I suppose it’s only right that having just emerged from a lengthy marathon of the final Breaking Bad season I write a post about it. It was the first thing I posted about, back in 2012, when I decided to spin-off into my own blog. At the time I was irked by Breaking Bad superfans to the point that their incessant, unceasing hyperbole for the show was driving me, and people like me, away from giving it a fair shake. I stand by the points I made in the previous post, written at a time when you couldn’t escape coverage of Breaking Bad, or fans of Breaking Bad declaring how wonderfully amazing Breaking Bad was. Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad, Breaking Bad…at the time it was enough to make me want to resort to physical violence. I stayed true to my word from that day, however:
“It’s probably going to be something I’m just going to sidestep entirely until all the hysteria has died down over it, because it’s the hysteria over it that’s pissing me off.”
And now I’ve seen Breaking Bad, and I want to talk about it. But let me get one thing quite clear; while Breaking Bad is extremely well made TV, it is not the greatest thing the Human race has ever created. It’s good, very good, but there has been better and there will be better.
I had tried Breaking Bad once before, when the hype train was at full speed, but quickly broke off my viewership of it. I did this because I was essentially hate-watching it, treating it with the same animosity I would an errant episode of The Big Bang Theory, and that wasn’t fair to me or the show. I got through three or four episodes of season one and decided I didn’t like it, not because of the quality of those episodes, but because I’d gone into the show with a defensive attitude, almost determined not to like it so I could just shut everyone up. If you go into something already deciding you hate it, you’ll find a lot of reasons to hate it, and so will end up hating it. So I decided to stick to my original idea and watch it after the show was over, when everyone had stopped spamming Twitter & Facebook and the entire Internet with how incredible Breaking Bad is. And you know what? I still didn’t like it.
I didn’t actually make the decision to watch Breaking Bad myself, instead a co-worker insisted, and did so by handing me the first two seasons of the show on DVD one day, determined that I would like it because we shared a lot of taste in the same movies. I didn’t have the heart to admit that I’d tried it and disliked it, because there he was with DVD’s in hand. I guess you could say I felt obligated to watching them. It was a really big deal for him to lend me his DVDs, a point I knew all too well as someone who felt the same way, and a point he impressed upon me multiple times, with such force of conviction that I was paranoid that the box sets would spontaneously combust in my hands as I was removing a disc, and I would be murdered in a dark corner at work. Luckily there were no incidents and I live to tell the tale.
Breaking Bad season one just didn’t grab me. Part of this I was sure was how absurdly overhyped I was about it. But I had other problems with it. I had trouble connecting with the main character, although Breaking Bad has a stellar ensemble cast, it seemed fairly evident that Bryan Cranston was the main character in Breaking Bad. It’s no knock on Cranston that I felt this way, it was the character himself, Cranston played the role to perfection for five seasons. The first season was also short, clocking in at only seven episodes, and it felt painfully unfinished once the conclusion was reached (I realise that part of this was no fault of the show or the creators, the writers strike damaged a great many shows back in 2008). If I didn’t have immediate access to the second season, if I would have had to wait for the second season like everyone else, it’s highly likely I would have forgotten all about it. And then before I started on season two I rewatched an episode that had stuck in my head; Cancer Man.
Cancer Man is the fourth episode of the first season and it completely changed the way I watched Breaking Bad after my second viewing (it’s also the only episode I’ve seen twice). It suddenly hit me that I wasn’t getting into Breaking Bad because I wasn’t connecting to the de facto main character, but I was connecting to another character, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul who, over the course of five seasons of Breaking Bad, gave one of the best performances I’ve ever seen on TV. In Cancer Man, Jesse returns to his parents house for a flying visit, and it reveals a whole lot about his character (and gives us our first classic Aaron Paul performance of many). It was a lot easier for me to root for Jesse and connect with him than it was for Walter White. So I watched season two from a shifted perspective and a lot about the show started to make sense to me.
And the rest I suppose is history. I blazed through season two, returned the DVDs and reactivated my Netflix subscription just to stream season three. After taking a break from the unrelenting bleakness of the show for a few weeks I pretty much devoured seasons four and five in the space of a few days. There’s a lot I want to say about Breaking Bad, and although you’d think the was a statute of limitations on spoilers for a show it seems everyone has seen is probably past, but I know for a fact that there are people who will probably read this who are currently watching Breaking Bad right now. So I won’t write too much more, and nothing in depth, and maybe make these Breaking Bad posts a trilogy at a later date. I will say that Breaking Bad managed a rarity amongst TV shows, it got progressively better with every single season (I’ll give season four a pass because although the first half wasn’t great, the final run of episodes easily eclipsed everything that came before).
Plus there’s just so much to talk about regarding Breaking Bad that it’s all far too much to cover here. Every member of the cast is terrific, besides the aforementioned Cranston and Paul. Anna Gunn performs miracles as Skylar White, with what is probably the most thankless, terribly written role in television history. Dean Norris got to play so many facets of Hank Schrader and nailed every single one. Giancarlo Esposito’s turn as Gus will probably go down in legend. Johnathan Banks and Bob Odenkirk were immense. Even RJ Mitte and Betsy Brandt, who were chronically under utilised for the entire run of the series (so much so that their entire character identities could be described as “breakfast” and “purple” respectively), gave good whenever they needed to. But this is all for another post, another time.
What I will say is this; over the past few months I’ve gone from someone who is sick of hearing the words “Breaking Bad” to someone who really enjoys the show. And while I’m still not convinced it was the best thing ever, if you ask me my opinion on it, I’d say it’s definitely worth a watch. So, who wants to buy an RV with me?