So I know I’m a little late, but I finally caught up with Breaking Bad the other day and finished its amazing final season. Now I know why everyone was screaming about it week-to-week, and what their vague comments about the final season (“it ended the only way it could have”) meant.
After finishing this mind-bending series, I doubt anyone could call it less than a masterpiece of television. Seriously. Breaking Bad was in short — fucking. amazing.
Misdirection – I learned this in comedy. Set up, punchline. You take the audience one way, and surprise them with another. My boyfriend hates watching tv shows with me because I frequently guess what’s going to happen next. If you read a lot, you’re probably like this too. You can just see where the set up is and what should be coming next.
But with Breaking Bad, I was often (and to my delighted surprise) wrong. I would assume that I knew what was going to happen based on their XYZ set up, but then they brought me in an entirely new and creative direction. And it was usually dark. And tragic. And made you scream at the screen.
Real consequences – Breaking Bad often showed (not told!) that real life actions have real life consequences. With the season’s ending, we can definitely see that message being prominently displayed. But it was a beautiful journey, was it not? What made it so compelling was that even though we understood the characters, we didn’t necessarily have to root for what they were doing. Their choices were complex and often morally questionable, but we understood where they were coming from. And when they got what they deserved, no matter how much it hurt, we nodded our heads. Yes, this is where that choice leads you. But the characters accepted it. They kept moving forward. Phenomenal.
The Power of Many – Vince Gilligan often credits the writer’s room making Breaking Bad what it is. Although he created the series, he knows if he had written it by himself, it would have undoubtedly been much poorer than it came out to be. I think of this often. How sometimes you need a room of 7 or 8 people to constantly question each other’s ideas, explore other avenues, or offer things you yourself would never have thought of. God, what would it be like to be a fly on the wall in that room as they went from season to season? I can only imagine.
Character Motivation First. Problem Solving Last. – Another thing they did in the writer’s room was talk for countless hours about character motivation, and this is so clear in the series. We always know what the character is thinking and where their head is at (although often their actions surprise us in a good way. GENIUS.) The writers would create a drama ridden circumstance based on these actions with no idea how to resolve them. But it worked out great. Paint yourself into a corner first. Then figure out how to get the eff out.
There’s so much I enjoyed and learned from this series. It’s going to be a hard one for television to rival in upcoming years. It pretty much defined a new standard for narrative content. And not only did they create an interesting and complex story, but they ended it naturally. Organically. They didn’t try to draw it out for 10 seasons. No, even when ratings were high, they stayed true to the story.
Bra-fucking-vo to every single person who contributed to this series. Bra-fucking-vo.