1:05 pm - 09/02/2012

Breaking Bad pays respect to The Shining

Remember when Walter White was a chemistry teacher? Oh, just barely. Over Breaking Bad's five seasons, we've watched Walt become a different person, and in last Sunday's episode, "Say My Name" the transfer became complete. He isHeisenberg now, and the doting family man who made a heartbreaking video out in the desert is no more; "Skyler, you are the love of my life" is a pretty far cry from "I am the one who knocks." Walt's not the first guy to let his dark side take over, to go from regular dude to terrifying murderer. Heck, before he was the caretaker for the Overlook Hotel, Jack Torrance was a schoolteacher, too. 

Breaking Bad has had a Shining-infused setup since the get-go. The major theme shared by the movie and the show, of course, is how much sympathy we have for these devils. How thrilled we are by their violence, and how much we relate to it, even at its most despicable. When Jack Nicholson's axe chops through the bathroom wall in The Shining, it's supposed to be scary — and it is, kind of, but not because we're afraid he's going to kill Wendy. 

It's scary because we're hoping he'll kill her. Wendy is the worst! We all want to axe murder her, with her dopey gazes and constant sighing and oppressive mouth-breathing. Jack goes crazy, and there are ghosts and stuff, but we get his claustrophobia. We get how trapped he is. And we only have to spend two hours with her. It's the same way with Skyler. 

Walt's home life is a quiet suburban nightmare of blandness and collective disempowerment. Cook more meth, we want to tell him. Live more grandly. Don't we kind of get why Walt might want to be a different person all of the sudden? Might we all be driven to the edge by Skyler's genteel naïveté? When it's that easy to lie to someone, don't you just want to? 

Skyler's nowhere near as irritating as Wendy, but they drive at the same idea: If this was your normal, wouldn't you want something else? (Also, they both make a lot of breakfasts.)
And then there are the many visual cues (and occasional cute shout-out)Breaking Bad uses to nod to The Shining. For example, Jack Torrance and Walter White both spend a lot of time looking at their reflections — but where Walt sees the tough bald guy he's becoming, Jack sees ghosts and distortions. 

We see Walts reflection in mirrors, car doors, glasses; we see Jack's in silver freezer walls, super-polished floors, shiny bar-tops, and the occasional bathroom mirror, where suddenly he sees that the beautiful naked woman in his embrace is actually a rotting, foul corpse. How accurately can we see ourselves outside ourselves? For both Jack and Walt, the answer is not very accurately.

But how could those reflections be accurate, when Jack and Walt live in perplexing, unstable worlds? BB uses unusual POV shots to show us just how baffling it is to be where we don't belong, to see the things we're not designed to or supposed to see. 

Stanley Kubrick is famous for his disorienting aesthetics, and The Shining is a prime example — the patterns on the rugs blur into optical illusions, all the long lines of the hotel eventually converging at the horizon, the endless Steadicam shots. While we're in these worlds, they seem coherent and consistent. 

But then BB and The Shining both break in with news segments, and suddenly it's clear that, even though the characters are watching the news and ostensibly listening to the information, they're not really internalizing any of it. Skyler sees a news segment about Gus's death, but she doesn't fully grasp Walt's role in the bombing. Wendy watches a report about a child who disappeared on a hunting trip with her father and a weather bulletin about a brewing storm. But she's totally ignorant of the, er, brewing storm right in her living room, and her husband is putting their son in similar grave danger.

Skyler and Wendy both lobby their increasingly evil husbands to at least consider removing their children from the dangerous environs — and unsurprisingly, Walt and Jack balk at the suggestion. "I could really write my own ticket if I went back to Boulder now, couldn't I?" Jack spits. "Shoveling driveways, work at a car wash!" A car wash. Like the one Walt and Sklyer own as a cover.

In terms of iconic imagery, it's hard to get more iconic than the spooky axe-murdered Grady twins in The Shining, unless you think of the spooky axe-murdering Salamanca twins on Breaking Bad. 

And their connection isn't a coincidence: At the beginning of season three's "Sunset," the Salamancas kill a police officer with an axe right to the head. Just before, we hear the officer on his radio. "KDK-12 to dispatch," he says. KDK-12 should sound familiar, because Wendy says it about fifteen times in The Shining — it's the call letters for the Overlook Hotel.

Franch Source

Well holy hell, as a HUGE Shining fan stan, I never even noticed the homages!  Mind blown.
Now I will be obsessed looking for clues.

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juniorquincy 2nd-Sep-2012 06:08 pm (UTC)
uggHHH i have work tonight so pissed rn
hershelwalker 2nd-Sep-2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
god I would kill to be able to just sit down with vince and the writers for a whole day and talk.
jess_sayin 2nd-Sep-2012 06:17 pm (UTC)
ikr, the freakin layers of this show...
empirebird 2nd-Sep-2012 06:21 pm (UTC)
Fucking SERIOUSLY. I don't think I've ever seen a show do foreshadowing so brilliantly. I mean, they just do everything brilliantly tbh.
hershelwalker 2nd-Sep-2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
I mean, there's good - even great - serialization and then there's breaking bad. it just...blows my mind how intricate and deliberate this show is.
miss_kate18 4th-Sep-2012 10:53 am (UTC)
This and Arrested Development are amazing examples of foreshadowing imo.
staygoldpnyboy 4th-Sep-2012 06:28 pm (UTC)
Love your icon
wildelight 2nd-Sep-2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
wait i just saw the shining for the first time last night and i loved wendy

was that not the proper emotion
screwhim 2nd-Sep-2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
wendy's terrified face is lolarious, really sad, and frightening at the same time
ladycakes 2nd-Sep-2012 07:31 pm (UTC)
Everyone should love Shelley in everything she does. National treasure!
sovietlovesocks 3rd-Sep-2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
unique_lilpixie 2nd-Sep-2012 08:54 pm (UTC)
apparently you are always supposed to hate the doting wife and love the psychomaniac husband according to these recent posts.
bullgoose_loony 3rd-Sep-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
I love Wendy! Shelley Duvall is amazing and I honestly think she's gorgeous.
empirebird 2nd-Sep-2012 06:19 pm (UTC)
Finishing up season 5 now so I will be caught up for tonight!!!

