“Do you watch Breaking Bad?”
That was the question I kept on hearing over and over again. Like most people, my pride and my ego messes too much with things that get over-recommended. I start to hate whatever it is sight unseen. Does that make me a hipster that when EVERYONE loves something I get a little hesitant to get into it? Maybe. Maybe it just makes me human – we all like to be the ones to do the discovering.
Breaking Bad was already four seasons in when I first pressed play on Netflix to watch the pilot. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – God bless Netflix. TV has changed. Not just our schedules and our ability (and desire) to watch things on the go, but the actual nature of TV watching has changed. In the old days if someone told you a show like Frasier, or Friends or Seinfeld was good you could just tune in one day and watch it. It doesn’t work that way anymore – the internet and PVR’s have allowed TV to, in many ways, outpace even Hollywood in its ability to tell a great story. TV now has more time to spend with characters and emotions and plot lines have become richer because of it. The only catch is you have to invest the time – you have to watch from the beginning and you have to keep up. Places like Netflix, Amazon and iTunes make this possible – and easy.
When I first pushed play on Season 1, Episode 1 of Breaking Bad I was already REALLY late to the party. The show had a been a big awards winner for years and had been hyped up at every angle. You’d think, under those circumstances, the show would be a letdown no matter how good it was. Well, you’d be wrong. The show grabbed me by the throat and never let go. Somewhere around Walter White’s frantic, tearful plea into a shaky video camera telling “all authorities, this is not an admission of guilt” I was completely hooked.
The premise was simple – a brilliant high school chemistry teacher finds out he has cancer and decides to start cooking crystal meth to be able to leave money for his family. The trick is that Breaking Bad never cheats. The show always remains unpredictable and realistic (at least PLAUSIBLE) and is constantly upending your expectations. The cast is amazing, from the brilliant (and much awarded) lead performances from Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul down to the smallest of supporting roles, everyone is solid. The writing and directing is top notch (even featuring some amazing work from one of my favourite film makers Rian Johnson) and the atmosphere and tone of the show are pitch perfect and instantly recognizable.
But beyond all this, what makes the show really special, unique in fact among all other TV shows I can think of, is the character arch of Cranston’s Walter White. Vince Gilligan, the shows creator and head writer said at the beginning that his goal was to start with Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface. He’s started with a weak, timid Chemistry teaching protagonist and he’s ending with one of TV’s greatest villains of all-time. That’s not to say I’m not still pulling for Walter White – I am – but it is to say he’s one scary, evil, capable of anything son of a bitch.
As of this moment there is one episode of Breaking Bad left. I’m sitting on my couch in Hong Kong at about quarter past 6 on Sunday Night (Sunday morning for my EST friends) meaning there’s about fifteen hours left on the East Coast before the finale is aired. It’ll be a little longer for me because I’ll be watching it about twelve hours late – I’ve gotta work you know… but I can’t wait. Never in my life have I been on the anticipatory end of something that has this much chance of ending perfectly. Potter let me down, so did Batman and Peter Jackson – but I have a feeling that Gilligan and co are going to go out with a bang.
By the time you read this all my questions will have been answered.
By the time you read this it will all be over – no more Breaking bad. Not ever.
By the time you read this TV will have seen five perfect seasons of Breaking Bad come and go and anyone else coming to the party won’t have to do all the waiting that we’ve had to do to get the answers.
So, let me ask you. Do you watch Breaking Bad?
Because you probably should.
**If you’re interested, here is one of my favourite websites listing their favourite Breaking Bad moments from over the years – obviously SPOILERS abound**