Showing Up 6 Months Late To The Breaking Bad Party
February 18, 2014 § Leave a comment
SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this if you have not finished or even started Breaking Bad. There are small spoilers but still, do not rob yourself of watching the show fully and coming up with your own thoughts after you’re done. I am a firm believer that the process of Breaking Bad is more important than getting to the end and I don’t want to take that away from you. You probably think I’m crazy but you won’t understand my intensity until you watch it. That is all.
I was two or three months too late on watching Breaking Bad. And I’m probably about six months late on writing anything about it. But that’s what happens when you take too long to work up the guts to start a blog and actually consistently post.
In spite of that, I unashamedly still talk about Breaking Bad. Why? Because it is everything I have ever wanted in a TV show. It is my television soulmate. Cue the eHarmony theme song.
There are a plethora of reasons I love Breaking Bad that I could spend an entire series of blog posts writing on: the character development, how everyone has a different point when they stop rooting for Walt (if you don’t ever stop rooting for him, I don’t know what to say to you), how they will spend two minutes on a conversation that has nothing to do with the plot just to make it seem more real, how patient the producers were, how they connected everything but not in a perfectly wrapped sense and ended the show with perfect timing, how not every episode ends with shock, sometimes the episodes shock you in the middle or beginning, how the show reveals the problems within ourselves, how the protagonist was actually the antagonist you just don’t realize it until you stop rooting for him, etc, etc, etc.
The show is incredible, something I could probably analyze for the next ten years but will spare you the agony of listening to that. Unless you’re a close friend. Then you’re just screwed.
But after much thought, I have found that my favorite thing about the whole show is the way the characters and the producers deal with the painful things that happen to them. Their reactions are human and realistic and despite the amount of violence in the show, the producers never glorify violence.
Too many TV shows make invincible characters; people who never respond normally to any given situation. People who can bounce back from heartache and suddenly be in a new relationship and then the next week in another one. People who lose a family member and next episode it doesn’t seem to affect them. Who witness horrible tragedies and can get up the next day and continue their job without an ounce of counseling. Who commit terrible crimes and do not feel remorse. I know the people who write these characters want them to come across as really badass. But to me they are boring, because they are un-relatable and lack depth.
I watched the episode of Glee where they had to explain how Cory Monteith’s character, Finn, died in the show following Monteith’s passing. I bawled the entire episode. And I never cry in movies or TV shows. It was heartbreaking knowing that all the characters were actually going through that pain. There was no acting, the pain was real. It was amazing and heart wrenching to watch and I found myself wanting TV to be that real, that honest all the time. But by the next episode, everyone was back to singing, dancing and being ironic outcasts. Sure Rachel, Finn’s girlfriend and Monteith’s real life girlfriend, has occasional moments in the next couple episodes where she expresses that she misses Finn, but her pain is nowhere near the level it was in that episode. It all was so unrealistic and frankly, felt forced and fake. Now I know with a show named Glee you can’t really have all your characters be depressed for an entire season, but that’s the amazing thing about Breaking Bad. They pulled it off.
I am probably a little biased since he is my favorite character, but no character on the show reacted more humanly, more normally, more healthily to the craziness going on around him than Jesse Pinkman. The writers spend almost the entire second half of the show with Jesse in deep depression. And it never gets boring. It never gets old. Jesse develops into one of the most intriguing characters.
Many say he becomes the moral compass for the show. Because while Walt is increasingly becoming used to the idea of killing in order to get what he wants, Jesse is becoming increasingly more uncomfortable with it. Jesse was mostly in it for the high of the drugs. Walt is in it for high of the power trip, which proves to be more deadly in the end.
Although Jesse responds the way I would hope I would respond, all the characters respond in normal, very natural ways. They don’t ignore the pain, they don’t dismiss the traumatic things they witness, they all just have a different way of handling it. And each person on the show is relatable. You can see yourself in them.
Many sad, gruesome events happen throughout the show. But each time, I found myself reacting to them the way that I should, with disgust and sadness. For instance, there is a scene in the last eight episodes where Walt sets it up for 9 guys to be killed in prison. They show the killing of each guy with clips of Walt standing in his house, just checking the time. I was beyond angry at Walt during this scene that I could hardly stand to watch it. I thought about how easily a scene like that could be glamorized. How easily similar scenes in movies and television shows make the main character seem like such a badass, so crafty in their killings.
And yet I was seething with anger at Walt. Maybe you weren’t, but for many who followed him throughout all the seasons, who watched him turn into the person he was at the end and maybe always was from the beginning, we were yelling at our TV screens.
And for once, I was grateful. I was grateful that a TV show could provoke such emotion from me. Because violence should. For too long, movies and TV shows have included violence in their plot usually only to their advantage. They glamourize it making it some kind of normal act for the heroes in their stories. The character is rarely ever held accountable for what they do and the audience rarely ever sees the ramifications of their actions. For once, I would love to see a “romance” movie that actually deals with the pain and heartache that happens when people cheat on each other. Maybe people wouldn’t desire a movie fairy tale story when they realize that most of the time these stories include hurting other people. An audience normally doesn’t respond to a movie or TV show the way they do to a traumatic real life event because they can write it off as being a movie, it’s not real.
Not so with Breaking Bad. You see how every person is affected by their choices and by Walt’s choices. You watch Jesse be turned into a numb and psychologically messed up human being. All I could think at the end of the series was how long Jesse would have to be in therapy to become functioning again, or if he ever would. You watch as Skylar is manipulated and mentally abused, left with very little room to come out of this cleanly even though the decisions or choices were rarely ever hers to make. Sure at one point she decides to go along with it, but not for the same reasons Walt does. She feels like she has no other choice.
Every person around Walt pays for his choices, and sometimes their own, in one way or another. Hank dies and Marie loses her husband, Flynn will have daddy issues for the majority of his life, Holly will grow up without a father, Jesse will never be the same spending most of his life in therapy or going back to drugs, Skylar is left to raise her children on her own and left to deal with the aftermath of everything that happens, probably never being able to trust someone again.
There is no separation from the characters and their pain or even just their humanity. In fact there is an emotional attachment that happens without you even realizing. It is not “just a TV show”, it becomes real life stories that actually happen. And you realize how numb you have become to violence because of TV. TV allows you to be disconnected from the people, allows you to forget that families are affected by these actions and that there are real consequences to the actions presented in entertainment. Breaking Bad brought life back to television.
I love that the writers were able to create an entire series built around the making and distributing of methamphetamine and yet completely dodge the drugs conversation because of the other, seemingly deeper issues that it brings to the surface. No one is debating and discussing the drug industry. In fact, you could probably replace that part of the story with something else. Because what is really happening is Walt’s willingness to sacrifice his conscience and the value of human life, for power and control.
And if I’m not disgusted by that, either I have become too numbed by TV and invincible characters, or I have some real soul searching to do.