Breaking Bad

This comes late, but I just happened to be thinking about it.

So I loved Breaking Bad. I really loved it. I completely identified with Walt in the beginning, as I think I was supposed to. And I eventually came to loath him, as I think I was supposed to. In fact, the last episode (I’ll get to that in a minute) basically told me to loath him. And that all makes sense. I am introduced to a nebbish, who fortune shits on. And slowly he gains a measure of control of his life. I cheered him on, despite my misgivings because fundamentally he doesn’t seem bad. A facilitator of badness, but not intrinsically bad.

As time goes on, as Walt passes up opportunity after opportunity to gracefully exit the meth cooking game, what made him so likable and understandable and such an underdog starts to fall away. Here’s where I think me and a lot of other fans of the show part ways. I saw a guy make the leap from plucky underdog to violent, selfish control-freak criminal. One who couldn’t even establish a successful ongoing criminal enterprise because of his greed and self centeredness. It seems like a large number of people never stopped seeing him as the underdog, never stopped rooting for him to get his fair share, or something. All while he got his share and more. And became a murderer in the mean time. And let’s be clear, eventually, he was killing purely for his own gain, not to protect himself or his family.

I haven’t read any interviews with the creators but I have to think they wanted people to see him as I eventually came to see him. Why else include the scene in the final episode where he admits it wasn’t about his family. They tell us why he because what he did, for purely selfish reason. He LIKED being a violent murderous criminal that was feared.

Speaking of that last episode. BLEEEECH! Really, every thing ends up all tidy in a nice neat bow and Walt gets to die on his terms? Gross. Really it was a gross ending. I felt so let down by the show. It was as if they’d given up and just gave us what amounted to a fairytale ending (to the extent that a show about a meth cook can have a fairytale ending, which I admit is not that much). Bad guys killed bloodily? Check! Family gets the money? Check! Jesse set free? Check! Walt’s last moments in his precious lab? Checkaroo!

So I’ve decided that Norm MacDonald is right. He said on twitter that he thought the whole ending was just the final thought os a dying man, a la “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce. Norm thinks that Walt died in the car from the cancer, surrounded by police guns drawn. The keys dropping into his hand are the start of the fevered last moments of his brain playing out a final fantasy. Read his tweets from around Oct 2 and you’ll see it all makes sense. A few higlights: Walter walks in and out of heavily guarded homes with zero difficulty, but we don’t see how. He managed to get ricin into a sealed Stevia packet. He calmly built a remote controlled murder machine and mounted it in a car trunk in a day.

This interpretation makes an unbelievable amount of sense and lets me not think badly of Vince Gilligan. So I choose it. And you should too.

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Breaking Bad

I watched this new AMC show last night.

Bryan Cranston (best known to me as the father in Malcolm in the Middle) plays a Walter White, a wimpy high school chemistry teacher who finds that he has terminal lung cancer. He decides he’ll spend his last time on earth making a ton of money by cooking meth. Hijinks, as they so often do, ensue.

It’s a good start to a series. Bryan Cranston is the perfect guy for this role. He’s the prototypically put upon loving husband. From his real enthusiasm for science and love for his family and utter discouragement at fate, he’s convincing. The supporting cast are all good, with his young partner in crime being the weakest. He’s a fairly run of the mill smart ass reprobate, but it’s one episode, so I give that the benefit of the doubt. This first episode set up everything in a fairly straight forward way. You get to see the players, and the action starts off with a bang as out hero kills two drug dealers (it was self defense, sort of).

The show is clearing cashing in on the popularity of Weeds. But it doesn’t ape the Showtime show much. It’s a lot grittier and way more manic. Which is perfect a show about meth, I suppose. My one sort-of critique of the show is that there’s no time given to Walter’s decision to “break bad”. You’re given the reasons, sure. His family is badly cash strapped and he knows his time on earth is limited, so why not make as much cash for the wife he loves and his disabled son (cerebral palsy) while he can. and then he happens to see the chance on a ride-along with his brother-in-law. But that’s not enough for me. But I think for someone, even in those circumstances, to go to such extremes, there needs to be more. Maybe there is.

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