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May 9, 2012

Breaking Rings
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:35 AM * 43 comments

Proposed: a drama about a respected member of the Shire community who discovers that he is afflicted with a magical item whose effects (particularly the heavy-breathing black-cloaked figures) are likely to kill him. While maintaining his veneer of normality, he addresses the problem by introducing into his neighborhood the deadliest of addictive agents, one for which he has an especial expertise. (I refer, of course, to adventuring.)

Soon he has become the despair of his gardener (who is already dealing with the effects of unexpectedly falling in love), as he begins the process of steadily leading his former associates astray.

Merry and Pippin ending sentences with “Yo” and “OK?”! Tom Bombadil as Tuco Salamanca! If Aragorn is Hank, does that mean Arwen has a shoplifting problem? What do you think?

We’re only partway through watching Season Two, so I’m going to need help fleshing out the cast in the light of later developments. Do note that I’m spoiler-immune. I suggest anyone reading this who is not up to date with Breaking Bad be so too.

Comments on Breaking Rings:
#1 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 05:11 AM:

For those of us who don't watch much television, care to say what series you're mashing up LotR with?

(And if not a television series, then whatever else you're talking about.)

#2 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 05:16 AM:

David Goldfarb @1:

Breaking Bad.

It's about an Arizona high school chemistry teacher who discovers that he has late-stage lung cancer and decides to fund his medical treatment (and his family's well-being) by cooking meth.

This goes about as well as one might expect it to. It's well-scripted, well-shot and well-acted. It's been going through a subset of our community like, well, an addiction.

#3 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 05:43 AM:

I've updated the post to name the show.

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 05:50 AM:

Close. He's in New Mexico. The differences are enormous. It's like mistaking one sheep for another sheep.

#5 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 05:51 AM:

I apologize. I should have looked it up.

Also, obBlackadder, "Flossie?"

#6 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 06:14 AM:

Thanks! Obviously I've never seen the series, so I can't participate in the parlor game, but at least my curiosity is satisfied.

#7 ::: David Goldfarb has been gnomed ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 06:15 AM:

...and isn't sure why.

[Ironically enough, "Thanks!" was the trigger. What that says about the comparative distribution of gratitude between spammers and hamsters is left as an exercise for the slightly cynical. -- Augustinia Egglantina van Graeblius, duty gnome]

#8 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 06:43 AM:

I haven't seen Breaking Bad, but I recently read this by John Rogers as he tried to explain something about making television:

Breaking Bad is about temptation and sin -- Walter didn't have to make Meth. But the drug world is a great, high-conflict/high-risk crucible for an amazing staff of writers to use to show what happens, how a man breaks bad.

I interpret that to mean that he thinks it doesn't have to be about meth, but could as easily be about magic rings.

#9 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 08:18 AM:

The One Ring would be perfect for someone like a member of the Geto Boyz. Dealing is a common theme in rap music and besides, the Eye would make a great concert effect. Think of it as the Ultimate Bling.

#10 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 08:59 AM:

Neil W @8:
I interpret that to mean that he thinks it doesn't have to be about meth, but could as easily be about magic rings.

Walt (the chemistry teacher) gets into the business for reasons that make sense in his moral framework: getting enough money to pay for his treatment and provide for his family after his death. But he discovers after a very little while indeed that he likes breaking the law. That it excites him.

He reminds me a lot of Henry from Donna Tartt's The Secret History. Particularly, he reminds me of this conversation between Henry and the narrator, Richard.

'...[M]y life, for the most part, has been very stale and colorless. Dead, I mean. The world has always been an empty place to me. I was incapable of enjoying even the simplest things. I felt dead in everything I did.'
He brushed the dirt from his hands. 'But then it changed,' he said. 'The night I killed that man.'

I think had Gandalf or Galadriel taken the ring, they would probably have had a story arc much like Walt's. The contrast that tickled me, that caused me to post this, is that Frodo does not. All joking about wanderlust being as bad as the power of lawlessness in which Walt wallows aside, he doesn't let go of his original values until the very end, when he's right on the lip of the Cracks of Doom.

In other words, I think there's an intellectually amusing rewrite possible, where he does go Walt's way. But it's definitely one of the alternate histories of Middle-Earth.

#11 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 09:19 AM:

By the way, "Breaking Bad" was filmed around here. So were "Thor" and "Avengers". Hmmm...

#12 ::: Jeremy Hornik ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 09:46 AM:

You haven't gotten to him yet, but soon you'll find one Fring to rule them all.

#13 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 09:56 AM:

Jeremy... If Frank Thring were still alive, he'd *have* to be part of the cast.

#14 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 11:05 AM:

For what it's worth, I tore through all four (so far) seasons of Breaking Bad a few months ago. It's every bit as compelling as Abi says.

The final episode of the most recent season was... Well, no spoilers here. But: astonishing.

#15 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 02:40 PM:

Paraphrase of a Tweet I read last year: "Breaking Bad set in Canada: Story of a guy with cancer getting free health care."

