TV Shows: My Farewell to AMC’s “Breaking Bad”

Breaking Bad Walt and Jesse

Pretty much everyone on the planet knows that AMC’s Breaking Bad ends on Sunday, September 29, 2013. It’s been quite a wild ride watching milquetoast high school chemistry teacher, Walter Hartwell White, who finds out he has lung cancer on his 50th birthday with a new baby on the way and a son who’s developmentally disabled, “break bad” and transform into the menacing meth-cooking Heisenberg who uses science and intellect as a means to increase his drug empire (yes, I’m aware that this is a run-on sentence). It’s hard to fathom that it’s almost over and that we will never see these characters together again in another all-new episode. But alas, as the promos say, all Bad things must come to an end.

I first discovered the series on iTunes when I lived in the dorms at CSUN. The pilot was a free download, and I was curious to see how the dad from Malcolm in the Middle would fare in a drama series. After that first episode I was hooked, and subscribed to the season.

Over the past five years I have kept up with the series and have been captivated with each new episode. The writing, the performances, the cinematography, each element crafted to make the overarching story an intense and nail-biting ride. It’s a series that never fails to shock and surprise complete with moments that you can’t help but re-watch over and over again.

My Top Five Re-Watchable Moments from Breaking Bad:

– Hank versus the Cousins. (“One Minute”)

– The demise of Gus Fring. (“Face Off”)

– Walt discovers Skyler gave all his drug money to Beneke. (“Crawl Space”)

– Walt runs over the drug dealers with his car, shoots them in the head, then tells Jesse: “Run.” (“Half Measures”)

– Walt’s first encounter with Tuco and our first intro to Heisenberg. (“Crazy Handful of Nothin'”)

There are so many great moments. List some of your faves in the comments below!

Breaking Bad final season poster

Yes, I know, it’s “just a TV show.” But there’s something special about Breaking Bad (Emmy-winner, Best Drama Series) that makes it almost seem like something more than just another TV drama. With so many shows on the air, it’s pretty crazy to think that all most people can talk about right now is Breaking Bad. I wonder if this is what it was like during the “Who shot J.R.?” days of Dallas, of the episodes leading up to the finales of M*A*S*H or St. Elsewhere. I don’t even remember this much buzz around the finales of Friends and Seinfeld. Lost, maybe, but not on this scale (although, by the time Lost ended, most people had already moved on from the series).

And I think I know why.

Breaking Bad hasn’t worn out it’s welcome. With a lot of shows they keep them running one season too long and audiences get tired of the show and move on. Or the writing and stories get weaker as the series progresses toward the end. With Breaking Bad I feel that every element of the series has only grown stronger and more complex with time. It’s a show that even if there is a slow episode where not much happens you know that it’s a setup for something amazing and big in the coming episodes. Breaking Bad doesn’t disappoint and unless the series finale is a huge dud, this may go down in TV history as one the greatest dramatic series off all time. If not THE greatest.

Breaking Bad season one

Watching the pilot earlier this week, I couldn’t help but wonder if in that moment where Walt is tossing lit matches in the pool if he had already calculated every move he would make over the course of his rise to power as meth magnate Heisenberg. I also pondered when was the last time we’ve seen Jesse genuinely smile (granted, he hasn’t had a lot to smile about, but it was a question that passed through my mind while watching the pilot).

Vince Gilligan and his team of writers have delivered strong stories, and characters over the course of the entire series. This is no easy task. But each episode of Breaking Bad get better and better. I can’t think of an episode of the show that I wouldn’t watch again, and I will be watching the entire series over again when I get the complete series on Blu-ray on November 26, 2013 with all the extras, a two-hour documentary, and a Los Pollos Hermanos apron!

Walter White (Bryan Cranston)

Watching this ensemble play these multi-dimensional characters has been a true joy for the past six years. Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White has been nothing short of brilliant. His ability to make us empathize and sympathize with a character who has grown progressively darker as the series has advanced shows how truly great he is as a performer. What resonates from the pilot to the penultimate episodes is that Walt still believes that everything he has done from the first cook to now has all been for his family. We will see what Walt does to vindicate himself, his family, and if he vanquishes Jesse from Todd’s family in the end. Whatever happens I know we are in for one hell of a finale!

Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)

Aaron Paul’s range as an actor is equally impressive. His arc as Jesse Pinkman has been exceedingly chaotic, tragic, and heartbreaking. Of all the characters on the show, Pinkman has lost more than anyone; his life snowballing out of control from being a low-level meth cook in the pilot to being a tortured captive of Todd and his family forced to cook meth against his will. My one hope is that Jesse gets the satisfaction he deserves and gets to kill Todd.

Skyler White (Anna Gunn)

Emmy-winner Anna Gunn can probably say without a doubt that her role as Skyler White is the most hated wife in the history of social media. Skyler has played the roles of supportive wife, confused wife, cheating wife, angry wife, drug kingpin’s wife, guilty wife, and not-going-to-take-it-anymore wife. Whether the character is hated or not, Skyler has been somewhat of an anchor on the series, holding her family together in light of Walt’s absences, his drug-making revelations, and even his descent into further megalomaniacal delusions of narcissism.

