Visual Juxtaposition of Plot Lines in Breaking Bad

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By Angela Pham

I’m very familiar with this show, so I do understand the intricacies of the plot thus far.  What’s somewhat apparent to any casual viewer of this show is that there are two distinct story lines running through the show.  There’s 1) Walt and his cancer battle and his family life.  Then there’s 2) Walt/Jesse as meth dealers 

Something I noticed was that the two narratives are made distinct not only (obviously) by storyline, but visually.  Scenes that move the first narrative forward, Walt and his cancer and family life, are generally more “realistic”, naturally lit, less erratic (less camera shake), whereas scenes that deal with the meth storyline and Jesse (specifically in this episode) are marked by blue/yellow filters, shaky shots, and disgusting audio sounds (like when they pulled the drug bags out of their asses, or the smashing on the beetle in the first scene).  These aesthetic choices reinforce the chaotic, grimy nature of drug deals, reveals the dark underbelly of the trade.  

It’s also important that visually, the scenes that depict Walt’s family life and daily struggles are realistic, something unfiltered, something we’d see through our eyes, so that as the audiences, we are able to relate.  These scenes are also shot with cameras that aren’t stable, but I think that adds to the realism of the show.  The scenes in which we move through Walt’s public world is brighter, suggesting that this is the world that everyone sees.  

I think its important that there are very obvious visual cues that tell the audience which world they are traveling in now, as the show is somewhat fast-paced.  

Do you see the difference?

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One Response to “Visual Juxtaposition of Plot Lines in Breaking Bad”

  1. Administrator Says:

    Really good point! Another thing I noticed which emphasizes the difference between this episode’s Walt and Jesse plots is well-demonstrated in the pictures you included here: Walt’s scenes tend to begin very far away and move in, while Jesse’s are more visually claustrophobic. Analogous to the way the series is slowing moving our sympathies away from Walt and toward Jesse?

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