In both "The Sopranos" and "Breaking Bad" the swimming pool is a catalyst for character development. In a swimming pool, you take your time to reflect upon yourself, and swim your troubles away. But these characters don’t like to see a mirror image of themselves. For these shows, the pool … (read more)
In both "The Sopranos" and "Breaking Bad" the swimming pool is a catalyst for character development. In a swimming pool, you take your time to reflect upon yourself, and swim your troubles away. But these characters don’t like to see a mirror image of themselves. For these shows, the pool represents not much beyond an empty hearse.
Water is usually a symbol of life but in "Breaking Bad" it is a conduit of death, destruction and dark feeling. It's the place of harrowing scenes. Walter White has an obsession with contamination but he can't stop his life becoming contaminated by the consequences of his actions. This is shown by the objects that invade the symbolic emotional space of the swimming pool. The blue meth casts an ominous shadow over the Whites’ home life visualised by the deceptively ethereal and entrancing waters lit up at night, and in this way the pool is used to get at the theme of temptation.
Fans first meet Tony Soprano at a difficult time in his life. He’s in therapy, and he seems to be having a hard time dealing with the stresses of his job. Although he tells his therapist he’s in waste management, it becomes clear that Tony is actually a gangster. The show starts with Tony Soprano discovering that there are ducks in his backyard swimming pool. Tony wades into the pool in his bathrobe to swim with the ducks. He goes to feed them, and they’re trying to develop wings. It’s a bizarre sight: a mobster who’s fully clothed dives right into his pool to feed some birds. One would think he was going a little insane. Soon enough, the ducks leave after developing wings. Tony sees that as him losing his family, and hence has his first panic attack, thereby kickstarting his therapy sessions.
The viewer understands that Tony feels like he’s drowning: he has a family to tend to, multiple illegitimate businesses to look after, incorrigible people to deal with, and an ailing mother who refuses to go to a nursing home. The swimming pool imagery makes more sense when one looks back at all that Tony Soprano has to face in his life.
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