All Bad Things Must Come To An End

Jesse and Walt:  Who's Bad?

Jesse and Walt: Who’s Bad?

If I had to predict which down-to-the-wire drama had more Americans watching enthralled; the looming government shutdown or the last episode of Breaking Bad,  I like my odds of the last adventure of Walter White coming out on top.

As far as finales go, my heart will always be with the “Family Meeting” closer of The Shield. All debts were settled, our hero/anti-hero received a punishment that was the cruelest, yet most fitting of fates and he was left with nothing. It was the most satisfying end of any television show I have seen.  I’m a fan of Breaking Bad but I was a fanatic for The Shield.     That doesn’t stop me from totally understanding why the whole damn country seems to have gone nuts for Breaking Bad (or at least the 10 million who watched the conclusion).

But if you’re going to be second-best, “Ferlisa”comes as close to perfection as it gets.   Vic Mackey and Tony Soprano were two bad men whom viewers watch only get badder.   Walter White evolved from a good man forced to do bad things to a bad man who enjoyed doing bad things.   I think I know what’s going to be on the top of my Xmas list as I can’t wait for the complete box set so I can  compulsively watch it all over again

We have evolved as audiences to expect our heroes to be milk drinkers devoid of flaws and imperfections and the villains to cackle with gleeful malice as they rub their hands with sadistic pleasure over their next act of depravity.    Walt is a tragic figure and Jesse Pinkman a pathetic one and both get what’s coming to them.   They set their feet on this road and they have to travel it all the way to the bitter conclusion.   Gilligan wrote and directed “Ferlisa” so if you love or hate it, he gets all the credit or all the blame.   I’m confident when we look back fondly on Breaking Bad in five years more fans than not will find the way things played out to have worked well, if a bit too tidy in some ways.

When you give an actor a role like they’ve never had before and may never have again,  the time to develop that character and are blessed with superb writing, dialogue, stories, direction and other actors to work with as Bryan Cranston was you have to know you have hit the lottery.   Cranston will never be thought of again as the goofy dad of Malcolm In the Middle and Aaron Paul has been no less of a revelation.   Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, and Bob Odenkirk are among the many actors who deserve shout-out for their performances.

I won’t say anything about the episode until everyone has had an opportunity to watch it if they recorded on their DVR for later.  There’s no shortage of great summations of the end episode if you watched it live.   Either way I hope you share my enjoyment of the show despite coming late to the party.

You’re going to be waiting quite a while to find something as great as Breaking Bad was.

Good people, bad people, dead people.

Good people, bad people, dead people.

The End of “Breaking Bad” Is Where I Begin.

“What do you mean you haven’t been watching the show, Jeff?”

Five years ago, The Shield, perhaps my all-time favorite television show, turned in its badge with a conclusion that was both satisfying and among the definitive ends of any TV show.   When the end came for The Shield, there was literally nowhere else for it to go.   There are only so many narrow escapes even a character as cunning as Vic Mackey can plausibly pull off before what was once quality gradually descends into self-parody.

It’s been a merry search for another show to follow I could get into the way I got into The Shield.  Though I’ve tried to fill the void with Justified, Spartacus, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, American Horror Story as well as a few episodes of Boardwalk Empire and even a box set of The Wire box, but try as I might to get that old feeling again, nothing has stepped up in the place of The Shield.   Everything came up a bit short.

Nothing about Breaking Bad comes up short.    It is one of those rare shows you can’t call people when its’ on.  “I’m watching Breaking Bad,” they’ll snap and you know the conversation is over right there.

I can’t imagine what took me so long to start watching Breaking Bad.  It might have been the teaser where Walter White is tooling around in a RV and stumbling around in his tighty whiteys.  “The dad from ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ as a cancer-ridden chemistry teacher who cooks meth?  Meh.  I’ll pass!”

When teachers finally get paid.

Totally my bad..  There’s nothing about Walter White to remind me of the doofus dad of a bad sitcom.  Walter White would murder that guy and sleep well after doing it.   The transformation of Bryan Cranston from comedy nebbish to award-winning serious actor (who is about to get seriously paid as the new Lex Luthor in the next Superman/Batman flick) is one of the most radical make overs since….well, since Michael Chiklis shaved his head and went to the gym to emerge as a bald, buff bad-ass.

I have one problem with Breaking Bad and its a big one.   The show is in its fifth and final season, but it’s the first season I’ve watched, which is like walking in on the last 30 minutes of The Godfather and trying to figure out what the hell is happening.

In the first episode of the last season, Walt, with a mop of unkempt hair and trunkful of weapons, drives up to his now-shuttered home and finds the name “Heisenberg” spray-painted on the wall.   Who’s Heisenberg?  I didn’t know Walt was Heisenberg, the master meth cooker his DEA brother-in-law has tried to nail (and just found out not long before I did).

I didn’t know why Jesse was nearly catatonic and trying to literally throw away his millions.  I didn’t know who characters were, why they were doing and saying what they were doing and saying.  To say I am late to the party puts it mildly.  The party’s almost over and here I finally show up.   Thank goodness there are no shortage of Breaking Bad primers for hapless newbies.   Smart writing, complex characterizations, and damn good acting are universally recognized and you know it when you see it.  No history lesson necessary.


What will probably happen is I will either go find the first four seasons of Breaking Bad on DVD or wait for Christmas and hope there is a boxed set  available with all of them.   Admittedly, this is the ass-backwards way of getting into the show.

Three episodes in out of the last eight and the action has been a little light with even the big shoot-out of the second episode being heard and not seen, but top-notch acting and writing has made up for the slow burn of the endgame.  Walt’s “confession” last week was as funny as it was a brilliant turning of the tables on     As Jesse learns just how deceptive Walter is, shit is about to get real.

If Walter White, the corrupt teacher, were to meet Vic Mackey, the corrupt cop, in a restaurant, they would probably chat amiably over how good men go bad recognizing in each other kindred spirits.   Then recognizing they are also like two scorpions in a jar, they would pull out their guns and try to put a bullet right between the eyes of the other guy’s bald head.