The Breaking Bad Finale Mystery: Was It A Dream?

Media, Television

The neatness of the Breaking Bad finale has drawn intense scrutiny this week as has the question as to whether show creator Vince Gilligan tossed the world an unrealistic bone by letting Walter White get his revenge and die in his own way. In the New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum wrote with disappointment that the show either copped out on the reality of Walter’s behavior and fate or came up with a blatantly unrealistic ending that betrayed the show’s foundation. During the week, comedian Norm MacDonald took to Twitter and issued an extended series of tweets regarding the “dream.”

So did the ending happen or had Gilligan ventured into the realm of the ambiguous allegory subject to the viewer’s interpretation?

The problem here stems from the individual viewpoint of the purpose of the show. Is it about redemption? Is it about a wasted life and living for the day? Is it about realizing that a life in which one will be remembered fondly by loved ones even if he’s a vanilla non-entity is superior than being remembered as the criminal mastermind and a monster?

All of the above?

The interpretation is the key.

In his final meeting with wife Skyler, Walter admitted that the decision to become a methamphetamine manufacturer and eventual kingpin wasn’t done to provide support for his family after he was gone. It was to be the best at something and make up for his failed life. He either threw away his opportunity to become a billionaire with Gray Matter or it was taken away from him. This too depends on whose viewpoint you believe, Walter’s or the Schwartzes.

I believe that deep down, Walter hated Hank Schrader or at least held some unexpressed animosity toward him for his supposed “important” work he did as a DEA agent and that he looked down an Walt as a bookish wimp. That’s not to say he wanted him dead, but that he took pleasure in outsmarting him for a year while functioning right under his nose and using the brother-in-law relationship to further and maintain his empire.

Did Walter want to get revenge on the neo-Nazis for stealing his money and killing Hank? Did he want to free Jesse out of guilt for Jane and the other ways in which he tormented his partner after the months-long bout of realization, loneliness and self-loathing that existed in his head while he was in the snowy cabin in New Hampshire? Or did he just want to do the things he said he still had to do with those things being securing his family’s future, killing Lydia, Jack Welker, Todd and their gang? Freeing Jesse, making peace with Skyler, seeing his son and daughter and dying in his beloved lab without spending one day incarcerated for his level of crimes that would have netted him ten life sentences were also part of the final acts of a dying man. Simultaneously, he was still outsmarting everyone as he did for much of his brief tenure as the world’s best meth cook and brutal businessman.

Was the paranoid, “everyone’s against me” aspect of Walter coming to light? It’s natural to feel anger and blame people closest to us for our own failures. Most don’t take the steps that Walter did and destroy everything in his path in an end-of-life crisis masquerading as providing for his family’s future. Perhaps Walter convinced himself that he was doing it for his family until the bitter end when he looked into the mirror in that car, saw the “colossal wreck” that the poem Ozymandias mentions and admits that he did it all to prove something to himself. He did. For better and mostly for worse.

In the end, the true analysis might come down to one word and its inflection. MacDonald uses Walter saying the phrase, “I was alive,” as evidence that he’s close to death and is literally saying that he’s gone from this world. That would be viable if the phrase was said as, “I was alive.” I recollect Walter saying it as, “I was alive,” as if to say, “For once I wasn’t behaving as others thought I should behave; for once I was living rather than functioning as an empty – dead – automaton. Rather than teaching, being the good, geeky family man and dying unremarkable and unremembered as little more than a testament to wasted potential, I lived.”

That might be the key. Or it might not. It could come down to your individual beliefs. Do you want the end to have the full closure and the badder of the bad guys getting their comeuppance? Do you want Walter dying alone and freezing in the snow? Confirmation bias comes into play here and that, plus the interpretation, ethics and morals of the individual, might be exactly what Gilligan had in mind when he started the show in the first place.




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The Present And Future Of The Mets

Books, Draft, Fantasy/Roto, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

While the situation is still fluid, judging from the reporting of the Mets pending deal with David Einhorn, it’s a mutually beneficial arrangement for both sides.

According to this NY Times article, in brief and to the best of my understanding, Einhorn is infusing the organization with cash to continue operations and will have the option of purchasing the entire team if the Wilpons lose their case in the Madoff mess. If the Wilpons are able to maintain control of the franchise, Einhorn will keep a minority stake and get his investment money back.

The debate as to the wisdom of this will rage with those knowledgable and not weighing in, but from what’s being publicly divulged, it sounds good for both sides.

As for the reactions to a financial guy buying into the Mets and the attempts by the media, bloggers and fans to “influence” the negotiations in some way (stopping Einhorn; entreating Mark Cuban; “forcing” the Wilpons to sell), here’s my advice: wake up.

Using Fred Wilpon’s comments in the new issue of the New Yorker as a cause célèbre is a convenient way to complete a column and try to exert phantom power, but MLB and the Mets aren’t going to care about the desires of outsiders; they’re not going to pursue Cuban and beg him to buy in because some perceive him to be the answer to the Mets prayers; and they’re not going to shun Einhorn because he’s not “of the right background” as if his genealogy is not adequate to gain his membership card; he’s a Wall Street guy and Wall Street guys are the ones with the money.

