Monday, September 30, 2013

Flynn's Moment

Old TV set with wheelchair icon on the screen
Why Flynn is the real hero of “Breaking Bad”
Anna Mae Duane,, September 29, 2013

I read this piece, which lays out an interesting case that Walter White, the mild-mannered teacher turned murderous meth kingpin in "Breaking Bad", lacked his son's understanding and acceptance of the body's imperfections, and I thought, "Um, okay. I guess." I thought the article was going to be all about Flynn's long … very, very long … delayed moment of empowerment, in the next to last episode of "Breaking Bad". It was certainly a moment I feel like I appreciated in a different way than probably most viewers.

Flynn was the "real hero" of "Breaking Bad" because after sixty-some episodes during which he was literally the last one to know about the crucial thing happening in his family, he took less than a minute after having it all laid bare to choose the right side and physically throw himself between his mother and his knife-wielding father. Sprawled awkwardly over her, his Canadian crutches every which way, but with his powerful eyes never leaving his attacker, Flynn got out his cell phone and, still facing the point of Dad's knife, called the cops.

A couple of times after that, in a less violent but no less powerful way, Flynn similarly cut to the chase with Walt. Flynn was arguably the one who delivered the final blow to Walt's house of cards, thoroughly rejecting his eleventeenth attempt to rationalize his way back into the family's favor, and asking, with rage and strength in his shaky CP voice, "Why are you still alive? Why won't you just die already? Just die!"

Those brief but pivotal scenes had to have been one hell of a payoff for actor R. J. Mitte, who spent pretty much the whole series being clueless, immature, and breakfast-obsessed, while his family went to hell. He had a few moments early on when we saw hints that Flynn might be the voice of reason … when his father Walt considered not treating his cancer, and when Uncle Hank was all pissy about being crippled from his gunshot wounds. But those moments came and went pretty quickly. The rest of the time it was all about what a "bitch" his Mom was being to his poor, misunderstood Dad, which awesome car Walt would buy him, and whether to have eggs or pancakes. He seemed, for much of the series, like a wasted character … a wasted disabled character to boot, played by a disabled actor.

But Vince Gilligan and Mitte made up for it all in the end. I'm biased, of course, and I tend to see disability themes where the probably weren't intended. I don't buy into the author's intent theory though. I didn't have to think and dig and parse and interpret to see a very personal empowerment in Flynn's almost-final scenes. I felt it instantly, like a hit of blue meth.

Flynn rose to the occasion, as just about nobody else on the show ever did, fueled by his sense of right and wrong, and maybe by a bit by rage that for so long, everyone thought he needed to be protected. It felt like there was an almost private, inside theme there, shared with everyone of us who grew up with disabilities, always in the position of being protected and cared for, and often underestimated at the same time. Finally, Flynn got to call bullshit on what was bullshit, and protect his mom and baby sister for a change.

I felt proud of him, and to me, his confrontation, and later his telephone dismissal of Walt, were highlights of the series.