I’m a Breaking Bad fan as many others are. Why, because it was the best darn show on TV and was what my son says, “the most moral show” that explored the human situation and psyche. I asked him what he meant by the most moral show. He explained because even though there is violence, as there is in that particular meth-underbelly world and anything subculture (he knows having gone to school with some kids whose family members were involved with meth) but he said, “every death mattered” on this show. I didn’t have to think hard to realize this day and age that violence on TV is depicted with such informality and passing that no wonder we don’t subject our emotions to get caught up in it or even think twice. Why then can people be so non-complacent, maybe because of bombardment of violence that we see in the entertainment world that has had this effect? Perhaps it’s just a form or protectionism for our emotional fragility or more likely because we’ve become accustomed to seeing so much of it and the next movie has to outdo the previous with extra amount of bang-em-up, explosive special effects and gun play?
Breaking Bad got back to the basics of the human character and how it can be flawed. It also questioned the man’s role of husband, father, provider, as very well described in this article, Die Like a Man: The Toxic Masculinity by Laura Hudson for Wired. I remember going to dinner at our good friends’ home after watching a riveting early episode. It left us unsettled and we couldn’t stop thinking about it so it came up in conversation. A Catholic priest friend of theirs was in attendance and by the end of the dinner, my husband and I had even him convinced that it was OK to cheer for the main character even if he was “bad.” The show pulled at our heart-strings early on for a character who seemed to be doing bad deeds for good reasons and made us root for the anti-hero but even as Walt turned truly bad by getting caught up in power and “feeling alive” from the plots he put into action, it was hard to let him go. Even in the end, parts of the original good Walt returned but it was too late and too much damage had been done to give him much forgiveness. All bad characters got what they deserved. Unfortunately, they hurt and “turned” good people along the way.
Many are talking about how the series ended. I thought it was brilliant, twisting all the unraveled loose ends into a final tight knot. The ending was a strong clean one with no one left hanging — except for hope — that Jesse, the other transformative character, could finally get a clean break, a fresh start but it would be truly up to him to do so with no strings left attached.
I’ve enjoyed Vince Gilligan’s writing ever since the The X Files, one of my favorite shows on TV. Breaking Bad had this same kind of anticipation with every episode but with even more depth and superlative acting from Bryan Cranston, who I also loved as the Dad on Malcolm in the Middle, as well as the entire cast, that I think it will go down in history as a show to try to emulate. Sadly, however, others are trying and failing miserably. There is no formula to follow and that is what made it great. Better leave it remembered as is and use some examples of what it taught with exceptional writing and believable, everyday, common-man characters living “what if'” scenarios in which we could easily see ourselves slip.
Fortunately, the great memories of Breaking Bad live on and these stenciled murals from VanCityBuzz in Vancouver give some nostalgia for a show that was really worth watching.
Have to give a tongue in cheek nod to the VanCityBuzz post How Breaking Bad would have ended had it been in Canada.