And, um, the lauded Rays front office is loaded with Wall Street/financial guys.

I discussed the Wilpon comments last week; you can read that posting here.

As for the Mets current struggles on the field, what were you expecting?

This team isn’t good. They’re not equipped to contend even in the watered down National League; they’re in the toughest division in the NL and plainly and simply do not have the talent to hang with the Marlins, Braves and Phillies throughout the summer. Whether they win 73 games; 78 games; 80 games or whatever is largely irrelevant for 2011.

Mets fans don’t want to hear that; Mets club personnel don’t want to say it; but it just is.

This season is designed for GM Sandy Alderson to reconstitute the club from top-to-bottom; that might include trading Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran and Francisco Rodriguez. The borderline derangement at the thought of Reyes either being traded or allowed to leave as a free agent is typical of the response which caused prior club regimes to undertake acts that are now retrospectively ludicrous; maneuvers that were done only to accrue the short burst of positivity that comes from doing what the fans and media want.

The problem is that’s how they got into this mess to begin with.

So Mets fans and analysts have to ask: do we want to aspire to be the Red Sox—who were as much a laughingstock as the Mets are currently before John Henry (another financial guy) bought the team—or do they want to remain the “Mets”; not the noun Mets; it’s the adjective “Mets”—a meaning we don’t have to go into here because it doesn’t need to be explained.

The rampant panic as to the potential loss of Reyes is ignorant of reality. The Mets hired Alderson because he has a history of doing what he feels is right for his organization in lieu of what’s popular. Of course some of that was wrongheaded and selfish as was the case when, as president of the Padres, he tried to validate his role in Moneyball instead of making sound decisions; but given his statements since taking over the Mets, he’s learned from his mistakes as any competent executive must do.

The fleeting nature and crisis-a-day atmosphere is part of the 24-hour news cycle and it can be a detriment to running anything correctly.

This current club is not the one that will return the Mets to glory. Fans calling for the signing of Reyes immediately to preclude his departure; for aggressive (and stupid) player moves are the same fans who wanted Omar Minaya fired for the past 3 years after Minaya did what they called for him to do!

That’s what Jeff Wilpon, Tony Bernazard and the rest of the crew who were in charge of the club since 2004 created.

So conscious of public perception, the Mets were a creation of that stimulus response; it was a vicious circle; the pattern must be interrupted and altered for it to change in the long-term.

Regardless of the residue of what that management did and didn’t do, the Mets under that dysfunction, came close to winning it all in 2006; and were undone by circumstances and self-destruction in 2007 and 2008; by 2009-2010, the entire foundation came crumbling down.

But these things are rebuilt quickly and rarely is it done with one player such as Reyes; if he leaves in one fashion or another, it’s up to Alderson to figure out how to move forward; judging such a departure as catastrophic is short-sighted and leads to desperate stupidity.

Deranged ranting and self-indulgence won’t help this team in 2011, a known “bridge year”; once the sale to Einhorn is complete and the financial health of the club is stabilized, more will be known. They might choose to try and retain Reyes or they might not, but it won’t be that one decision that will make-or-break the franchise; in fact, dealing Reyes might be the building blocks of a return to prominence for the Mets—you don’t know.

The Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, Reyes, Beltran and possibly K-Rod moneys are all coming off the books; which players from other clubs who might come available in a trade for a variety of reasons renders doomsaying for the future meaningless.

Let it shake itself out and trust the baseball people.

There’s really no other choice.

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

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Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here and recently received a 5-star review on Amazon.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

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New Yorkered

Books, Free Agents, Games, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

Did you hear?

Mets owner Fred Wilpon allowed New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin insider access for a piece in the new issue—link—and the antics of the embattled owner have become fodder for more ridicule hurled at the organization.

This is on top of the Bernie Madoff mess; the on-and-off field player issues; and the attempt to sell a portion of the team while still maintaining control for the Wilpon family.

Dissected everywhere by voices credible and not, it would take far too much time to selectively retort to individual analysts. Some make salient and sensible points; others use this as ammunition to tear into the Mets and Wilpon.

This is a story because it’s a prominent piece in a reputable magazine; the Mets are always a target for abuse; and there are agenda-driven writers making it out to be more than it is.

Fred Wilpon has always been a yeller, but has shied away from actual interference in the club machinations; son Jeff was seen as the meddler, not Fred. His contribution has been signing the checks and getting his dream ballpark built. That he watches games and criticizes like a fan is unsurprising and no different from any involved owner who cares about his team.

Billy Beane was seen to have been tearing into his manager’s moves during the Moneyball fantasy and he was the hard-charger whose actions were evidence of the organizational boss who wanted things done his way; Wilpon does it and it’s more humiliation flung at the organization.

But Beane was considered an infallible genius; Wilpon a clueless fool.

It’s all about perception and framing.

For all the things that were published in the piece, we don’t know what else was said regarding Jose Reyes, David Wright and Carlos Beltran. Didn’t it occur to anyone that if Toobin was following Wilpon to the degree in which he was able to write a 12 page article on the Mets owner, that Wilpon probably said quite a bit more—much of it likely positive—than what was printed?

