WARNING: This post has massive spoilers. If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad yet, get over your hangup about watching people cook meth and watch it. It’s one of the best shows on TV, period.
Have you watched it? Okay, good. I mean, you don’t have to watch the whole thing. I’m only halfway through season two, okay? So don’t freak out.
Finishing the episode “4 Days Out,” and I was stuck by something as the episode ended: first, I’ve read a bit about Vince Gilligan, the guy who created the show, and his concept of making a show about a protagonist who becomes an antagonist. I love it. It’s a ballsy move, to put all of your chips onto this “hero” who becomes evil. George Lucas tried it with the prequel movies, and he failed — he terribly, mercilessly failed. But Breaking Bad is different. It’s well plotted, it has excellent stakes and suspense, and it has characters that you give a damn about.
And that’s what struck me: how much I care about Walter White. I’m still at a point in the series where his arguments with Jesse are weighted with truth. Jesse pours their only drinking water onto the flaming generator. Walter snaps at him, as he does a lot in this episode, but his arguments carry weight. And later, when he’s attempting to hook up the impromptu battery, the outcome of all of these heated arguments with Jesse finally shows its head, although briefly — Jesse begins to show signs of understanding chemistry. But then when Walter asks him what the best conduit is for the battery and Jesse says, “Oh! Wire,” we see that Walt has a long way to go. Fortunately, Jesse has his own moments of truth, as well, making him much more than just a whiny sidekick. His knowledge of the drug business are surprisingly savvy, if maybe a bit timid. Having Walter there to push him makes for good television.
All that aside, the last moment. The penultimate scene, where Walt learns his cancer is in 80% remission. Where his family, who he has estranged time and again with his antics, erupts in joy. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck raise up, I felt the pressure on my heart. I felt like crying. Not because I was being force-fed emotions by great actors. Not because I watched some formulaic romantic comedy. But because I was watching a character develop. He was changing. Some of it purposeful, some accidental. And now, he’s given a second chance. And the best part? He hates it.
I’ve been hesitant to start watching Breaking Bad in much the same way I’ve been hesitant to watch The Wire: both are critically acclaimed shows, very high up on the “You Must Watch This” scale, and I know that by watching it, I will be investing a lot of my time. But I started watching BB about a week ago and, of course, I’m hooked. There’s something about good stories that, for me, for reasons I don’t really understand, make me want to walk around in silence. I don’t really understand it. After watching a couple episode of this gripping television show, I’ll take a break, pad quietly downstairs in my barefoot, walk to the kitchen, my ears tuned to the soft patter of my skin on the faux wood floor. Open the fridge, listen to the unique magnetic sucking sound the fridge door makes as it opens. Slide the bottom crisper drawer open, rummage through a noisy produce bag, the noise almost a shimmer of sound. Pick out an apple. Slide the drawer back. Close the fridge. Buff the apple against my shift. Take a bite, listening to the chop sound, the ripping of the apple’s flesh and meat. The grinding sound of chewing. I listen to all of it. I take it in. Why? I don’t know. But there’s something about a TV show this good that almost makes it sacred. Takes it beyond regular TV and into that illustrious realm of “art.” Breaking Bad is art. It’s about cooking methamphetamine, but it’s art. And that’s what I love about art.
My friend Steve was interested in my thoughts on the show, having worked at a medical marijuana clinic for three years. Honestly, I hadn’t even thought about that. I don’t grow, I don’t associate with growers, and there’s not huge mounds of pot flowing through the clinic. The number one thing I thought about regarding pot and this show is that Walter could’ve used a few hits of some strong weed to keep his nausea from chemo down, and maintain his appetite. That was about it.
Anyway, great show. Surprised I’m even taking time off to write this blog, instead of watching another episode.
And one of these days, I’ll watch the Wire. I just feel the need to settle in to that one.