not reveal Jesse‟s state on the other side of the door until Walt is aware of it himself O Our first shot is a POV shot of Jesse and Jane lying in bed from Walt‟s perspective O Walt‟s reaction indicates something‟s wrong O A somber low score plays, yet it‟s almost peaceful O Walter reacts despairingly to their view O A shadow cast down his face from overhead lighting - this creates a hopeless feeling
  12. 12. SCENE ANALYSIS O Jane and Jesse‟s home is unkempt - their poor living conditions as „junkies‟ is reinforced to the viewer O Walter‟s voice saying “Jesse” becomes prominent against the peaceful music O A shadow remains across Walt‟s face as he tries to wake-up Jesse O The melancholic mood of the scene provokes the viewer to question Walt‟s character O Walt appears antagonistic in this scene
  13. 13. SCENE ANALYSIS O As Walt tries to wake Jesse, he nudges Jane onto her back – reminding us of Walt talking about his baby needing to be on her side to spit up. O Walt sees the syringe which confirms their drug addiction O Walt‟s disappointment may indicate contempt, and therefore motive O Highlighting his flaws could be used to further detach viewers from this character O Walt places the syringe down, cutting back to a long-to-mid shot O A disturbing moment of silence, as Jane begins to choke
  14. 14. SCENE ANALYSIS O Jane is dressed in a purple top - this makes her appear more sympathetic O Jane‟s youthful appearance conveys the „life‟ in her, juxtaposing with Walter‟s aged face. O An overhead shot, almost like a view from God, gives us a wide and omnipresent view of the scene.
  15. 15. SCENE ANALYSIS O We are put inside Walter‟s mentality as he pauses before helping Jane O A side shot with Jane at the foreground is out of focus - this may symbolise how far away Walt is from her situation, despite being by her side O The angle may represent an out of body experience, perhaps Jane‟s dying spirit is judging Walter‟s disregard for her life O An overhead shot of Walt is a reminder that “He” is watching, and he is being watched
  16. 16. SCENE ANALYSIS O Jane‟s eyes in a MCU as she passes away, this is a final goodbye to Walt, perhaps introducing guilt and betrayal, whilst also forcing Walt to face the eyes of his “victim” O The final shot is a close up, as Walt composes himself. His face is still half in shadow as he takes a deep breath and opens his eyes looking up O This questionably sinister glance puts caution to the viewer of his character
  17. 17. In the broad scope of Breaking Bad, where does „Phoenix‟ leave the imagined audience? Considering that we do not know how the entire situation will play out exemplifies the show being shrouded in mystery. Will Jesse find out the truth behind Jane‟s death, and if he does what does this mean for his relationship with Walter? This exemplifies why the show is so THRILLING to watch. Genre aside, this episode is pivotal for character development: Why did Walter White allow Jane to die before his eyes? Did Walt kill her because she attempted to take a cut of the money that he and Jessie had cooked so much for? Or did he see her as a threat to the welfare of his surrogate meth son who was being thrown into oblivion through excessive heroine use?
  18. 18. REFERENCES Bowman, D (2009) „Phoenix‟, A.V. Club, viewed September 7 2013, available at,28398/ Klosterman, C (2011) „Bad decisions‟, Grantland, viewed September 7 2013, available at decisions Reed, J (2013), „Desert Island: How Breaking Bad became the next Lost‟, Crikey, viewed September 7 2013, available at breaking-bad-became-the-next-lost/ Romano, A (2011), „TV‟s most dangerous show‟, The Daily Beast, viewed September 7 2013, available at hour-on-television.html Surette, T (2010), „Breaking Bad: Genre Bender‟, TV.COM, viewed September 7 2013, available at bender-23082/