* * *
Breaking Bad can be tough going. The characters go through a lot. It is often funny, but dark, dark, DARK funny.

My parents stopped watching because they got icked out by the ruthless gangster folk, who can be as scary as Nazgul. (CUT TO: Closeup of axe being slow dragged across a parking lot.)

The fourth season could have ended a few episodes earlier, with "Crawl Space." The remarkable last scene in that would have been the perfect way to end the season, and arguably a good way to end the series.

#16 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 03:01 PM:

Yes, "astonishing" describes that episode quite well.

I would say that Walter's sin, almost from the very beginning, is pride. He refuses to let his former partners help him with the payments for his treatment, even though they make a good case that they owe him for their financial success1. He develops an obsession with producing the very best meth on the market, to show he's not just a back-alley cook. And he alienates everyone else in the meth industry he deals with because he thinks he's so much smarter and better than they are. The fact that he's right almost all the time only leads him further out on some very thin branches. The fourth season is almost entirely a death dance between Walter and Gus Fring, as Walter can't admit that Gus might be smarter and more ruthless than he is, and Gus can't allow a chaotic element like Walter into his very carefully controlled plans to destroy and supplant the Mexican cartel.

No question, putting Frodo into Walter's shoes would require amping his pride and arrogance up quite a bit. But Galadriel fits that bill quite well: she's ambitious (note her actions in the wars of the First Age), and she's powerful and very involved in the actions of the Third Age (among other things, she bears one of the Three Rings). Suppose she'd failed her saving throw and accepted the One Ring from Frodo at Elendil; she might very well have gone down the road that Frodo went to a very different conclusion.

1. Walter, it turns out, is far more than a high-school chemistry teacher. Before his wife became pregnant2 he was on the way to becoming both rich and well-known in the chemistry community as a result of the startup he helped found.

2. And you can see a whole sackful of the conflict between Walter and Skyler in the first and second seasons in that simple clause.

#17 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 03:19 PM:

Face Off.

Heh-heh-heh.

#18 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 03:58 PM:

Bruce Cohen @16: Your synopsis reminds me of why I bounced off this series, despite the glowing reviews it has received from people whose opinions I respect mightily: I don't like these people, and watching their accelerating orbit around the drain is seriously no fun at all. Occassionally I feel like an intellectual light-weight, but if I'm going to let a character live in my mind for any length of time, I require that they be somebody whose company I want to keep.

#19 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 04:04 PM:

Jacque @18:
Occassionally I feel like an intellectual light-weight...

STOP RIGHT THERE. PUT THE SELF-DEPRECATION DOWN AND BACK AWAY FROM THE MEME THAT ALL INTELLECTUALLY SOLID THINGS ARE DARK AND MISERABLE.

Don't make me send the Ronies and Bronies in. Don't make me bring up Mike Ford, Terry Pratchett, or my old friend and his suddenly hot coffee.

That's a Tape talking, not my Jacque.

#20 ::: Neil W ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 04:45 PM:

abi @10 I think had Gandalf or Galadriel taken the ring, they would probably have had a story arc much like Walt's. The contrast that tickled me, that caused me to post this, is that Frodo does not.

After thinking about this for a while I came up with the thought that Lord of the Rings could be Lord of the Crowns or Lord of the Swords or Lord of the Tubesocks without essentially changing the story. However Lord of the Meth* would have to be something very different.

Jacque @18 [Something something]...but if I'm going to let a character live in my mind for any length of time, I require that they be somebody whose company I want to keep.

Meanwhile I'm interested, as though I don't already have enough television to watch, because the choice to go wrong intruiges me. For one thing everyone always has good and even heroic reasons to do so. Of course sometimes this requires a stronger stomach than I have and I have to look away.

* Maybe The Methamphetillion?

#21 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 04:55 PM:

Neil W @ 20... Lord of the Tubesocks

And Frotoe has to toss the Tubesock to Rule Them All into the fires of Mount Loom?

#22 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 05:06 PM:

Jacque, #18: What abi said. Also, you're not the only one. While there are exceptions, I generally dislike and avoid reading about people I'd rather see fall under a bus. Life's too short to waste on reading that doesn't give me any reward. "Dark" is one thing; "gloom, despair, and agony on me" is quite another!

Serge, #21: More likely into the Washing Machine of Doom.

#23 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 05:27 PM:

Where it will lose its mate?

#24 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 06:39 PM:

abi @19: Yeep! Yes, ma'am.

Neil W @20: Meanwhile I'm interested, as though I don't already have enough television to watch, because the choice to go wrong intruiges me.

Hm. I guess that's where they lose me; at the point of "choice." I didn't get more than a couple of eps in, but it seemed like the trajectory started out with expediency driving the motive to, "Okay, well, let's try this. Since I'm already dying, I'll get some quick cash, scratch my Master Chemist itch, pay off my medical bills, and 'sall good, right?"

And then things go sideways. Then, while trying to fix that, things go pearshaped. Yuck.

Annoys me at the same level that having kids in the story just so they can run off and get into trouble so the protagonists can save them.... Feh.

