Saturday, September 01, 2012

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Breaking Bad

A short and sweet title sequence, just like LOST.
It was the same thing every Sunday night. I'd let out a dramatic sigh as my Facebook and Twitter feeds were overrun by friends and acquaintances heaping praise upon one (or several) of the following shows: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, The Good Wife, Girls, True Blood, Newsroom, The Killing, and/or Revenge.

But I didn't follow any of these shows. Not a one.

Most people are surprised by how little TV I watch. I guess since I'm generally up on most pop-culture-related buzz, there's an assumption that I tune in to every hit series. But the last true drama (meaning no sci-fi/fantasy component) I watched regularly was ER—and that was only during its peak in the late '90s. What can I say? Dramas just aren't my thing.

(If you don't care about my history with Breaking Bad and just want to talk about predictions for the finale and next year, click here to jump down in the post.)

After we had our son in late January, my husband was looking for shows he could stream from his iPad to watch when he was on Desmond Duty. He, too, had heard all the hype about Breaking Bad and decided to give it a try. Because, you know, when you have a newborn, the first thing that comes to mind and seems most relatable is a show about cooking meth. (Plus we'd already rented Game of Thrones on DVD and neither of us had any interest in the other series listed above.)

I long for the days when Walt was just a big ol goof
So my husband starts watching Breaking Bad, but I refused to. I refused for the exact same reason I avoid watching the news: I figured it would depress the hell out of me. A show about a high school teacher who starts cooking meth because he's dying of cancer and wants to ensure his family can survive financially after he's gone? Yeah, that sounds like a GREAT time.

What's more, I am also absolutely terrified of meth-heads. Not that I've ever come into contact with any, but the "before/after" pictures of addicts I've somehow failed to avoid over the years are hard to shake. In short, I thought the series would be much too dark for my delicate psyche to handle.

So there my husband would sit, feeding Des and watching Breaking Bad off to the side. Or he'd watch it while Des was sleeping. And there I would sit, ten feet away on the couch, listening. Listening but not seeing. And dammit if I still didn't get sucked in. I'd be like, "Who's that talking now? Is that the brother-in-law?" "What just happened? I heard a gunshot!" "So wait, are those two women who are talking right now sisters?" And so on. To say this annoyed my husband is putting it lightly. Eventually he refused to respond because I was, in fact, being ridiculous.

But I continued on-and-off in listen-only mode for the show's first three seasons, which were all that was available through our streaming service in early 2012. (Random side note: I CANNOT BELIEVE Breaking Bad had a two-year overlap with LOST?!? That boggles my mind. I feel like the hype went mainstream this past year and was therefore stunned to learn the series had been on since 2008. (P.S. I'm right: scroll down to "Search Insights" on this page—the fandom didn't start heating up until October 2011, and the biggest push came this calendar year.))
My two favorite characters

When Season 4 arrived on streaming services (which was the same day the Season 5 premiere was going to air on AMC this summer), I still didn't give in. But once I started seeing all the crazy-excited Breaking Bad tweets in my feed again, I finally relented and started watching Season 4 a few episodes in alongside my husband, after Des was sleeping. We were simultaneously DVRing the current season to watch once we'd gotten through Season 4.

So I caught most of Season 4, am up-to-date on Season 5, and have been spending the last month getting through one or two episodes per night from the earlier seasons.

A funny story on that front: At the start of August I was watching the Season 1 finale late at night while Des was asleep and my husband was at Lollapalooza. All of a sudden I get this text from him: "I just met Jessie Pinkmen (sp?)"



Sadly he did not say Yo or Bitch to my husbandSo I text back asking for details, and it turns out that Aaron Paul (the Emmy award-winning actor who plays Jesse... and my #1 celeb crush these days) was at Lollapalooza with his fiancée and randomly came up to my husband (who was alone at that point) and asked him a question. My husband was so stunned that he was just like, "You're Jesse Pinkman!", and Aaron laughed and walked away. My husband intensely regrets not asking for a picture.

