Michele and I are binge watching – more or less – Breaking Bad. There are 62 episodes, so, at two or three episodes three or four times a week, it takes a while. After watching about thirty hours over three or four weeks, I am in sort of a fugue state in that I also notice that I am – sometimes – projecting Breaking Bad on my everyday world much like I did when I binge read The Trilogy of the Rings (three times, over five years). I am starting to dream about the characters, especially Jesse, and think about them at random times.
I want to write about how good Breaking Bad is, but I think, Michele and I are the last ones to see it so everybody already knows how good it is. Still, it is good in ways I hadn’t expected. Every show starts with a bit before the credits – and having some of the letters in the credits framed like elements on a periodic chart is a nice touch – and that opening bit is almost always a surprise. Sometimes the opening bit is surreal, sometimes it is part of the plot, in order, and sometimes it is part of the plot but an out of order flashback or out of order jump forward.
With a name like Breaking Bad, I should have expected a morality play, still I am surprised at how much of a morality play it is. Actions have consequences and, like a Shakespearean tragedy, so does Walter White’s character. Emily Nussbaum over at the New yorker sums it up best when she says Walt is a monster…everyone from Jesse to Skyler to Mike articulate the problems with Walt’s arrogance and his stunning dishonesty, self-pity, and control-freak arrogance and, yet, he is right, he truly is the smartest guy in the room. When he does something particularly brilliant it is hard not to marvel at how smart Walt is and cringe at the same time.
The show is violent and dark, but it is never perverse. We are – or were – watching the Bridge but the violence, to me, is off putting. Not off putting because it is violent, but off putting because the violence is so perverse. Breaking Bad is not that way, the violence has consequences, it is not gratuitous.
Maybe it is just because we are bingeing, but Breaking Bad seems more thought out, as a complete story, than any other TV program I can think of. Often a show will start great and end great but the middle just seems like filler. It is as if the authors had a story arc but, when the show got renewed and required additional chapters, they added additional chapters in the middle that don’t add to that overall arc. For example, the Russian mafia guy in the forest in The Sopranos was intense and dazzling but never moved the overall story. If that happens in Breaking Bad, I haven’t seen it yet.
Lastly, I didn’t expect the show to be an ensemble piece. I thought Breaking Bad would be about Walt but it is deeper and richer than that. In many ways, TV is more creative than movies right now and I guess that makes sense when you consider that the story in is about 45 hours long. It means that nothing has to be left out.
If by any chance you haven’t seen it, check it out.