For me, Breaking Bad was not far off a revelation. It gripped me from the very beginning. A lot of people tell me that the best TV Shows take a good 4 or 5 episodes to get going, but I was hooked by Walt and Jessie’s antics from the very beginning.
Obviously TV shows can, these days, be as gritty as a film. Sopranos for me was probably the first show where I really was impressed with how much they decided to let it all hang out. Arguably, Breaking Bad hasn’t pushed gore and violence in the same sense the Sopranos did, but it hasn’t needed to. It has relied on a solid and surprising storyline and narrative, consistently delivering pacey episodes and delivering myriad cliffhangers (episodes which stick in the mind are Half Measures which left me so far on the edge of my seat that I almost fell off, followed by Full Measures where my girlfriend had to help me off the floor).
As any avid viewer of BB will attest to, there have been plenty good moments [Spoiler Alert]. These are possibly easy choices, but personal favourites are the demise of Gus Fring, the shootout in the supermarket car park involving Hank and the entire play out of the Salamanca pool party.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of getting to know Walter White, let me bring you up to speed. Walt, an underachieving genius has long since given up on his hopes and dreams of making a significant difference in life and, as such, has resided himself to suburban life, teaching Chemistry to high school students and trying to be the best family man he can possibly be.
We are continuously reminded of Walt’s family values throughout the whole of Breaking Bad, and although he sometimes does bad things, (or possibly more accurately, he finds himself in positions where the decisions he has made, and the decisions he now has to make) his choices are always driven by his primal need to make a better life for his family, at least a better life in his view.
Early on in the first season we learn Walt has cancer, and the outlook is bleak. Fearing the worst, he decides that he needs to make as much green as possible. Whilst sitting in on a failed Police raid, Walt spots Jessie, a Crystal Meth dealer and cook who Walt taught Chemistry to, making a getaway from the scene. Despite huge differences, the two go into business together… and this is the story of Breaking Bad.
The first four seasons were pretty gosh darn magnificent. The first season set the scene, the second built upon it, things just went mental in season three and season four built upon all three seasons before it, culminating in one of the finest climaxes ever seen on a TV program. I’m sure any fan of Breaking Bad will be sitting there reading these words, nodding to themselves with a wry smile on their face and picturing the moment Gus exits Hector Salamanca’s residential apartment. If you haven’t seen it, I won’t give anymore away… but it’s a moment which cements Walt’s domination and success, Walt himself even realising the magnitude of events preceding him and when asked by his wife what happened, he simply responds with two simple words…’I won’.
Which brings me on to the point of this here post; should they have stopped here? As you can probably tell, I like Breaking Bad, but as Walt himself said, he had won. To all intents and purposes, Walt rose up and defeated his enemies, and although there might have been a few questions unanswered and a few stones left unturned, would it not be better to leave things resolved and completed than to drag things out and tarnish what was a magnificent 4 seasons of television?
Some of the best rock stars die young. Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley, Jimmy Hendrix… all forever thought of as young and great as they didn’t get drawn out and bloated. Better to burn out than fade away, as they say. At the end of Season 4, I felt satisfied and could not help but ask myself if they needed to continue. What did they need to resolve; or were they going to kickstart a whole new plotline?
As it turned out, there were loose ends to tie up, but nothing really substantial. Stuff you would have to think about in the real world but not really vital to cover in TV-land. And so this is my problem, my main bugbear. Did they really need to continue, because so far the first 5 episodes have been pretty mediocre. They have all felt like set up episodes and although I completely understand that not every episode of a show is going to be a classic and sometimes, to get to those defining, spellbinding and jaw dropping moments you do have to do the groundwork which can manifest itself as a few ‘setup’ episodes.
Well, so far there have been effectively 5 ‘setup’ episodes and although still very well written and enjoyable, feel to me to be off the pace compared to previous Breaking Bad outings and have delivered little in the way of pay off.
I recently learned that season 5 of Breaking Bad has been billed as the last which has left me feeling a bit empty inside. But this has given me a thought. So far, the ebb and flow of Breaking Bad is that there has been the set up and then, when all the soldiers (or bottles or whatever it is…) are in a line, you do get the pay off, the gratification. Breaking Bad has been consistent in this manner so surely they can’t let it slide on the final season. Perhaps, perhaps what we are witnessing is the gradual, softly softly catchy monkey build up of one of the greatest finales of all time. Perhaps we need to bide our time to see how Walt and the gang end things.
Will Walt reign supreme, or are we to witness a spectacular fall from grace? Or, indeed, will Breaking Bad play out in an altogether different manner? Season 5 hasn’t started as strongly, but I pray this is for a reason, because this could, could-could-could be the greatest TV show of all time.
I certainly will be watching either way.