04.07.14

Breaking Bad in Review

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:32 pm by Administrator

well, i finished all 5 seasons of Breaking Bad in a little under two months, culminating in the finale which i watched late last night with my wife. i think our “before” and “after” sentiments were pretty telling. before the episode, my wife said “this is so depressing… i almost don’t want to watch the finale”, to which i essentially said “well, we have no choice… so here we go.” after the episode, we just turned off the TV and went to sleep. there was nothing to say.

“Breaking Bad” is a show about the innumerable, inevitable, and often petty loose ends that ultimately derailed the criminal plans of a genius criminal. Walter White spent five seasons of our lives trying to fix one problem only to unwittingly create another more troublesome problem. eventually, there were too many problems to fix, and Walter had to submit that he had lost control. i’m sure all viewers would agree: in the end, Walter’s life was too chaotic to be tidied up yet again, and it was time for the whole thing to unravel, this time definitively.

seasons 1 and 2 had their outright laughably silly moments, as Walter’s attempts at covering his tracks were at times quixotic and at other times unapologetically improbable. but season 3 is where Vince Gilligan seemed to “find his voice”, so to speak. more than simply darkening in tone, the episodes took on a consistent aesthetic of menace and doom. the lighting, the camera work, and the music all reflected the relentless obsession of Walter’s devolving psyche, propelling the show and its viewers down an endless dark tunnel. “Ozymandias” was clearly the show’s very highest point, mostly because it succeeded in taking us to Walter’s very lowest point as a man. in that episode, i connected with Walter, albeit briefly and strangely, and i pitied him.

a few entries ago, i criticized the show for revolving entirely around a single character who ultimately fails to be a credible human being. even after seeing the show’s conclusion, my view of Walter White remains the same; he functions as a foil rather than a credible point of view. i was distinctly aware in the final episodes that i would not complete any kind of emotional “arc” with the show; no matter what happened, i would regard the concluding events of Walter’s story at arm length. but i can say that the show was satisfying to me nevertheless, mainly because it went as far as it could go, and because it did not attempt to do more. in the finale, we were left with a remorseless, unfathomable man in his completely decimated universe. it was not the conclusion to a profound story. rather, it was the signal that the whirling dervish of Walter White had at last run its course, and that we could finally abandon any last suspense regarding his outcome.

i don’t want to compare Breaking Bad directly to any of its peer productions, because it is a different kind of show from most anything i’ve previously viewed. it felt sort of like watching “The Bad Lieutenant”, except over a much longer and more drawn-out timetable. perhaps that’s not a flattering way to describe the show, but i admire Gilligan for not extending the show or trying to radically redirect Walter White’s inevitable trajectory. i liked it for what it was. it was not a waste of my time. but i’m very happy now that i can move on to other things.

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