It’s been a while since I marathoned a new TV show, so during the recent TV doldrums of the holiday season I decided to finally check out Breaking Bad. Within 13 days I managed to watch all 54 episodes.
And of course now that I’m caught up I’ve got to wait around like everyone else until July 15th 2013 for the remainder of season 5 and subsequently the series itself.
[You know the drill – spoilers ahead.]
It should go without saying that I enjoyed Breaking Bad. But I also found the series incredibly difficult to marathon. Not just because of the number of episodes (although I typically don’t wait so long to jump into a series), but also because spoilers are everywhere online. Breaking Bad is seriously on like every best of 2012 list and most anticipated shows of 2013 list, so I found it rather difficult to not stumble across major plot points.
Unfortunately, an interview with Krysten Ritter, about Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, gave away Jane’s fate, a screenshot I saw somewhere tipped me off to the fact that Skylar would find out about Walt, and one of those ‘Best of Lists’ let it slip that Mike was killed – so obviously that kind of knowledge colored the way I watched each episode. I have to say that season 4 was by far my favorite, because it was basically the only season that I knew nothing about.
I also struggled with the high expectations set for the series. Most of the TV I watch is either guilty-pleasure caliber quality or short lived and loved by few, so its rare that everyone is like, ‘you need to see this’ or ‘this show is flipping amazing’. I’m not going to argue with the fact that Breaking Bad is a consistently good series with a well-crafted world and good acting, but it took a while for me to just sit back and enjoy it. I spent at least a season and a half waiting to be blown away when in reality I think the genius of the show is in the long slow build towards Walt’s transformation from desperate family man to megalomaniac.
On an episodic level though I have to say I love Breaking Bad for its unconventional camera angles, beautiful location shots, and the frequent use of montages / time lapse transitions.
“I’m the bad guy.”
But of course as I mentioned before, I think the most impressive part of the series is the characters’ journeys and transformations. The Walter White we met in the pilot episode is drastically different from the one we see 50+ episodes later, but he’s still fundamentally the same person too, and that’s hard to do. It’s not unusual for a show to change a character for the sake of a storyline (see Glee), but Walt is still the chemistry-loving intelligent man he’s always been. Only now he has agency and relishes in the ability to call his own shots, especially after his cancer diagnosis.
I think the following scene from the episode “Buyout” (5×6) best sheds light on Walt’s motives and why the meth business has been so much more filling than his previous career in education:
But enough about the increasingly nefarious Walter White – it’s hard to root for him these days anyways. Jesse on the other hand is one of my favorite characters on TV right now. Not only does he have some of the best one-liners, but Aaron Paul is fantastic at both comedy* and drama. I’m constantly blown away by the vulnerability he is able to convey. His face is so expressive and when he’s being goofy, the character of Jesse is absolutely hilarious, but when he’s breaking down, I just want to give him a hug.
And interestingly enough, while Walter has went down an increasingly dark path, Jesse has worked towards becoming a more mature and responsible adult. At the end of the first half of season 5 he is clean and out of the meth business. That’s not to say that he is on the up and up, I wouldn’t want him to change that much, but he’s come a long way from the “junkie imbecile” we met at the start of the series.
And not to be outdone, Breaking Bad has also done an impressive job of fleshing out other characters like Mike, Skylar, and Hank. Even secondary players like Saul and Skinny Pete have moved beyond caricatures. So it’s kind of a bummer that these awesome characters, characters I root for, are about to have their lives blown to pieces (maybe even literally, it is Breaking Bad). Of course I really have no idea how its all going to end – but if I had to guess, not happily.
Until then though, enjoy this scene of Jesse hanging out in the lab from the episode “I See You” (3×08) – it’s one of my favorite Jesse moments.
*If you love Aaron Paul and 90s teen movies I totally recommend Whatever It Takes