Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Walter White Wednesday 11
It's possible to have a good TV show with characters who remain static. Not easy, but it's possible. I'm thinking along the lines of older comedies such as I Love Lucy (oh, Lucy, will you ever get in Ricky's show?) and The Andy Griffith Show (oh, Barney, will your wacky vision of total control over Mayberry ever get past the calm folksy logic of Andy?). What those shows have in common is a sort of nostalgia for a time that, quite frankly, never was. In such a case, viewers not only can deal with non-changing characters, those characters bring comfort to viewers living in a world that is often topsy-turvy. After all, it's nice to be able to tune out the insanity of contemporary life and count on Ethel and Floyd.
But that's comedy. Gilligan can foolishly drop the coconuts on Skipper's head over and over, but the same schtick doesn't work so well in dramas. For instance, Joe Friday from Dragnet would be in front of the Internal Affairs Board like that! for his pre-Miranda warning treatment of suspects.
A different Gilligan learned that lesson well. Vince Gilligan's Breaking Bad has never settled for stock characters. The show does a great job of fleshing out secondary characters and even gives tertiary characters details and depth (think about Hugo the janitor from way back in Season 1). As Breaking Bad's Walt puts it, "Chemistry is the study of change," so it's not surprising that a show devoted to such a concept would be populated with the main characters who change dramatically.
Which brings us to Marie.
Marie is, among other things, Hank Schrader's wife. (I've written about Hank before - click here.) She deserves some attention - and she'd be the first one to tell you so. Marie likes stuff, especially purple stuff. Purple is the color most closely associated with Marie - she often wears purple (see the picture at the top of this post) and much of her house is decorated in purple - it's used so often that she's blogged about it on the AMC site. It's not actually her, of course, but you get the idea. She and Hank live in a very nice house - much nicer in terms of material stuff than her sister Skyler and Walt. (Then again, it's just the two of them. They have no children and they both work; Hank for the DEA and Marie as a radiology technician.) Marie also has a tendency to pry into other people's lives, give plenty of unwanted advice, and occasionally steal things. She's exasperating, self-centered, and all that changes when Hank needs her.
This is the key to Marie. (Hey, that rhymes!) Marie is all those things - nosy, an attention-seeker, and a royal pain part of the time - but she also is fiercely loyal. She genuinely cares for her nephew and thinks her newborn niece is just about the neatest thing ever. She loves her sister and worries about her brother-in-law. And when Hank's serious injuries cause him to fall into a deep depression, she squares her shoulders and she takes the weight. She advocates for his care and gets him out of the hospital by proving that he's on the mend in a most unusual way. (By the way - what is it with these sisters and manual stimulation of their men? Think back to the pilot episode and Skyler's "birthday present" to Walt. Marital hint, Sky honey. Close the laptop.) Marie connives to get Hank the best physical therapy possible and she (mostly) keeps her hurt feelings hidden from him when he shuts her out. She's strong in the way that women often are - she doesn't come in with guns blazing, but by God, you want her type there after the guns stop firing.
Walt thinks he loves his family and is doing "all of this" to protect them. In fact, Hank and Marie have the stronger marriage of the two. They may be in a rough patch just now, but neither one is running away from it. Walt actually needs to add Marie to his list of things to worry about. While she may initially come across as a feather-headed Real Housewife of Albuquerque wannabe, she's got grit underneath.
Time - and Season 5 - will tell.