Spoilers and such-
The bulk of Breaking Bad takes place in one year of the life of one Walter White. Oh there’s a small epilogue to that year, but the man in that part of the story can hardly be looked at as the Walter White we know from the rest of the series.
When we met our hero, such as he is, he is a man who lives a life of quiet desperation. He has a special needs son. He’s henpecked by his domineering, pregnant wife. He works in a High School teaching Chemistry-a far cry from his near Nobel winning days. Where his once great genius brought him close to fame and fortune, he how has to deal with smart-ass teens all day long. He also has a part time job at a car-wash. Then he finds out that he has cancer-he doesn’t have adequate insurance and the cost of treatment will be hundreds of thousands of dollars he doesn’t have.
Wouldn’t this be a good time for a slice of rhubarb pie?
His loud mouthed jerk of a brother-in-law works for the DEA and talks about how much money knuckle headed drug dealers make-hundreds of thousands of dollars. Really? The genius chemist says in wonder and looks up the recipe for Methamphetamine.
In the first couple of seasons, Walter gets his feet wet in the world of dealing drugs with an idiot former student. He shows off his mad skills by making the purest Meth around. He kills, directly and indirectly, a couple of hundred people. And yet he still likes to think of himself as a good guy, a good husband, and certainly not a criminal.
And this is the most amazing thing about Breaking Bad, you end up really caring about these two losers as they bumble their way to being Drug Lords. As with many modern dramas, there are no good guys to speak of, they are all darker shades of gray. Even people who are mostly good have serious character flaws, such as missing out on the fact that someone close to them is a Drug Lord of the highest order.
By the end of the 4th Season everything has settled down and there is every chance of a happy ending. If you like that whole happy ending thing, don’t watch Season 5. Everything that sort of makes sense, suddenly doesn’t make sense. We find ourselves in even more of a LOST kind of duel reality than normal here. Walt has hair and a full beard and looks a lot more beaten than he does in any of the other seasons. By the time the finial episode rolls around half a dozen major characters have taken a Trip to Belize and tickets are booked for several more.
Breaking Bad is a stressful show to watch. These are people you come to care about-and it kind of hurts to see them all turn out to be cannon fodder. Not that the stage littered with corpses is in any way new here, but all those other dead people either got what they deserved or were nameless strangers. The shocking bits, of course, are the best parts of Breaking Bad-those little Oh My God moments where something unexpected and amazing happens.
I didn’t like Season 5 much, there were so many things that HAD to happen. It makes Walt a bit dumber and Jesse a bit smarter. It killed off people for no good reason. It got all self-righteous on us and showed that Crime Doesn’t Pay-after showing us for four seasons that it pays pretty damned well.
There were a few things that didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Why was Walt personally so important to the drug dealers? Shouldn’t there be hundreds of similarly desperate high school and college Chemistry Teachers who can crank out quality meth? And why are all these bad guys so obsessed with getting rid of bodies? Why not let the loved ones bury them? And are we really supposed to believe that crime doesn’t pay, when the whole point of the show from the very beginning is that crime does pay? That crime pays so well even a man who owns a successful fast-food chain would rather deal drugs than sell chicken? And why did Walter White abandon the billion dollar Gray Matter Technologies anyway?
The big question, of course, is Walter a hero or a villain? If any of us had the chance to make millions, wouldn’t we take it? And wouldn’t we screw it up as well?
Breaking Bad was done to perfection on many levels. The music was absolutely dead on-Wendy and Crystal Blue Persuasion being the best bits. It was funny, heart breaking, and often a bit confusing-not unlike the real world.
I binge watched Breaking Bad over the past couple of weeks and now see drug dealers and psycho killers everywhere I look. I can’t go into a fast food joint without wondering about that hidden distribution system.
In the finial episode, I found that I didn’t much care about this bearded and bedraggled ghost of Heisenberg. This was a different character from the bald and plotting Walter White we see in most of Breaking Bad. As one of the characters says about Walter White no longer being alive, we see that Heisenberg died when he entered that cabin in the woods.
Breaking Bad was a great show, but it was time to end it.