I only started watching "Breaking Bad" a few weeks ago, and having raced through the first two and a half seasons in a week then watched the remainder of the third season at the usual weekly pace, I'm only now experiencing my first withdrawal from the show. To take the edge off, I thought I'd write a series of posts about the show's use of color. The creative use of meaningful shades in the series' production design, costumes and cinematography add an extra layer of depth to the show's already great writing and performances.
To start with, let's take a look at Sunday night's season finale, "Full Measure." Specifically, I'm interested in how the show presented the character of Gale, Walt's new lab assistant. (SPOILER WARNING: If you haven't seen Sunday's episode, stop reading now.) I covered some of these moments in my episode review already, but this time I'm adding a few visual aids to illustrate the moments in question.
As Walt pulls into the laundromat after his powwow with Gus, he notices the car parked next to his, complete with a recumbent bike strapped to the roof. Gus told Walt he was choosing Jesse's replacement himself, and the safe bet here is Gale. Walt fired Gale earlier in the season, presumably out of fear that Gale was planted there by Gus to learn Walt's meth formula. Given Gale's earlier quirkiness, the visual of the car and bike (with some help from the episode's "previously on" segment) suggests Gale's return. Cinematographer Michael Slovis adds a bit of symbolism to the shot of Walt noticing the car: A sign reading "SIGNS" in all red letters looming directly over Gale's car:
Once Walt and Gale chat inside the lab, Gale zips up his hazmat suit, enveloping his entire body in yellow. Yellow, of course, is Gus's signature color, and the show has used the hazmat suits all season to make the point that when Walt and Jesse are in the lab, they belong to Gus. The shot of Gale in this scene builds on that same concept, only this time he is the only person in the lab covered in the color. He's "Gus's man," a point that will be solidified later in the episode.
Despite his workplace role as a company man, at home Gale is carefree and immersed in his own life. In the memorable scene where he sings along with the Italian song, "Crapa Pelada," while watering plants, Gale wears a green T-shirt. The show has long used green as a symbol of life. Walt dresses in green more than any other character on the show. Throughout the first season, as Walt got a series of thrills from his entry into the criminal world, he was always wearing green. This season, Jesse wore green while in rehab, as he emerged from years of drug abuse. Skyler, too, has been seen wearing green this year, particularly as she's given in to the temptation of Walt's money and proposed her own entry into his lawbreaking. Here, Gale wears it after getting his old job back, enjoying a night at home with his plants (ahem, green) and music:
But he is visited that night by Gus, dressed in yellow (of course), enticing him to take over the lab for Walt. Gus uses Walt's cancer as the excuse for the conversation, but as he presses Gale to reduce the amount of time he needs to learn Walt's formula, emphasizing a not so subtle subtext, Gale soon complies with a touch of eagerness:
Finally, when Jesse shows up at Gale's door to shoot him, Gale has switched over to a yellow shirt, even at home. Both because he agreed to become Gus's inside man and because Walt and Jesse are targeting him because of his connection to Gus.
Jesse, of course, is dressed in red, a color that was once his signature. Since his relationship with Jane and his stint in rehab, he hasn't worn the color as much as he used to, but as he sinks into a very bad place, the red shirt is back.
Off the top of my head I can think of two specific sequences from the season I'd like to write about in a similar manner: Walt receiving payment from Gus while stopped at a traffic light and Hank leaving his office after being suspended from the DEA.