Breaking Bad Was Good 07/20/21

I finally saw it. I knew it had to exist, but I didn’t want to believe it. You like to think there are things in this world that are sacred, but no. The discourse comes for everyone and everything.

That’s right. I finally saw “Breaking Bad sucks” threads on Twitter.

This is false. A person can not vibe with the show, but if we’re talking about quality, there’s not really room for debate. Every episode is structured perfectly, and while some episodes lag a bit (Rios and I just watched season 3, episode 8, which includes A LOT of characters hanging out in a hospital waiting room) overall the show is tightly paced and perfectly arranged. Puzzle pieces fall into place right on time.

Let me go over some of this discourse here (by the way, it’s strange that this coincides with my recent rewatch of the show, but hey, the computer always knows).

First we have the criticism that the characters don’t act consistently. There’s an idea that a character is set up with certain characteristics, and they have to act accordingly. But the show is about characters who lie to themselves about who they are. It’s one of the central themes of the show! Beyond that, if we’re talking “real life” (always dicey territory when discussing fiction), I know that I’ve done stuff, whether in an altered state of consciousness or not, that I believe to be way out of character for myself. The “unrealistic” technique is actually to have a character remain static for an entire show, or even an entire episode.

BB is about change (explicitly stated) and change occurs in fits and starts, with people taking one step forward and two steps back, etc. etc.

And, practically, you know…things have to happen.

Which brings me to a criticism that I find baffling. People really seemed to take issue with some of the show’s pulpier elements, particularly the gore and the “close call” elements found in some episodes. This is part of a bigger problem that “prestige TV” hath wrought upon the world: people think that having fun is a problem. Everything should be dour and serious. Well, there’s bad news about that: people largely don’t want to watch that shit. And I’m people.

Remember when shit used to be fun? There were shows like Breaking Bad, The Shield, and yes, even The Wire, that were fun to watch! People forget how much fun an episode of The Wire could be to watch, because the gut punches are what stay with us. But we had to get there first, and getting there was entertaining.

I remember when I watched the second season for the first time. I thought the “plane crash” subplot was ridiculous. And it is, kind of. But watching it this time, about ten years later, I found it to be really effective. Why? Because I’ve lived in the world ten extra years, and I no longer want my fiction to necessarily correspond directly to how things work in “real life.” Is it “realistic” to expect that Walt would let Jane overdose (after having a chance conversation with her dad at a bar), then that bereaved dad would go back to work as an air traffic controller, accidentally cause two planes to collide, and that debris would rain directly back down on Walt’s house? Absolutely not. But from a story perspective, it works. It’s fun to see how these chance encounters lead up to an “act of God” that sends a message to Walt, which he promptly ignores. It works as a fantasy. I kind of want more shows to do this.

I think the next rewatch I might do after this one is Banshee. That’s another batshit show, this time with karate and blood and evil Amish people.

I just want to have fun with TV shows again!