Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Desperation and transformation

With both The Wire and Breaking Bad, Sunday night television is the beacon in this strike-laden season. These two dramas are currently asking much of their audience, in the way of character's desperation and transformation - both breaking bad for what they believe are good reasons.

The Wire's McNutty (and now even Lester) have gone down a treacherous road of inventing a serial killer in hopes to push the city for more funds. It's a turn that began last week, but has a lot of folks screaming 'shark jump' with the inclusion of Lester into the mix. Bunk again provides the comedic relief, but his point of view this season is quite in line with viewers: 'I don't believe what I'm seeing!' Like Bunny's Hamsterdam, though, there's a lot of reasons that our beloved characters are breaking bad. Besides the economic frustations -- no OT payouts for months now, broken down vehicles, etc. -- there's also this season's Moby Dick obsession in Marlo Stanfield, an investigation gutted by the Major Crimes Unit shutdown. When Lester staked out Marlo last week on his own time, creator David Simon was hinting that he was breaking as well, so the shock that he's down with McNutty's crazy scheme should be lessened at least a bit.

Meanwhile, Breaking Bad's main character Walt has turned to cooking crystal meth after learning he's got inoperable lung cancer. It's a bit of a stretch, but it's a quick turn after we barely get to know him, so it's easier to swallow initially than McNutty and Lester's turn. The pilot provided all sorts of turns that have potential over the season, but I'm reserving judgement until I see how things pans out. I'm not convinced as yet of some of the supporting characters -- Bryan Cranston as Walt is mesmerizing -- and also worried at how the plot of someone dying of terminal lung cancer will be able to go on more than it's existing seven episode season.

Musically for The Wire, this week sees a lot of fun music placement, especially with ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" backing McNutty on the prowl in the bar. When Chris and Snoop take down poor Butchie, Junior Wells' "Messin' with the Kid" plays. The kid in this case is Omar, and we all know you don't mess with Omar. For Breaking Bad, hearing "Tamacun" from the Dublin-based Mexican duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela was a secret thrill, along with fellow Mexicans Molotov and their insane "Apocalypshit," which perfectly captured the madness of the Walt's wild ride. But the best song choice by far was the use of Mick Harvey's cover of "Out of Time Man." Originally written by Manu Chao and performed by his Mano Negra, the song is nice commentary on Walt's limited time left:
I'm walking out for love
I'm walking bad, really down
Playlist: The Wire - Ep 5.03
1. "Up, Up And Away" - The 5th Dimension - McNutty buys red ribbon / Alma looks for morning paper
2. "To Tragoudi Xenitias" - Lyra - Marlo stops by Greek diner
3. "96 Tears" - ? & the Mysterians - McNutty with cheap blonde in bar
4. "Away From Home" - Eddie Houston - Norman and Gus meet in bar
5. "Mi Me Pismatonis" - Markos Vamvakaris - Greek diner
6. "Booty Body Ready For the Plush Funk" - Sterling Silver Starship (w/ George Clinton) - Marlo meets with Prop Joe
7. "Don't Be Afraid" - Salim Nourallah - McNutty and Alma meet in coffee shop
8. "Red Gold & Green" - Hugh Mundell - Michael and boys back from Six Flags
9. "When I Die (You Better Second Line)" - Kermit Ruffins - Roger and Gus in bar
10. "Mystery Train" - Little Junior Parker - Butchie's bar
11. "Messin' With The Kid" - Junior Wells - Butchie's back room
HBO's track and scene info

Playlist: Breaking Bad - Ep101
1. "Tamacun" - Rodrigo Y Gabriela
2. "Mango Walk" - The In-crowd
3. "Dead Fingers Talking" - Working For A Nuclear Free City
4. "Apocalypshit" - Molotov
5. "Out Of Time Man" - Mick Harvey
AMC's Music Listing for Breaking Bad

The Slippery Slope (The Wire - Episode 5.02)
The Cultural Meth-ology of Breaking Bad

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