Breaking Bad: Why I Love it and What I Hope Lies Ahead

Did you ever watch a show that becomes a real game changer? What do I mean by that? I mean a show that is so freaking awesome that it makes most of the other shows you watch seem kind of lame upon reflexion? That is what Breaking Bad is to me. This show consistently amazes me and keeps me guessing. Since the opening minutes of the pilot, when it hit the ground running,  it made me intolerant of shows that required several episodes to find a groove.

This is a show that is so tightly plotted after 54 episodes, that it magnifies every plot hole of every other show that I have ever watched. This show is so dark, twisted and absurd (the blackest of the blackest comedies) yet grounded in reality that it makes every season of Dexter beyond season 2 seem just silly. That pretty much sums up why I love Breaking Bad.

Breaking Bad just concluded the first half of the 5th season. The final 8 episodes of the entire series will air in 2013. What a ride it has been. When we first meet Walter White, he is a 50-year-old high school chemistry teacher who holds down a second job at a car wash, has a wife who is expecting their second child and a teenage son with mild cerebral palsy. Life seems to have him beat but the final kick comes when he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He is worried about his family’s financial future when he stumbles across Jesse, a slacker ex-student of his. Together they hatch the genius plan of cooking crystal meth together for fun and profit. Why not? It is only for a short time and it is for a great cause!

Aaahh, the power of rationalization and denial. We have all seen it at work with those close to us. Why is it so irresistible on TV? What seems like a good idea at the time turns into incremental steps that take Walter down a rabbit hole to hell. Lying to his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) and DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris) seems like a necessary evil. Eliminating obstacles along his way, he manipulates and intimidates others to do his bidding. It is a subtle and gradual devolution and I can’t help but cheer him on. To a point. Eventually he becomes so egotistic and deluded that my sympathy shifts to the other supporting characters. When exactly does that happened? It is hard to pinpoint exactly. It is probably when Walter shows indifference to the innocent lives caught in the crossfire of his arrogant scheme.

The acting is amazing. Bryan Cranston as Walt and Aaron Paul as Jesse have been awarded well deserved Emmys for  their talent. The supporting cast is stellar and Giancarlo Esposito deserves to win an Emmy this September for his cool and killer portrayal of Walter’s nemesis, Gustavo Fring. The forgotten star is executive producer, Vince Gilligan (X-files alumni) whose genius for narrative could be used to teach a course in story telling 101. There is not a single wasted scene. One thing definitely leads to another. But how Walt gets where he ends up is a seriously twisted and unpredictable ride that has me on edge and at times shouting at the TV. My full attention is demanded; there is no multitasking unless it involves a treadmill.

Will Walt get away with it all? Will he be able to rebuild his life? Will he be discovered by his brother-in-law, Hank? Will he be able to beat his cancer? What lies ahead in those final 8 episodes? I can only speculate over the next months. And I will. If I had my way, Hank would be able to make a case against Walt, but would choose not to when he discovers that Walt has only weeks to live. It would be a noble sacrifice in the name of love for his wife, his sister-in-law and his niece and nephew. Hank would emerge the true hero of this cautionary tale. But what do I know? Vince Gilligan never fails to surprise me along this amazing rollercoaster ride. And everything I watch between now and the return of Breaking Bad will pale in comparison.

How do you hope it will end?

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dave
    Sep 07, 2012 @ 22:57:30

    Superb piece! I couldn’t have said it better. I have many favorite shows (ie Lost, The Shield, Roseanne) but as much as I adore them, they have weak spots. Some seasons are better than others. But with Breaking Bad, there isn’t a weak spot anywhere. Like you said, from the pilot on, right out of the gate, the show has maintained a remarkably consistent tone and quality all the way through. Five seasons have passed and I’m hard pressed to single out the best season because… well… they are ALL perfect! I think I’m more passionate about Lost, more in love with Dan and Roseanne Conner, more terrified of Vic Mackey, but Breaking Bad is the only show I can easily call “flawless.”

    I have no worries that Gilligan and his team will deliver a terrifying (and satisfying) final season. They never once let me down in 5 years!

    (sigh) So glad I’m not alone in this thought. Thanks for writing this up; like I said, I couldn’t have said it better!


  2. dvdiva
    Sep 07, 2012 @ 23:09:44

    Thanks for your kind words, Dave. I really appreciate it. This show is just too important; I couldn’t neglect it any longer. It is so well written, that just writing about it is intimidating for me. I too have a soft spot for Lost. I didn’t care that it made no sense, it was like dropping in on a bunch of crazy friends and seeing what they were up to.


  3. Trackback: Breaking Bad, a Spoiler-free Farewell and Thanks. | What is Ann Watching?

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