#25 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 07:18 PM:

Jacque @ 18:

I make that same decision (to not watch something where the characters are all dark and broken) most times1. Breaking Bad sucked me in and I haven't been able to look away; it's really like an ultra-slow-motion train wreck where you just know that everyone aboard is going to get crushed before it's over. And funny, the kind of funny that makes you laugh and then wonder that you would be so depraved as to laugh at that. So I salute your decision not to take it on, it's probably the better part of valor.

1. Shows I've decided not to continue watching after the first episode or two: Sons of Anarchy, Justified, Shameless. Again, I'm not saying they're bad shows, just that most of the time I need to have some sort of connection to the characters; failing that there has to be something really compelling about the writing or the production to keep me watching.

#26 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 07:27 PM:

Thinking about the characters in Breaking Bad while typing that last comment, I realized that there is one whom I (rather reluctantly) admire: Mike, Gus' right hand enforcer, who may or may not return in season five (I'm betting he will). Mike is a professional thug and killer, and not someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley, but he's a professional, with a professional's attitude towards arbitrary or incompetent uses of his talents. He reminds me a little of John Brunner's "Traveller in Black" who was of one nature, and could grant your desires, usually in ways you couldn't possibly imagine or want to.

#27 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 07:53 PM:

Breaking Bad's characters are vivid, and often come to sticky, sticky ends.

It is therefore deeply jarring to see the actors who played these characters playing other parts.

Bruce mentions Mike, Gus's fixer. The actor turned up as a pawn broker in an episode of Two and a Half Men.

The fellow who played Turco's wheelchair-bound, bell-ringing uncle had a recurring role in Person of Interest as a gangster patriarch, and in Law and Order: SVU as a "gypsy kind" of sorts.

I understand that Giancarlo Esposito (Gus) has a role on Once Upon a Time.

#28 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 10:13 PM:

Lee @ 22... the Washing Machine of Doom

Wasn't that in Wagner's "Rinse Cycle"?

#29 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 10:37 PM:

Jacque, fear not. When Patrick was showing it to me, there are times I needed to take breaks and let things settle before I could handle any more of it. I still haven't seen a whole lot of later episodes, and might not get back to it to do so.

#30 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: May 09, 2012, 10:39 PM:

And by "fear not," I mean "your decision not to watch is perfectly fine, and I'll support your absolute right to choose to do that."

#31 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2012, 01:27 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 27:

I understand that Giancarlo Esposito (Gus) has a role on Once Upon a Time.

Yes, he's the Face in the Mirror, and his cognate in our world is the publisher of the Storybrooke newspaper who stooges for the Queen.

#32 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2012, 12:06 PM:

In a sense, it's disappointing that BB didn't work for me; I've milled through all the other stuff that I do find compelling. I'm seriously jonesing for more Burn Notice. To the point where I'm actually thinking of signing on to HuluPlus. (What? I have to pay? And watch commercials??)

#33 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2012, 12:42 PM:

Jacque... "Burn Notice" returns on June 14. Yay! And "Leverage" will be back on July 15. Yay(bis)!

#34 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 10, 2012, 01:05 PM:

Serge: But I've still only seen seasons 1-4. ::sulk:: ::POUT::

#35 ::: Marc Mielke ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2012, 08:31 AM:

One of the more disconcerting sights is Tuco Salamanca from "Breaking Bad" being on the Los Angeles Major Case Squad in "The Closer".

#36 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: May 11, 2012, 01:39 PM:

Marc Mielke @ 35:

Hey, it's all part of the criminal justice system. He just switched from criminal to justice.

#37 ::: Jordin ::: (view all by) ::: May 12, 2012, 10:53 AM:

Bruce @ 36

Or, in a nicely ambivalent (when spoken) phrase,
"The criminal turned himself into the police."

I love the English language...

#38 ::: Terry Hunt ::: (view all by) ::: May 14, 2012, 09:01 PM:

Serge @ #28 . . . Wasn't that in Wagner's "Rinse Cycle"?

I think it was "Persilval".

#39 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 04:05 AM:

Terry @38

Flash!

Ah-aaaah!

It's the cleaner of the Universe!

#40 ::: Sica ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 06:44 AM:

The prison drama Oz did that too re: actors who you really imprint on in certain very vivid roles.

This is made especially cognitive dissonance-y when the actors then kept turning up on Law and Order (in particular L&O SVU)

I found myself practically shouting at the screen: Run run away now!! get out while you still can! When JK Simmons turned up there as a kindly therapist after having just watched him on Oz as the very evil Vern Schillinger, leader of the aryan brotherhood

#41 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: May 15, 2012, 09:48 AM:

Sica @ 40... the actors then kept turning up on Law and Order (in particular L&O SVU)

Chris Meloni (aka Detective Stabler) also played a detective in Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys".

#42 ::: Lee sees a spam storm ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2014, 02:42 AM:

42/43 here, and a shitload of stuff on other threads.

#43 ::: Cassy B. sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: August 21, 2014, 11:25 AM:

Yet more spam @43

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