Peekaboo!

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In the episode “Peekaboo” of the series Breaking Bad, the director uses camera angles and quick cuts to embody the tension between stillness and action in Jesse’s storyline. From the beginning of the episode, Jesse is apprehensively waiting for a meeting that he knows will set a chain of events into motion. He starts on a sketchy street corner distractedly playing with a bug, awaiting his first assignment that requires real force. A stark change from the back and forth almost conversational and intimate angles used when Jesse is interacting with the bug, the camera gets progressively shakier as Jesse is told what to do (“these people need to get got”). In the next “beat”, Jesse gets prepared for his encounter; in his car, he gets psyched up, ready for action. The camera cuts quickly, mimicking Jesse’s racing mind or heart perhaps, from bong to loaded gun to his eyes, jumping instead of focusing clearly on any one task. He races up to the house and bangs on the door, and there’s a sense of awkward potential energy that can’t be released — no one answers and Jesse’s prep seems to have been in vain. It’s even comedic as the postal worker foils his bad-ass-attitude by commenting on the nice weather or when his pent up energy causes him to swear loudly as he trips in the dark upon breaking in to the house. The images and angles for the rest of his story arc continue to embody this nervous energy of waiting for the explosion, as Jesse plays with the little boy always with half a mind as to when his parents will arrive, or even after they have made their entrance and promised him the money as they nervously fidget around the ATM. Jesse’s story is filled with the awkward and discomfiting tension that, though all is still, an explosion of action could come at any moment. Peekaboo!

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