Could it be that Toobin and the editors of the New Yorker knew what the reaction would be? What the number of webhits would be? How many extra copies of their somewhat pompous magazine would sell to the Mets fanbase—a fanbase that is generally more blue collar and presumably isn’t a regular reader of the New Yorker?

The majority of the piece isn’t even about the Mets. It’s about Bernie Madoff; it’s about the way Fred accumulated his fortune; about his family and the reaction to the Madoff disaster.

Did anyone bother to read it or were they taking the same tack as Toobin, picking and choosing that which was more convenient to reach the end result of another tool to swing at the Mets?

It looks bad to have the criticisms against players in print, but in truth it won’t matter at all in the grand scheme; players are notoriously pragmatic when it comes to getting paid; if the money is there, then they’ll willingly sign with the Mets.

As for the statements about Beltran, Wright and Reyes, they were harsh to be sure, but were they inaccurate?

Carlos Beltran has been a loyal Met; he’s played hard and brilliantly, but he signed with the Mets for one reason: they offered the most money. And this was after he and agent Scott Boras tried to sell Beltran to the Yankees for fewer years and less money than what he got from the Mets.

David Wright is a terrific player, but is he a mega-star along the lines of Alex Rodriguez? Of Albert Pujols? No.

Reyes wants to make up for the signing of the far below market value contract he signed in August of 2006; a deal that precluded his arbitration years and cost him a lot of money; a deal he signed simultaneously to Wright signing his longer and more lucrative extension. Reyes is going to want “Carl Crawford money” as Fred said. If the Mets offer the highest amount of money, he’ll stay (if he’s not traded first); if not, he’ll leave.

The number of players who do as Cliff Lee did and go to the venue of their preference at the expense of money is very, very few and far between; Jim Thome did it as well, but these are veteran players who had either gotten paid already and were in the twilight of a great career (Thome), or were going to get their money one way or the other (Lee).

Reyes is not one of those players; he’s looking to cash in. All will be forgiven if there are enough zeroes on the check.

Fred has never openly meddled with the player moves as Jeff has been perceived to have done. It’s going to be up to GM Sandy Alderson and the money available whether the Mets offer is higher than other clubs pursuing Reyes and, given his history, Alderson isn’t going to take the money that’s coming off the books—Oliver Perez, Luis Castillo, possibly Francisco Rodriguez, Beltran—and hand it all over to Reyes at the cost of 3-4 pieces that might provide more use to the club over the long term than one player.

The implication that Wilpon’s comments will scare off potential free agents or employees is ignoring both the past and present in terms of owner/player relationships.

George Steinbrenner was a raving maniac; a convicted felon; a twice suspended owner; a reviled and loathed madman for whom no one wanted to work—until he offered them enough money to look past his faults; beyond the rampant and repeated lunacy of the appropriately nicknamed Bronx Zoo. He got away with things because he spent cash and his teams won. Lo and behold, upon his death he turned into a “great man” rather than a capricious, mean and bullying force who embarrassed baseball and his club times too numerous to recount in a small space.

I don’t know if you can go through the list of sports owners and not find a vast percentage who were clownish and brutal in their treatment of underlings. Marge Schott; Jeffrey Loria; Ray Kroc; Tom Hicks; Peter Angelos; Drayton McLane; Vince Naimoli; Frank McCourt—all said and did things that created controversy and a media frenzy.

You can focus on their negatives or their positives based on whatever’s convenient.

Steinbrenner donated tons of money to charities and paid for the educations of the children of killed-in-action firefighters and police; Loria’s team wins under a minimalist budget; McLane’s teams were successful and his overruling his baseball people turned out to be right several times; Angelos’s teams were successful early in his ownership; McCourt’s teams have been a pitch or two away from back-to-back World Series appearances.

Had the Mets gotten one extra hit in 2006, 2007 and 2008 there was a legitimate possibility of three straight World Series appearances/wins.

How would that have altered the view of the Mets and their ownership?

Skilled writers who clearly had an agenda like Toobin can adjust stories to highlight points that will draw the most attention; the media-at-large can take that to establish or bolster their own personal biases and beliefs.

That’s what’s happening now.

It’s meaningless.

It’s ridiculous.

It’s a farce.

You can say the same about the Mets if you want, but it won’t be due to this article by Jeffrey Toobin or the over-the-top reactions to it.

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I’m administrating a discussion group on TheCopia.com. Click on the link to leave a comment or start a new topic. Check it out.

****

Please purchase my book, Paul Lebowitz’s 2011 Baseball Guide.

I published a full excerpt of my book here. Conveniently, it’s about the Mets.

It’s available now. Click here to get it in paperback or E-Book on I-Universe or on Amazon or BN. It’s also available via E-book on Borders.com.

It’s out on Amazon Kindle and Barnes and Noble Nook.

If anyone would like to purchase an autographed copy, leave a comment; Email me; contact me on Facebook or Twitter.

Become a fan on my Facebook fan page. Click on the link.

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