Walter White, Jr. (RJ Mitte)

RJ Mitte’s role as Walter “Flynn” White, Jr. is probably best-known for his entering a room for breakfast, leaving for school, and going to his friend Louis’s house (and pretty much living there). But it’s been Mitte’s performance in the last handful of episodes that has given his character a powerful arc that resonates with me even as I write this. His two big moments this season – defending his mother against Walt and calling the police on him; and then telling his father off on the phone – show that Walt Jr. is much more than a name-changing, breakfast-loving son and brother. He may just be the most courageous member of the White family, and the strongest.

Hank Schrader (Dean Norris)

Speaking of transformational characters, Dean Norris as Hank Schrader had an arc that no one saw coming from our introduction to him in the pilot. Bombastic and cocky, Hank was also a highly skilled law enforcement officer for the DEA and the Albuquerque Police Department. But it was his run-in with an exploding “head on a tortise” that took Hank to a whole new level of dimensionality that found him dealing with PTSD, a affliction that almost cost him his life when he was confronted by the Cousins (one of the scenes I can watch over and over again). Over the course of the final season, Hank has shown us that he’s a stand-up guy who is proud of who he is and what he does. Even in his final moments.

Betsy Brandt (Marie Schrader)

Betsy Brandt’s role as Marie Schrader is an interesting one. She’s a loving, supportive wife who likes to shoplift, and also pretend she’s other people at open houses and then steals items from the homes she visits. She’s a thorn in her sister Skyler’s side for sure, but the last season has shown us a side of Marie we have never seen before: enraged. She feels just as betrayed by Walt and Skyler as Hank does, if not more considering she’s Skyler’s sister. And that fateful moment when she slaps Skyler then tries to take Holly solidifies the fact that the bonds of sisterhood can only be stretched so far before they are fatally broken forever. With the discovery that her husband has been killed, Marie is merely a shell of the woman she once was.

Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk)

Bob Odenkirk as Saul “Better Call Saul” Goodman was a much-needed level of comic relief in a show that was only on the edge of getting darker. His fast-talking, connection-having, idea-spewing lawyer always brought the clever one-liners and wacky metaphors in attempt to lighten things up when events got too intense. But even Saul Goodman has a breaking point when clever quips will no longer do and things become too dangerous. It’s in these moments that we witness how gifted an actor Odenkirk is.

So many more great characters exist on this series. From Badger (Matt Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), to Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), Jane (Krysten Ritter), Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Lydia (Laura Fraser), Todd (Jesse Plemons), Tuco (Raymond Cruz), Hector Salamanca (Mark Margolis), the list goes on and on (and, hey, who doesn’t love Huell (Lavell Crawford)?). Each character, and the respective actor who plays them, brings a beautiful, engaging, and dimensional performance to each and every moment. Breaking Bad is a character-drive show that makes us want to know more about the people who inhabit this world. That’s what makes the show so interesting to watch. You want to go deeper. You want to know how Todd developed into such a sociopath. How Lydia got involved with the drug trade. Or how Mike got involved with people like Gus.

But we’ll never know, which makes speculating on these things all the more fun to do!

Walter White Empire

With the finale upon us, it’s crazy to think that a show about a middle-aged guy who finds out he has cancer who decides to cook meth in order to provide for his family after he dies has become such a cultural phenomenon. What would probably have been a niche show were it not on basic cable has become a series that the vast majority of people have seen and have become addicted to. Just today I casually asked the cute girls behind the counter at Togo’s if they watched Breaking Bad. What followed was a twenty-minute discussion about the series. You never know who’s watching, but you’re sure to find someone who is.

Baking Bad

The last few episodes, especially “Ozymandias,” have been powerful and resonant hours of television. Unlike most shows I have had to take a moment to process what I’ve just seen and ponder the implications of the character’s actions and how we’ve gotten to this moment at this time. The beauty is in the continuity, the logic, and the interconnectedness of it all. Try and find a weak link in the chain, a story thread that seems implausible, or a moment that rings false. Everything on Breaking Bad is woven together like a well-made tapestry. It’s final section to be woven and put on display for the world to see Sunday night.

Breaking Bad final season cast

Breaking Bad may go down in history as the greatest TV series of the 21st century, and rightfully so. With each episode we have laughed, cried, cringed, cheered, rewatched, and shaken out collective heads in shock and disbelief. On Sunday, September 29, 2013, we all get to do this one last time as a whole. And as we reflect on what we’ve watched as the screen goes to black, we can know that we were all there when Breaking Bad completed it’s historic, and more than likely record-breaking run on AMC.

Thank you, Vince Gilligan and everyone else who’s been a part of Breaking Bad for bringing us five seasons of great stories, characters, and moments we won’t soon forget.

The series finale of Breaking Bad airs at 9/8c on Sunday, September 29, 2013 ONLY on AMC, bitch!

What did you think of the finale? Leave a comment and let us know!

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