What Breaking Bad has shown us, better than any television show ever, is that a show doesn’t need to be realistic, it just has to be loyal to the reality it created. Others have written about that, and they’ve written about that better than I ever could. For instance, it’s the adherence to the reality created inside the show that allowed Hank’s solo investigation of Walt storyline to feel right. In our reality, a DEA agent going on a rogue investigation of a major drug kingpin—using government assets like vehicles and electronic surveillance—and keeping it quiet, is absurd. Within the show, it feels earned; we understand Hank’s obsession with the case, because we’ve watched that unfold over multiple seasons of the show.
So, with that said, here’s what bothers me: the fake-ID guy, played by Robert Forster. Why on earth is this guy willing to to make multiple cross-country road trips—each time, taking the risk that he himself could be caught—for a lone, sickly criminal on the run? Why the heck wouldn’t he just drive Walter to New Hampshire, put two in the back of his head, bury him under the cabin, and take the barrel of cash? Now, you might say, that since giving criminals new identities is Vacuum Man’s (sorry, didn’t catch if this guy actually had a name) occupation, he would care about his reputation as a master disappearer of criminals. The logical objection being: if this guy is so good, no one would ever hear from his clients again, so who would ever know. This is an illegal enterprise, it’s not like he’s going to have a Yelp page. Vacuum Man, who is a criminal himself, is going to drive 8000-miles A MONTH, and act as hospice nurse to a wanted felon, for what, six-figures a trip? I’ve driven cross-country, and I might kill you just for suggesting the trip. Then he’s going to have to worry that Walter might get spotted, or decide to wander down the hill, or any other damn thing Walter might do that could lead back to Vacuum Man? If money is his object, well, Walter has enough money that Vacuum Man can think about quitting this business forever. And he has it on his person.
The problem with Vacuum Man, then, is he’s an obvious plot-device, not a character. He’s a means to get Walt from one place to another, when everyone else left alive in the show are people whose motivations we understand completely. That—above everything else—has been the show’s strength: creating characters so true to their own motivations that the audience can simultaneously empathize with, and be repulsed by, a moral black hole like Walter White. Why is Vacuum Man going through all this trouble? It bothers me.
There was always going to be a let down from a high point like Ozymandias. An episode of setting up the pieces before the finale. It feels a little strange criticizing a show for making, literally, one mistake, but I guess that’s what I’m doing. And there’s every chance that the finale will make me forget this. Anyway, sorry to be that guy. I still think it’s the best show in TV history.
12 months ago
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