Emoji obsessive Zoe Mendelson is a master of long-form storytelling through the shortest-form pictographs. Here’s part one of her 10-part recap of the Breaking Bad mid-season premiere, "Blood Money" (emoji trans: squirting needle+bundle of cash). In the opening scene, Future Walt (current Walt+glasses) returns home to pick up his ricin pill and freak out the neighbor.

Part two: flashback to Hank’s toilet epiphany and Leaves of Grass. Don’t discover your brother-in-law is an international meth kingpin and drive. But phew, not a heart attack.

Part three: Walt tries to resume his non-criminal existence as a car wash entrepreneur, even sharing his air-freshener merchandising epiphany with Skyler. Then Lydia drags her dragon back into his life, breathing fire…

Hank hunkers down in his garage with the case files (and conveniently laid-out glossy same-size photographs of Heisenberg’s trail of the dead). He sees Walt in the police-sketch sunnies and hat all too clearly now.

Jesse’s back to hanging with his no-good octopus and monkey (no badger emoji) with bong and delusional Star Trek episode ideas friends. That he can handle. What he can’t handle is the blood money, which he takes into Saul, with instructions to try to right his wrongs with it. Saul’s first call is to Walt.

Part six is a heated emoji exchange between Walt and Jesse that pretty much goes like this: Jesse: "This is blood money! You killed Mike." Walt: "This is your money. Mike is out there, alive."

Walt realizes Hank has borrowed his sentimental favorite hardcover Walt Whitman, a gift from a friend, and will not return it. What his brother-in-law seems to have given him in return is a GPS tracker on his car.

Part eight finds a guilt-wracked Jesse, in his car with bags of cash--which he randomly tosses out into the streets in bundles. Blood money for all!

In the penultimate of Mendelson’s emoji scenes, Walt (no tracker on the car now) decides to visit Hank’s garage-of-crazy and make sure his brother-in-law is feeling better. Oh, and to ask about the device on his car.

In the climactic final "Blood Money" showdown, Walt is outed as Heisenberg, Hank hits him hard, and a now confirmed badass brother-in-law signs off with a serious threat.

Co.Design

Emoji Major No. 1: The "Breaking Bad" Premiere

Zoe Mendelson, master of long-form emoji, turns her talent to "Blood Money" as Walter White nears his end.

For those who think emoji have their expressive limitations, Co.Design presents the work of Zoe Mendelson.

We’ve long been interested in long-form emoji storytelling as an emerging form. So too, seemingly, is Katy Perry, whose video for "Roar," the first single off her album out in October, is almost entirely in emoji. And Aziz Ansari has his dreams of making an emoji-based movie.

But it was New York-based Mendelson’s wry, obsessive, extended manipulation of the tiny pictographs that really caught our attention and admiration. (She’s mapped out everything from Lolita to Frank Ocean’s "Thinkin Bout You" in the wee ones, and is currently giving the same treatment, chapter-by-chapter, bird emoji-by-bird emoji, to Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom in full.)

As Breaking Bad enters its final episodes--and Walter White’s representation-of-self gets more and more complicated and surreal anyway--we enlisted Mendelson to take us through the season 5.5 premiere "Blood Money."

The requisite "previously seen" recap should get you in the mood, and Mendelson’s casting, below, can serve as a quick key--wayfinding if you find you’ve lost your way in emojiland.

For the full episode, acted by emoji, see the slide show above in 10 parts. Opposite of spoilers: Mendelson even gave due attention and character to Walt’s car wash merch epiphany about regrouping the air fresheners, fruit and nature, and Badger’s stoner Star Trek idea. The casting call didn’t turn up an emoji badger; go with the next best logic that Badger and Skinny Pete are played by a monkey and an octopus.

Now enjoy the headspin of applying the Heisenberg Principle ("increasing the accuracy of measurement of one observable quantity increases the uncertainty with which another conjugate quantity may be known") to the accuracy of the observational certainty and uncertainty of emoji breaking bad.

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3 Comments

  • falore

    Slide #4
    "He sees Hank in the police-sketch sunnies and hat all too clearly now" should probably say "Walt" instead of "Hank"?