So, continuing a grand tradition of me being late to a TV show, I started watching Breaking Bad from the beginning right about the time the last few episodes were coming to air. It was one of the biggest pop culture phenomenons of 2013, how many fans it had, and how well it was received in nearly all quarters. I will attempt to keep it spoiler free, for anyone who hasn’t seen the show and wants their experience unaffected.
For the four of you who are on Facebook and somehow missed the massive media campaign for the finish, Breaking Bad was the story of Walter White: an average, mostly boring chemistry teacher with a family. When he is diagnosed with cancer, he decides to cook crystal meth to support his family after he passes away. Which makes his life decidedly more interesting.
Some combination of time, commitments, and interest keeps me from enjoying most live television (Related: PVRs are great technology), but it was interesting absorbing the show after most of the greater cultural interest had passed. Netflix had made “binge watching” a show more of an accepted practice (which was ironic, given that this show was about drugs) and when I found myself with time, it was larger blocks, at sparser intervals. Even knowing some of what happened, it was an odd conflict: I missed part of being a greater group that absorbed it while it happened, but liked the freedom of taking it at my own pace, on my own time.
I’m not writing anything you haven’t seen anywhere else: Breaking Bad was a great show. The characters were compelling and realistic (well, mostly), the universe was well thought out, and there was an attention to detail you don’t always see in shows, today or ever. There was an economy to the show I appreciated: Not a moment or character was wasted. The writers appreciated and understood Chekhov’s law. Even the B plots were hooked into the main thread eventually, and no character comes away unaffected by Walt’s decision to cook drugs.
I’ve found myself appreciating grey areas in my dramatic TV/movie watching much more over the last several years, partially because I’ve come to believe that the world isn’t simple. At first, Walt’s decision to cook drugs to provide for his family is understandable, and we sympathize with him, to a point. As we see the character progress, it becomes more difficult to appreciate some of what he and others do. Walt becomes a terrible person, partially because he was resentful already, and cancer and other events in his life gave him license to be this way.
This is also part of why I drifted away from Star Trek, too: It got so black and white in recent iterations, and the characters were all bland, likeable, morally good people with very little real, relatable conflict in what they did. Trek in its finest forms used the science fiction as a backdrop for real life issues, and ran out of new stories to tell about the time Voyager came to air, and only found them recently when a new voice looked at the universe and didn’t recycle old scripts.
Breaking Bad was not for everyone. The lady mentioned she didn’t like gore, and I mentioned that when killing happened on Breaking Bad, it tended to be of the intense/gory variety. But it was never without a point. It wasn’t blood for blood’s sake. The economy was here: everything had a purpose. Everything was meant to affect you in a certain way, and it did.
There’s not really a right or wrong way to consume TV or media, really. At the end of the day, it’s all what you prefer, and I’m the last guy who should be soapboxing on what’s good or bad. Breaking Bad was excellent: the characters, the universe, and the plotting were well thought out and executed, and I appreciate that in whatever I watch.