Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Breaking Bad

I've never seen television like this before. I've tried to write two other posts for you since I sat down, but my mind is stuck with Walter and Jesse and Skylar and Hank.  If you haven't seen the series, I apologize in advance.  I can't think of anything else today. Not one single thing.

The kids have been encouraging us to watch it for years. We started on our family vacation at Little Cuter and SIR's house last month; a television marathon because it was hot and muggy and mosquito-y outside and air conditioned and comfy on Cozy Rosie, inside.  It didn't matter what we were doing; we just wanted to be together.

And, together we were, til the early morning hours, unable to tear ourselves away. It's a slow burn, as Little Cuter kept reminding us, as one episode flowed seamlessly into the next, picking up the story exactly where it had been left behind. Gale Ann Hurd, of Terminator and Walking Dead fame, told us at BlogHer'13 that "all the best creative story telling is happening on television right now."  Breaking Bad proves her point.

Every scene is photographed with a purpose. A treatise could be written about what goes on in the long shots set in New Mexico's grasslands.  In fact, there are hundreds of memes to be explored and written about. Loyalty, certainty, caution, fear, loathing, protection...... and that's without stopping to think.

And then there's the money.  Its a character in and of itself, as are other inanimate objects.  Jesse's speakers, Walt's Aztec... they are part and parcel of the story, as necessary as any of the human characters.

"Everything will be explained," Little Cuter assured us, and she's been right. The stuffed animal and the eyeball drove us batty.  They still do, only now we know why. Just typing that reminded me that the eyeball is another inanimate object with a tale of its own. There are a lot of scary guys in this series... some of whom are apt to be as bemused as I am. It's a netherworld of deception and danger and parties by the pool; bemused is exactly the right word.

The women of Breaking Bad act more as foils than as plot movers; if I were looking for nits to pick with Vince Gilligan, the creator, I'd start and stop with his female characters. There aren't a lot of them, and they are all shrill... except Jane... and...

No spoilers. Just perceptions.

There's nothing glamorous about the drug trade, and Windy's montage in the parking lot of the motel tells the story best.  The little boy in the blanket on the steps of his home haunts me every night as I close my eyes.  This is happening in my town, in my school, and I'm powerless.

Power is the over-arching theme, I think. The power of the drug, of money, of family ties.  The power of disease to run or ruin our lives. The power that a healthy mindset can bring to a life on crutches, and that a damaged one can bring to a gunshot victim.  There were some powerful reminders of the strength you need to carry on when it seems impossible that anything can ever be all right again.... life changes in an instant, and then it expects you to keep on keeping on.

It's the best television I've ever seen. Early West Wing was also fabulous, but it was not sustained over six seasons. Newsroom had us captivated until we blasted through all of Breaking Bad.  What once was pithy commentary, now seems like one-sided ranting. I don't think the writing has changed.  My standards have been elevated, that's all.
An Addendum 9/25/13
It takes a while, but Marie and Skylar come into their own as the series goes on.  I should have realized that Vince wouldn't treat me that way.


  1. I've heard a lot of positive things about this show from people like you who I know don't go 'shallow' but it has been a total turnoff to me because of the negativity of the situation (as I understand it). I just cannot put my time into books or movies about really bad people even when it's done well and especially not if it's going to all end tragically as I've read the creator of this one is discussing might happen. Even being made in New Mexico would make it a tough go for me. Is there anybody you root for? And if there is, will they survive? I like happy endings and admittedly that does make me shallow in my choices for entertainment. This one though sounds almost worth it especially being filmed in New Mexico, which I didn't know... almost. That ugly ending though is what would stop me, I think, as I guess this year the series will end. Hopefully the writer won't just do what life would give us. That happens too often for real to need it in entertainment... doesn't it?

    I do like shows that carry on the character's problems into each new show which is why I enjoy Longmire on A&E and why I've read all the books, but once we care about a character like Walt, we are at the mercy of the writer who may or may not eventually give us something that makes us smile going away.

    1. If you are looking for a show to make you smile, this is NOT IT! We weep, we mourn, we cringe, we guffaw.. but we are never not ever happy.

      On the other hand,. it is brilliant.

  2. My 18 year-old niece and her boyfriend were watching it when we were in the Outer Banks. They just kept raving about it. Last summer when they were watching it at the beach, I came into the room and saw the guy in his underwear shooting a gun. Seemed so warped to me that I said to myself that it wasn't something I really need to watch. Enough heartache in the world. My niece loves it though and says, "Aunt Megan, it's a really great show. You need to watch it".

    Alas, my TV watching is relegated to Backyardigans, Team Umi Zumi and Wild Krats. Lately, I've just been doing a lot of reading on my iPad and tuning out the TV when it's on. I don't know if I have the energy to get into another series. We watched Eureka this summer, but since it had to do with science and cool gadgets, I could get into it. The kids loved it too. I also cannot deal with real world themes like drugs and desperation. All I know is I would be a crying mess. There's enough in the world to cry about. I don't need to watch it on TV.

    Hope you are having a great week!

    Megan xxx

    1. I resisted, too. For years. It's got my brain spinning 1000 mph and I'm not crying so much as I am intrigued and interested and concerned.

      It will be on Netflix forever...

  3. The pro/con/value of Breaking (or any show) does, as with all things, vary greatly based on preferences and where one is in life at the time. Personality, experience(s) and other highly variable factors drive the 'thumbs up or down' response IMHO. I'm often surprised at my own reaction to a show from initial impression to my ultimate opinion. There have been numerous shows/movies I've found I respond to very differently as I've watched them from initial advert to current showing to eventual reruns years later.

    You've raised interesting points to consider for certain.

    Breaking Bad aside, there was a line in your post that struck me as one of the most significant observations of life I've read in a very very long time. The line from your post (quoted below) was a significant find for me. It captures so very much, succinctly.

    the strength you need to carry on when it seems impossible that anything can ever be all right again... Life changes in an instant, and then it expects you to keep on keeping on.

    Thank you

    1. The best TV speaks to the viewer, and BrBa does that for me, big time.

      Walt's encounter with the silver towel holder in the doctor's bathroom is the most potent moment of the show for me. I've been there. Felt that. Planned and then been struck by the impossibility of the plan.

      Glad you got something from my words...


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