TV | Breaking Bad – A Retrospective

TV | Breaking Bad – A Retrospective

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE SERIES FINALE OF BREAKING BAD

It’s over. I’m not sure how it happened and honestly I’m still struggling to come to terms with it, but my friends are reassuringly patting me on the shoulder and telling me everything’s going to be alright. I always thought we had more time. It couldn’t have ended any better, but still there’s this hole in my life and I’m not sure how I’m going to fill it.

How does one move on from Breaking Bad?

Casting my mind back, it all began several years ago, when one night flipping through channels I caught a glimpse of a familiar face. ‘Hey, that’s Malcolm’s dad!’ I said to no one in particular. I thought nothing of it. The weird television show I glimpsed when I was fifteen didn’t last long in the late night outback of 5USA, and other things got in the way. I was younger back then, naïve to the power that a television show can have over you. It began when I got Netflix about eighteen months ago, and didn’t know where to start. Having just bought my brother the first season on DVD for his birthday, I decided, finally, to give Breaking Bad a go.

I can’t tell you when exactly it happened, but it was somewhere in the middle of season one that I decided (however subconsciously) I was hooked, and I remember over that glorious summer my sleeping and eating habits mainly revolved around where I could fit in episodes. By the end of October and the end of season four, I was a nervous wreck. I tried to get on with my life. Tried to convince myself that it was just a television show. However the trouble with Breaking Bad is that it gets in your head. First you start addressing all your friends with ‘Yo bitch’ and then you’re thinking you’ve just passed Gus Fring outside the Corn Exchange. Breaking Bad isn’t so much a television show as a state of mind.

My heart was in my mouth at three in the morning (Berlin time) as I watched the finale live, praying to the all-knowing god of series finales that if nothing else, Jesse Pinkman would be okay. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. The finale wasn’t divisive like The Sopranos, it wasn’t a huge f**k you to the audience like Lost or more recently, Dexter. It was the ultimate embodiment of everything the show has come to be. Walter White needed to be vanquished, and it wouldn’t have been enough for the cancer to kill him. He needed to get what he deserved; to die in the environment he dominated, and this is what sets him apart from iconic television anti-heroes, the Tony Sopranos and Don Drapers. His final confession to Skylar was not only what she needed to hear, but us as an audience. It really was all for him. Jesse Pinkman got away, which I think is all anyone ever wanted, and as he sped out of the compound in tears, his catharsis was shared by millions of viewers across the globe. He was the show’s real heart; it was all we needed to know that he was free from Walter White, free from blue meth and free from Albuquerque. And now I’m free too.

I’m not ashamed to say that Breaking Bad was more than a television show to me, more than forty-five minutes of entertainment for a few months of the year. If a film can have such a huge impact on you who is to say television can’t, or indeed shouldn’t be the same? Vince Gilligan pushed the envelope and changed the way I thought about many things, not least of all morality and the idea of good and evil as something other than polar opposites. Characters were created who broke the mould and every trope in the book. Breaking Bad proved just how good television could be.

So what now for gritty television viewing and moral ambiguity? Do I finally start The Wire, perhaps try a complete viewing of The Sopranos? NBC’s Hannibal? Unlike many, I won’t be turning to Homeland, which has had little impact on me despite five episodes of trying. Is Sons of Anarchy still a thing? I like Ron Perlman. Or perhaps I stop trying to fill the gap and accept these things can’t be forced. A good show is hard to find and if worse comes to worst…
We’ll always have Netflix.

Hannah Woodhead
Photo: Property of FOX News

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