Please don’t read this article if you haven’t watched the finale of this season’s Breaking Bad. Though Twitter and media have spoiled the surprise for far too many people, I don’t want to be part of the problem.
The internet is awash with responses and commentary on this past Sunday’s season finale of Breaking Bad (my set visit interviews), a devastating pivot point for the show as it prepares for its last season. It was a majestic bit of work and it really sets the turmoil meter to the max with the fallout from Walter White’s actions and are sure to rain through 16 episodes.
But it was really sad as well. We lost one of the most interesting and magnetic television characters I can remember. Gustavo Fring started off as this weird placid character who evolved into one of the most cool and effective hardasses we’ve seen. Now he’s most definitely a goner.
Vince Gilligan’s pretty much delivered everything and more on his promise that his bald leading man is going to lay waste to the lives of everyone around him. It’s fascinating to watch Walt’s struggle for control lead us on this adventure.
Forgoing all of the critical breakdowns of the episode (there have been many both deep, interesting, and far too nitpicky) and the much-discussed “Mr. Chips Becomes Scarface” throughline of the story, all I have is this:
An emotional connection. Breaking Bad isn’t a show any more to me. Nor is it something I can look at like just another piece of pop culture. It’s an appendage of me. It’s family. Flaws, foibles, it doesn’t matter. For 45 minutes every Sunday, the rest of the world can be crumbling around me, it’s impossible not to watch the goings on in the seemingly docile environs of Albuqurque, NM. It’s a testament to the hard work being done by everyone involved as well as the empty spot in the crowded genre of crime stories we never knew existed. Breaking Bad proves just how there’s always room for vision and creativity, regardless of genre, perception, and our own stupid preconceptions.
The dude from Malcolm in the Middle dealing meth as he fights cancer? That’ll never fly.
Now as the end of Breaking Bad looms all I have is that emotional connection. I never want it to end. And I never want it to get fat or boring or bad. It’s a horrible place to be as a fan. We’ve already seen things set into motion. There’s no more Gus Fring. There’s no more Big Bad, or rather the guy who was set up to be the adversary has been replaced by our hero. We knew it was going to happen and we were still powerless against it. It’s staggering to be so jaded and cynical about a business I’m so close to and still be so in the sway of material like this. It overrides everything. I watch it and I don’t think or care about the camerawork, the sleight of hand, or the takes that lead up to the one used in the edit. On second viewing, sure. But when the show starts everything I am goes to sleep until Vince and gang have had their way with me.
I wish that could be bottled because it happens so rarely. Even films and show I love, there’s always the knowledge that I’m watching the work of craftsmen and women. I mean, I loved Contagion and it was transportive but I was rocking out to the music and loving little filmmaking decisions all the while. I’ve been on the set and seen them work and still I’m powerless. Like I was visiting the scenes of events rather than hocus pocus.
That doesn’t happen with this show. It makes me a pure viewer, no agenda or inner monologue. Either it renders me dumb or it’s just that special of a show.
And now I’ve gone back and revisited episodes to experience certain moments again (and of course the BIG one, which strangely gets a macabre reaction akin to seeing a video where real people die) and I’ve been able to experience the show as a work of filmmakers and not the magical thing it is when I first watch it.
The show is now in the home stretch and Walt is controlling and deleting. It hurts. It’s sublime.