Since Jesse is my favorite character, to say I was green with envy, sitting alone in my pajamas on my recliner WATCHING Breaking Bad... while at the very same moment my husband was MEETING the guy who plays Jesse, is an understatement. But I digress.

So, I'm currently on episode 3 of Season 3. And I am just so, so ecstatic I started watching this show. For the first time in two years, I get excited for (and nervous about) an episode of TV. For the first time in two years, I'm talking about characters like they're real people. Meaning that Breaking Bad is the first show I've truly cared about since LOST, as different as the two series might be. I think the reason I feel this way, of course, is because the writing and acting are so excellent, and I care what happens to ALL of the characters more than the storyline (which was the case with LOST as well).

Is it dark? Sure, in parts. But not at all in the way I feared. I thought the whole thing was going to be about drugs and meth-heads and this dude dying of cancer. In reality it's about relationships, greed, ego, and so, so much more. (Like science! And magnets!) When there's violence that stems from drug-dealers/bad guys fighting with each other, I am not fazed (even though I usually cover my eyes at those points).

The three amigos
There are only two episodes so far that have troubled me: 1) Peekaboo (because it focused on a meth-addicted couple and their kid, though I guess in a way it had a "happy" ending), and 2) this season's Dead Freight, because of what happens in the final seconds. Maybe there will be something in the rest of Season 3/early Season 4 that shakes me to the bone, but I'm in too deep to stop now!

If you haven't gotten the gist of this post yet, it's that I highly recommend this series. If it's not your thing, you will know by the end of the second or third episode and then you've only spent a few hours of your life checking it out. And if, like me, you already know some of the major plot points and twists, it doesn't matter. I knew pretty much everything about the show from what I'd read of friends' comments online, and it didn't dampen my enjoyment of the series one bit. I wasn't SHOCKED by anything since I had heard what was going to happen, but was still on the edge of my seat all the same.


My third-favorite character
So here's what I think could happen in tomorrow night's mid-season finale, as well as the final 8 episodes next year. Along with what I WISH would happen. If you're one of the many people I know who's currently catching up on the series, you've been forewarned that there will be spoilers on Seasons 1 - 5 ahead!

It's probably easiest to just go through the main characters, huh?

Hank: For the record, I love Hank. And I want him to "win" in the end. And I always thought that the mid-season finale HAD to close with the audience seeing that the light bulb has finally gone off in Hank's mind. I envisioned this "Holy. Shit." look coming over his face... and then the end credits rolling.

But after thinking about it some more, as well as watching Season 3's Episode 2 (Caballo sin Nombre) last night, I'm not so sure. What happened in that Season 3 episode is that Walt was freaking out to Saul (yet another classic character—his "We The People" office is one of my favorite things) about how Skyler might go to the DEA. And Saul was like, "Your brother-in-law will look like the biggest idiot ever if you were right there under his nose the whole time." And he makes a good point.

So maybe Hank will never figure it out, and the moral of the story is that sometimes the bad guys win. Or maybe Hank WILL figure it out, but then instead of being the hero, he'll suffer the consequences of not having made the connection immediately over a year ago. Either way, I started to doubt that anything along these lines will happen tomorrow night, because we already know that a year from now, Walt is still being shady (and looking like he's preparing for a huge showdown) from the opening scene of Season 5. Walt was turning 52 in that scene (unless that part was just an act, but I doubt it), which is about a year from the present time... even though the first 4.5 seasons only spanned one year in total. Does it seem impossible to anyone else that Hank could figure out that Walt is Heisenberg RIGHT NOW and then have Walt still be around in a year?

I feel like this Heisenberg guy is just messing with me
All I know is that Hank better still be alive in the series finale. They already killed off my second-favorite character last week. Which, on a related note, everyone saw coming from a mile away, right? Didn't make it any less gut-wrenching, though. (On the "talking about characters like they're real people" front, I found myself begging a friend to agree with me that Mike's granddaughter would still end up getting the money he left for her. My friend disagreed. Boo.)

