My last post got more attention than I thought it would. I received a lot of feedback through Facebook, email, and even rare comments hereon the actual blog. Many more were supportive than I thought would be, some politely and respectfully disagreed, and some were displeased with my thoughts. I think I was called an apostate, a Jack Mormon, and even someone who was “blinded by Satan’s lies.”
Obviously, after writing something that produces such a broad range of feedback, I should follow up with something equally as passionate and yet completely asinine. That’s why I’m reviewing what I believe to be the greatest television drama of all time: Breaking Bad.
There are those of you out there who haven’t seen BreakingBad. You’ve heard people talking about it, you’ve seen commercials for it, and maybe you’ve even stumbled across an episode and watched for a few minutes. You’re probably thinking, “I don’t know, Doug, isn’t that the show about the guy in underwear who sells drugs or something? I just don’t think I can get into that kind of thing.”
Ugh. You know what? You disgust me. I’ll decide what you are and aren’t into around here. And here is my decision: WATCH BREAKING BAD. Go log on to Netflix and watch seasons 1-4. Soon enough, you’ll be able to catch up on the first 6 episodes of season 5, the final season. I’m being serious. Stop reading this blog and go watch Breaking Bad.
Warning! The rest of this post is only for those who are currently caught up with the exploits of Walter White and Jessie Pinkman. DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU ARE NOT CAUGHT UP. SPOILERS BELOW.
Are you gone? Hey, look, get out of here. I’m not kidding.
Finally. Ok, here we go.
There is a famous quote from Nietzsche that says, “Beware,ye who fight dragons, lest ye become one. And remember, when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back.”
I can think of no better explanation for the slow decent into madness and evil Walter White is taking us on. You know Bruce Willis’ new movie, Looper? Imagine a visit from current Walt to season 1 Walt. Would Walt believe it? And which Walt would be more shocked by the state of the other Walt? He’s come a long way from reluctantly cutting the throats of small time drug dealers with a bit of broken clay.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on why the show is so fascinating to me. I think it might be its unique sense of helplessness. Walt is getting worse, and has gradually lost any and all redeeming qualities. We are no longer rooting for a cancer stricken high school teacher taking desperate measures to ensure financial stability for those who survive him in death. No, that Walt is gone and, I think much more true to reality, is not coming back.
The genius of this show is that we still cheer him on. Vince Gilligan, the brains behind Breaking Bad,has manipulated us like sheep to the point we are now out and out rooting for the villain. Masterful how he brought us here, isn’t it?
Tuco, the crazy, drug addicted local boss, seems now like a fart in the evil wind of Walt’s madness. Even Gus, who I adored as a kindhearted bad guy, seems a forgotten bump in the road to Walt’s insatiable desire to be recognized. And for me, that has to be what this show is about. A dying man’s need to be reckoned with.
Walt, no matter how amazing a problem solver or quick thinker or cunning analyst he and we think he is, will always be the silly old fuddy-duddy science teacher in the eyes of his son, Walt Jr. (or Flynn, depending on favorable circumstances). There is a scene, set so perfectly around the 70’s style kitchen table, when Walt Jr.gushes about Uncle Hank’s heroism. Uncle Hank, in Walt’s eyes (and ours…we only see the world through Walter’s enormous ego) the bumbling, obnoxious, chubby brother in law, has taken Walt’s patriarchal rite. Cut to Walt Sr. seething with a forkful of scrambled eggs.
Every dad wants to be his son’s hero, and things changed when Walt realized he would be perpetually standing naked in the frozen foods sectionof the 7-Eleven. Meanwhile, that moment at the table set in motion what will certainly result in a collision course for both of Walt Jr.’s father figures.
If I could cross pollinate mediums here, I would paraphrase Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight. Walt could’ve died a hero, but now we’re all forced to watch him live long enough to become the villain. And trust me, he is the villain. Redemption won’t come in some sort of glorious and selfless moments for Walt. He will leave a trail of blood in his wake, and Hank (ever the vigilant cop) will come calling.
Ironic to this whole fathers and sons theory of mine is that while Junior has found a father figure in Uncle Hank, Walt has hypocritically developed a strong father-son bond with Jessie Pinkman. But, as Walt has proved time and time again, relationships take a back seat to his narcissism, or as he puts it, his Empire.
How many people, by the time this show ends, will want Walt dead? The answer is exactly the same people who, when the show began, wanted him to live. But when we start doing the math, how many lives would have been saved if his hadn’t? It is depressing stuff, adding up the body count and determining the cost of a life that, in retrospect, was not worth saving.
My predictions for the show are pretty bleak. I think everyone dies. Well, everybody but two. The whole show is about the bonds (or binds) of family. Jessie, who so needed a father and Walt, who so needed a son. But what if Jessie, a more caring and dedicated father than Walt could ever be, saves toddler Holly from the wreckage that is sure to be the White house, and raises her to the light?
It would, finally, serve as the redemption we desperately need from this show.