Well well. Wasn’t that an exciting season finale? Literally showstopping. The legend of Heisenberg has come to an end and so I’m going to talk about some things that I have observed and reflected upon throughout the journey of the show that made it what it is.
#1 The Problem of Narrative Momentum
When talking about narrative, there is a very basic distinction between story-time and discourse-time: story-time refers to the actual chronological events that constitute a story whereas discourse-time deals with how this story is being presented. So I shall start off by affirming that Breaking Bad is amazing in the way it does this. The presentation of the story-time through discourse-time is masterfully done in Breaking Bad, with illuminating flashbacks and mysterious flash-forwards that structure and reimagine the present of the show. Most obviously, we know throughout the whole season that Walt is going to make it to his 52nd birthday, but we have no idea about the fate of other characters and how it all ends until it happens.
This playing of discourse-time is great, if not perfect. But what about our time in relation to the TV show? The way in which we watch TV shows in this day and age has drastically changed compared to even five years ago; some viewers wait diligently every week for the release of each new episode while others have the recent ability to hold off and watch episodes in blocks thanks to the accessibility provided by online video streaming or torrenting, particularly for new viewers wishing to catch up right away, spoilers permitting.
What is my point here? I believe that Breaking Bad is one of those shows that needs to be consumed in one sitting. I don’t mean that impatiently. I believe that in the wait for the next episode to be released, interest and excitement in future episodes wanes. Hugely significant and revelatory incidents lose their impact when the viewer has to wait a week for the story to resume. The narrative momentum suffers for it. Maybe my viewing habits for Breaking Bad were more acclimatised to catching up online and so I could race through the series in a matter of weeks, therefore I always found it more exciting to watch the next episode very soon after a brilliant cliffhanger. During the drip-by-drab release of Season Five, I sometimes even forgot to watch the newer episodes in the run up to the finale, purely because the wait in between each new episode created other life distractions.
Another disadvantage to this slow-release of episodes is that the Internet, particularly certain image-hosting websites, is abound with spoilers from excitable fans who boil over from the weekly episodes and feel they need to create awful homages or memes relating to some of the deceased or suffering fictional characters, ruining the plot before I have had the Sunday night’s chance to watch it. Thanks, imgur.
Maybe my resentment at waiting for a new episode each week is the result of a short attention-span created from all the accessibility and immediacies of the digital age, but I believe that holding off and watching the final eight episodes in one sitting would have been a more satisfying rush to round off this fantastic TV show. Listen to me, I sound like a meth addict.
#2 Neat Parallels
There are countless parallels in Season Five to previous material from Season One. Some of the more astute BB fans can point them all out, but little table-turning things like Skylar phasing out during her pre-court meeting compared with Walt doing the same during his first cancer diagnosis, or little ironies such as when Skyler says to Jesse very early on, “You stay away from my husband or there’ll be trouble [paraphrased]”. Shit like that. And shit like the following picture from different seasons:
Characters have a habit of emulating one another’s actions, as exemplified above. Like when Walt killed that guy in his basement in the first season, he starts cutting off the crusts on his sandwiches because that’s what his victim liked. And Walt emulating Gus’ mannerisms of being excessively formal in public as to not blow his cover, and even calmly vomiting in the toilet the same way. Neat. While the show’s attention to little details is great, it can go a bit far.
I made this! A chart that illustrates how an audience’s (or more specifically, my) allegiances drastically change for the entire duration of five series.
Most interesting to note is Skyler. Pretty much everyone I know hates Skyler for the entire show for various reasons, but then only right near the end did I actually feel bad for her and sympathised. Other things to mention is the ups and downs of Jesse seems to correlate well with his drug habit, and how Walt Jr consistently offers less and less as the seasons develop.
I like this kind of taking sides because it is a refreshing change to static characters and it challenges morality. Yeah.
Marie wears purple all the time, have you noticed that? I did, but I didn’t notice what every other character was wearing like this guy:
Some pretty cool stuff. I suppose just in general the attention to setting and detail in BB is second to none so top marks for that, V.G.
#5 The Stance on Drugs
The whole point of BB is that Walt comes out as a monster, right? I don’t know exactly how to phrase this but from all the aesthetics of the show, its motifs, its airtight writing, its fanbase… my impression from all the stuff I see is that Walt is glorified rather than vilified. Obviously, Walt to some extent is a likeable character that one can indeed sympathise with but what about the fact that he is a drug mogul? Drugs are bad, mm’kay. Some fans will ironically eat blue rock candy as a nod to the show or create elaborate drawings of Walt’s unmovable evil face, which is fine, but I can’t help but feel that there really are idiots out there that are entranced too much into the aesthetics of the show and overlook its overall message that drug crime is bad and will go out and make meth, or at least, use less powerful drugs as a direct influence from the show.
Oh my god, I sound like an old man. I’m going to stop it there. But you can’t underestimate how impressionable idiots are.
Anyway, fantastic show and everything, top marks all round. Tell that to my sister who gave up on it because it was “too serious” (She hadn’t even come across Gus or Saul yet! Saul!!!)
Here is a hilarious video to finish off. Goodbye!