OMFG, thus far my fave episode is 3X12 cuz I legit jumped and was like :O in the last 2 minutes. lolol
yousaidlog 2nd-Sep-2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
empirebird 2nd-Sep-2012 07:44 pm (UTC)
empirebird 2nd-Sep-2012 06:22 pm (UTC)
I want Jesse to shot Walt when he tries to kill Skyler. In some epic scene of chaos.
bienenkiste 2nd-Sep-2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
OMG MTE team vamonos
unique_lilpixie 2nd-Sep-2012 08:56 pm (UTC)
yes this would satisfy me to no end!
forthe_asking 2nd-Sep-2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
jesse and skyler need to team up already
shadowfax 2nd-Sep-2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
freaking the fuck out rn

bienenkiste 2nd-Sep-2012 06:23 pm (UTC)
jess_sayin 2nd-Sep-2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
celtic_thistle 2nd-Sep-2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
polynucleotide 2nd-Sep-2012 06:28 pm (UTC)
oblig 'fuck off walt'
isthisdesire 2nd-Sep-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
omg I hope Bobby Hill dies.
peacetrains 2nd-Sep-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
it_has_been 2nd-Sep-2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
banabee 2nd-Sep-2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
noo that's ominous
kahled 2nd-Sep-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
He called him Mr. White. :( Bless him.
just444 2nd-Sep-2012 06:53 pm (UTC)
oh oh
ladycakes 2nd-Sep-2012 07:32 pm (UTC)
Gnawing my fingers to the bone! Won't be able to watch until Tuesday! AAAUUGGHHH
yousaidlog 2nd-Sep-2012 07:39 pm (UTC)
jamie_gw 2nd-Sep-2012 07:45 pm (UTC)
mynamehere07 2nd-Sep-2012 10:18 pm (UTC)
tuesdayfternoon 2nd-Sep-2012 11:14 pm (UTC)
Good lord D:
polynucleotide 2nd-Sep-2012 06:25 pm (UTC)
yes awesome!
jess_sayin 2nd-Sep-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
icon <3 REDRUM
prophecypro 2nd-Sep-2012 06:28 pm (UTC)
White gonna go HAM on em. Watch
wildelight 2nd-Sep-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
marie is the only character i don't really foresee dying... maybe saul too
celtic_thistle 2nd-Sep-2012 06:30 pm (UTC)
I worry about everyone :(
wildelight 2nd-Sep-2012 06:34 pm (UTC)
idk i'm just rooting for marie to pull through since i'm pretty sure everyone else is going down

i hope she moves away to georgetown finally... and talks holly with her, but i'm not so sure holly's going to make it either
peacetrains 2nd-Sep-2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
Ugh noooo I just want Jesse to live forever

invisible_cunt 2nd-Sep-2012 10:39 pm (UTC)
miss_kate18 4th-Sep-2012 10:55 am (UTC)
lol you know Saul is like a cockroach, he will outlive every character
peacetrains 2nd-Sep-2012 06:29 pm (UTC)
I won't be able to watch the finale until tomorrow afternoon :( gonna cut myself off from the internet until then to avoid spoilers.
bienenkiste 2nd-Sep-2012 06:31 pm (UTC)
i won't be able to watch it until tomorrow either but i live for spoilers tbh

Edited at 2012-09-02 06:31 pm (UTC)
sugarcrawler 2nd-Sep-2012 06:32 pm (UTC)
ive been doing that every episode since i dont have cable but now i really want to watch it live
hershelwalker 2nd-Sep-2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
I wish amc would stream the finale like they did with the premiere
blocaholic 2nd-Sep-2012 06:59 pm (UTC)
I may stay up and watch but I'm in the UK and the time difference is a bitch so I guess I'll watch it tomorrow.
tusiaczek87 2nd-Sep-2012 08:31 pm (UTC)
yep same but i am always like that, i am from poland i watch it online and i can only watch episodes when i am back from work
isthisdesire 2nd-Sep-2012 06:35 pm (UTC)
I'm shaking and crying in anticipation for tonight. It's just this game of "what the fuck is Walter going to do now?" to make piss me off going on.
wildelight 2nd-Sep-2012 06:36 pm (UTC)
also are they ever going to revisit the whole poisoning brock bit
cheatpolygraphs 2nd-Sep-2012 06:43 pm (UTC)
of course they will! i bet that comes out tonight tbh
it_has_been 2nd-Sep-2012 06:37 pm (UTC)
as much as i love all the other shit i watch on television

i gotta say

this show is the only one that has completely ruined me with how brilliantly crafted it has been - the characters have been given proper development and feel completely and utterly REAL, the plot just fucks with you and just EVERYTHING about it just makes you hurt and crave for more

the only problem is the occasional Skyler hater i have to deal with every once in a while because, for some reason, people don't understand that she is probably one of the characters you should hate the least
ellie_andrews 2nd-Sep-2012 06:40 pm (UTC)
I can't even DEAL with the Skyler hate, omg. I'll admit I've been annoyed with her in the past but the hate level is ridic.
ellie_andrews 2nd-Sep-2012 06:38 pm (UTC)
There is so much symbolism and foreshadowing in this show that I ALWAYS miss until someone else points it out so I'm not surprised I never noticed this.
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