Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Heart-Breaking Bad

I wasn’t first to the Breaking Bad party, but I started watching about a year in, when there was only one series. I remember thinking Walt would be dead by the end of season one. I also remember finding it a bit slow at first, which seems contradictory, but Breaking Bad has always been slow in parts, or maybe certain parts just seemed slow compared to the craziness of the rest of the show. Skyler and co sitting round with the talking pillow is a marked contrast to Walt blowing up Tuco’s ‘office’, for example, and don’t get me started on the bloody ‘Fly’ episode (yes, it’s a metaphor, blah blah). So Breaking Bad has always had light and shade, but the shade has gone virtually to black right now. The first series, in particular, seems cartoonish in its violence, and is full of laughs. The high octane thrills of cooking in the RV, the acid bath fuck up, the van breaking down, and things like Jesse’s answerphone message and Walt Junior’s fundraising website seem very far away. I’m really glad that I rewatched the whole thing up to the halfway point of season 5 before I watched the final 8 episodes, because it would be harder to watch the whole lot without feeling real sadness now, rather than the excited anticipation I had before.
In a way I wish I could ‘unwatch’ the last seven episodes, although the finale was absolutely fantastic. I suppose I wanted the obvious ending of Walt vs Hank – I felt like that’s what we’d been waiting for – that’s what we’d been building up to. For me, some of the final episodes became too far-fetched, and it began with Hank on the toilet. I always wanted him to see Walt in the Heisenberg hat! I also wanted Jesse to have the Trainspotting ending (which he did – in part), not to be psychologically abused. It also felt like the writers were so desperately to tie up loose ends – like Jane and Grey Matter, which both seemed irrelevant, but then the final scene in Gretchen and Elliot’s house was edge-of-seat brilliance.  When the lasers appeared on their chests, I jumped out of my skin. I felt like in the two episodes before the finale the heart of the show was lost –Walt and his family, which includes Jesse. But then I suppose that only served to make the ending more impactful. Still: what a lot to put us through. It was like in the Lion King when they kill Simba’s dad: how do you come back from that? With a machine gun, in this case.
I was still on Walt’s side right up to the Hank stand off in the desert; I know a lot of people had deserted (!) him long before that, but that was the final straw for me personally. I don’t see how Walt could go from warning Saul to never suggest Jesse being killed, to Walt offering Jesse up and telling Jesse he killed Jane in a couple of episodes? It didn't ring true. I felt like they were writing by committee and losing sight of the characters a bit at this point. I know other people feel otherwise, but the heart of the show for me was always the two of them against the world that one couldn’t and wouldn’t ‘run the business’ without the other.
The false ‘confession tape’ also felt out of character, and especially for Skyler: would she really have done that to Hank and Marie? I know she’s gone rogue, but that felt like a step too far. And ordering a hit on Jesse! Similarly, Jesse going to the DEA. Never the DEA! It didn’t feel right; Jesse isn’t a rat. I kept waiting for him to climb out of a window with the confession tape.
Jesse’s realisation that Saul and his cronies stole the ricin was also pure soap opera and a stretch, and Breaking Bad has never felt that way before. There could have been a lot more interesting ways for him to find out about Brock.
The fight between Skyler and Walt with the knife was great and horrible; but Walt’s cry of ‘we’re family!’ was also proper Peggy Mitchell. It felt like real domestic violence in that moment, though. The whole façade fell to pieces.
I also felt cheated out of the scenes where Gomez and Flynn were told about Walt; I know we were short on time by this point, but those type of reactions are what we’ve been waiting for; and if we can waste 30 minutes on Walt hanging out in a cabin, I feel like we could have had those moments. I wanted those moments.
My final criticism – and I’m criticising the show because I love it – is that I also felt like the way Hank was dispatched was just too much to bear for my little heart. It had always been Walt and Skyler, Hank and Marie, and it just felt hopeless once Hank was gone. Also, when Jesse nearly escaped and they bumped off the dozy Andrea: it just felt too cruel, too much to deal with. I remember when Gus and Mike first turned up I thought the show had gone ‘dark’ – but they seem highly likeable in comparison to the horrible Todd and the grating Lydia. I feel like far too much time of the last few episodes have been wasted on these unpleasant characters, when we could have had a good old fashioned cat and mouse game with Hank’s family and Walt’s family – but then again, the way they wrapped it all up at the end was more than I could have asked for.
It was a brilliant touch to bring back Badger and Skinny P (I called it!) and there were so many other glorious bits; Walt’s heart-wrenching goodbye to Holly (I cried), his confession (finally) that he did it for himself ‘I liked it’, the final bit of science with the rotating gun (I’d like to see Mythbusters pick the bones out of that one) and of course; him saving Jesse. That was his fault that Jesse was in that situation in the first place was not lost. But he saved him. So many more nice touches; uncle Jack smoking his final drag, Jesse finally doing Todd (I was praying for a ‘bitch!’) and Lydia getting it with the sweetener. That Walt died in a meth lab ‘the place where he lives’ was poetic justice. And didn’t you think Jesse was going to run him over right at the end? It had great echoes of when Walt ran over the drug dealers. And finally Walt was truthful with Jesse; he wanted Jesse to kill him. And Jesse wasn’t giving him what he wanted. Not this time. Was Jesse happy or just manic as he drove away, and where did he go? I don’t agree with the people saying he went for Brock – Brock has a granny, and Jesse has ruined Brock’s life enough. Jesse must be off somewhere new. The fact he didn’t get the money didn’t matter in the end; the money was too tainted to take to a new life.
Looking back at the unsurpassable Tuco, Hector and his bell, Tuco’s brilliant cousins, the downfall of Ted – it all seems like light-hearted fun compared to the recent series.  And there have been some laughs this series – Saul has been consistent from day one – but the disintegration of the partnership that underpinned the whole show was so hard to watch. They went at it so hard in the final episodes; I swear, I nearly had a heart attack. I was in bits.
I was sure I’d written a blog about Breaking Bad before, and quite disappointed that I hadn’t, as I would have liked to have seen my perspective a season or two in.
And now what do we do with our lives? Breaking Bad is the best drama I’ve ever seen. It has everything; comedy, violence, cool, great characters and actors. I have talked about it more with people than I have any other drama on TV. I have talked about it constantly for weeks. I love it wholeheartedly. I’m sure I’ll watch the lot again, but not for a long time! My heart can’t take it. My boyfriend summed it up best afterwards, as we looked for something fluffy to watch, a cartoon, or a quiz show. He said, ‘Right this wrong.’ But some wrongs have gone too far to be righted. Hank in the desert. Jesse’s soul. In a way, it feels like Walt got off lightly.

1 comment:

Michael Dyer said...

Thanks for a great write up as ever Lynsey. I came to discover this series because of the fuss made on Twitter, & managed to dodge all spoilers right to the end. I didn't like seeing Hank killed, when the series went dark it was very black indeed. But overall it has been the most remarkable TV series I have ever seen.