Monday, August 5, 2013

Breaking Bad (The First 54 Episodes)

So I just got through binge-watching 54 episodes of Breaking Bad on Netflix. With the critically acclaimed AMC drama scheduled to begin running through its final 8 episodes next week, I wanted to get caught up, so that I could join in on the mania over how it will all end. Except... I don't have AMC, so I actually won't be able to follow along each week as my social networking feeds go nuts with reactions to the final episodes. I might just as well have waited another year, so that I might be able to enjoy watching the entire highly serialized drama straight through, instead of now having to go through this long period of withdrawal. Oh well.

In any case, no contrarian review from me; the show is all the good things people have said about it, so if none of that has sold you on it yet, certainly neither will anything I say. Admittedly, I myself was a bit of a hard sell in this case, hence why I'm only getting into the show so late. This perhaps speaks poorly of my taste as a consumer of television, that I'll set aside appointment viewing time for almost any crappy new show that happens to be centered around an otherworldly mystery, an apocalyptic (or potentially apocalyptic) "event," characters with superhuman abilities, or Kristin Kreuk, meanwhile yawning any time somebody tries to explain the appeal of Mad Men to me. In my defense, I don't only watch genre shows. I loved Friday Night Lights, and one of my current favorite shows is Justified, which I have just as hard a time getting other people to watch as they've had getting me to watch Breaking Bad. But it's true that I tend to gravitate toward high-concept shows with escapist premises that can be briefly yet sensationally summarized in a few words ("Mysterious event causes everyone on the planet to lose consciousness at the same time," "Genius gets himself sent to prison so that he can break his brother out of prison," "Dina Meyer plays Batgirl–er, Oracle, that is, in The WB's adaptation of DC's Birds of Prey," etc.), ideally with some sort of "mystery" that promises an answer, or where the endgame is built into the premise. And it's true that such shows almost never follow through in exploring those premises with writing that exhibits much skill or substance. Meanwhile, no matter how you try to spin the plot of Breaking Bad, it cannot help but sound like a depressingly "realistic" drama about dealing drugs and people facing their own mortality–the sort of story you might imagine goes on for real in the bad part of town where a sad friend or family member lives. There is no "hook," except the promise that the writing is brilliant. Give it a chance, however–you need only "bear with it" through the second episode–and you'll find it one of the most addictive and relentlessly suspenseful serialized shows in television history.

Now comes the agonizing wait until the final episodes get added to Netflix (or wherever else I can watch them legit). In the meantime, I have, this coming fall, now TWO hours of Once Upon a Time every week to look forward to. *Groan* I so wish I had seen Breaking Bad before watching that show, because Giancarlo Esposito plays such an awesome character on Breaking Bad, but I'll always remember him first as the genie on Once Upon a Time, one of the least dignified roles on recent primetime television (and his current character on Revolution isn't much better).

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