‘Breaking Bad’: “Felina” And How It All Stacks Up

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Breaking Bad has been all the rage, the past weeks, months and past couple years, and rightfully so. It finished up its fine run this evening and quite literally everyone in my Internet and IRL circle is tweeting, talking, blogging or writing about it, so time for me to throw my hat into the ring.

I got into the show right in time to see the season 3 finale on TV. My interest had always been piqued as it was a pretty unique set-up that seemed ripe for a good show, chemistry teacher turned meth cooker, and I was (and still am) the biggest fan of its AMC counter-part Mad Men, so I binged-watched and found myself at the season finale.   Now I really like Breaking Bad, but I’ve never loved it. In fact, I wasn’t a fan at all really though seasons 1 and 2, and it wasn’t until the conclusion of season 3 that I really started to like the show. Season 3 was the first real inkling to me that things weren’t just ratcheting up tension wise for the season, but that these ramifications would be felt going forward, with no one likely to forget these past mistakes. Actually, I take that back, I did love season 4, it’s by far my favourite of the seasons and such an awesome thrill ride and flawless back six or so episodes that is some of the most entertaining and fun television I’ve ever seen. I think that’s what it boils down to for me, Breaking Bad is a well-acted and plotted action movie (or series) with plenty of twists and turns and big bads and quotable lines, it’s just a ton of fun to be along for the ride. Yes, technically it does all this to a grade-A level, the writing is fantastic and so is the action, but boiled down to its parts, it’s a grand action/adventure story that happens to suck everybody in with it’s formula.

I enjoyed “Felina” as a ending chapter for the show, but I did have my own restraints with how certain things were left and how we came to them. For the sake of keeping this concise, I’ll focus solely on the lacking, because if you want some rah-rah Breaking Bad coverage, I’ll point you to a thousand different other places on the web. What Breaking Bad normally runs on, tensions, twists, turns and the unknown was largely avoided, where Walt’s game plan and the end were spelled out quite clearly. It’s known early on the battery powered 360 degree machine gun Walt is building, when he drives his car in the compound you know what’s going to happen, when he does his own park job you know what’s going to happen, when he grabs his keys you know what’s going to happen. Everything we know, it’s just a matter of letting it play out in front of us.

Honestly, I didn’t think things would get wrapped up so cleanly. I’m largely fine with the idea that Walt dies in a state of peace, but it does feel largely detached, this episode as well, from what the past two seasons have been driving towards, especially within Walt’s motives and his frame of mind. He’s alienated still largely from his family, but he dies knowing Walt Jr. is living healthy with money surely on its way, he’s on better terms with Skylar after their conversation, with her feeling some elements of remorse, whether she fully extends it or not, and Holly will be given a good life being raised by her mother, even if she’s ever absent of the good and bad memories of her father. Jesse gets to have his revenge on his captures, a last show of a semblance of mutual respect between him and Walt on some level, it still remains no matter what, then he’s driving off into the distance, trading the blue for greener pastures.

In the face of dealing with how he would end things compared to controversial finales from The Sopranos and Lost, Vince Gilligan stated he was a fan of closure, not leaving large questions or threads dangling and not living the state of a character in limbo. And, hey, I guess he wasn’t lying. I like both sides of the coin, wrapping everything up in a nice package or leaving things dangling as debatable mystery and talking point until the end of time, as long as they’re done faithfully to the material that came before it. I praise Vince Gilligan for giving us our answers, largely the ones we expected, or at least hoped, with Jesse becoming free and Walt paying for his crimes by the ultimate law, death, but even still regains redemptive qualities for how he went out, on his own terms. The finale to me felt like it was from a different show, or at least a different version of the show that we hadn’t been watching. It was tight, clean to the point, when largely the show in the past’s been loose, gritty and willing to string you along in places. Of course, this is the finale, so by nature they have to do some wrapping up, but you don’t ditch the girl who brought you to the dance in the first place even when the night is ending. I liked the finale for what it was, but I just wished I could’ve liked it more for what Breaking Bad was.

A quick little thing that I didn’t really wanna bring up, since it doesn’t really fit anywhere, but I feel so compelled to, that I just had to. Regardless, whether I loved or hated the finale or the show (I liked it! I really did! Even if it barely comes across), it’s insane to me scrolling through Twitter how many people from different walks of life, from sports, entertainment, politics, fathers, sons, daughters, mothers, cousins, barn animals, that weird kid in your class, that guy who for some reason always talks to you at work, are so quick and rash that not only was that the greatest ending of all time, but that Breaking Bad is the greatest show of all time. Now, I’m not going to get into a greatest show of all time debate right now, although I’d love to, but passing judgment this soon is aways comical, even if we have the full story already. Now, I’m not gonna say that things like The Sopranos, The Wire, The Shield and Mad Men (barring an insanely bad final season) are better than Breaking Bad, okay, I will, but I’ll let you have this night. Speaking to my larger point in my second paragraph, almost everybody, from all walks of life, or ranging demographics, or sex groups or whatever is so willing and easily able to call it the best show of all time. It’s because the show is so much more accessible and easy to palate than a “Sopranos” or The Wire or Mad Men, shows that lesser people, and many Breaking Bad fans, not all, would classify as “boring,” “slow,” or hard to get into. They don’t always crash along like Breaking Bad, or as exciting on the surface level, so they’re automatically not as good to the casual layabout because they’re harder to get into and you have to pay attention more.

That’s why Breaking Bad is so akin to an action movie or series, it’s broad enough that largely everyone can enjoy some facet of it, there’s twists and turns to keep you coming back, cliff hangers and cool memes to make out of it for the kids. It’s so much easier to get into, where while it’s an often really good show, it’s gloss tricks people into thinking how great it was and is. I’m really curious to see truly how much of a pedestal, if at all, history will let Breaking Bad share with already defined hallmarks of television of this ilk in The Sopranos and The Wire. Breaking Bad has and always will be the little brother to these shows, occasionally grabbing a sneak-attack win over its cunning older sibling, but largely remains in the shadows. Who knows, maybe future people who type on a keyboard and think about these things really will hold it in that regard, maybe, I’m a hater, or maybe we just all have to stop taking these things too seriously, enjoy all the great television we have, and succumb to its number one goal, to be entertained.

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