I do fear that Walt will end up killing Hank if he finds out that the DEA is on to him, though. I really, really, REALLY hope that doesn't happen. If the showdown Walt's preparing for in the flashforward is in fact with the DEA, then I'm sure at least some of Hank's friends (like "Gomie") are going to go down, even if Hank survives.

Skyler: I've been shocked by how much Skyler Hate is out there. Granted, I'm missing a HUGE piece of her backstory right now since I haven't watched Season 3. But still, especially after that fantastic but scary-as-hell scene between her and Walt earlier this season where he's like, "What exactly are you going to do?" and then he was shooting down all of her schemes, I don't know how anyone could side with Walt. Or not be scared for Skyler and the kids.

Green beans make everything more awkwardSince she and Jesse finally had some scenes together this season, and since they shot each other a really weird look at the car wash in the last episode, my hope is that they eventually work together to bring down Walt. Whether or not they involve Hank is anyone's guess—they probably wouldn't. But I think if Jesse ever realizes how much Walt has manipulated him, he might find a friend in Skyler.

Finally, I do not think she'll die by the end of the series.

Jesse: Will Jesse ever find out what Walt did to Brock... or Mike? He never found out that Walt let Jane die, so maybe Jesse will always remain in the dark about everything, and therefore will always give Walt the benefit of the doubt, and that will be his ultimate downfall. I certainly don't think that—even with as maniacal as he's become—Walt would ever kill Jesse. What's been interesting to me as I watched the end of Season 2 this past week is how much Walt has gone out of his way to save Jesse in the past. Which reminds me, I did forget about another troubling scene: When Walt goes in to the crack-house place (while Mike waits in the car, shortly after he was first introduced on the series) to find Jesse and then takes him to rehab after Jane's death. Would Walt do something like that for Jesse today? I actually think he still would. I can't explain it.

Dont worry Jesse, Jane will star on a great sitcom in the future!
This might just be my personal hopes coming through, but I really don't believe they'll kill Jesse off, ever. Especially since the show's creators had actually planned to kill him at the end of Season 1, but then realized how great the dynamic between Jesse and Walt was. I mean, can any of you imagine the show without Jesse? To me, the show is about Walt and Jesse's relationship just as much as it is about Walt's descent into ego-driven drug-kingpin evil.

So my guess for Jesse is that he will get indisputable proof that Walt has screwed with him or was responsible for Brock's poisoning and/or Mike's death, and that will be the final straw. Jesse will get in touch with Skyler and she'll be the brains behind Walt's take-down, which may or may not have to do with the flashforward scene where Walt's got a trunk full of weapons.

Walt: I encourage you to watch the series premiere again at some point before the final 8 episodes air next year. Walt was such a huge, dorky goof in the first season. And he really did have the best of intentions. But I don't think there will be a happy ending for him in any way, shape, or form. He already seems to not care about his family anymore at all, which was the entire reason he started cooking meth in the first place. For him to refuse to admit the danger he's put his children in is beyond idiotic. And in last week's episode, specifically during its final heartbreaking moments, Walt showed major signs of cracking. As poor Mike's bleeding out, Walt has a conversation with himself, totally distraught, as he realizes aloud he "could've gotten the names from Lydia." The man is starting to lose it.

I should build a meth AND chicken empire, just like GusAnother example of this is how he made that kid Todd his apprentice. Who else thinks that Todd is MUCH smarter than he's letting on? The guy is freakin' writing down notes about how to make the Heisenberg Special, for God's sake. Once he learns the method, why would he need old man Walt around anymore?

But once again, we KNOW Walt is still kickin' a year from now, so perhaps Todd is going to be yet another person who suffers after eventually trying to cross Walt. Or maybe he'll be there by Walt's side in the finale. No idea.

If I was forced to guess, I'd guess Walt WILL die by the series finale. No jail, no trial, he's just gonna die. The great irony would be if it was because his cancer came back rather than any of his meth-related dealings, but I don't think that'll be the case. He's got a full head of hair back in the flashforward. While I don't think Walt would ever kill Jesse, I DO think Jesse could possibly be driven to kill Walt if he found out about Brock or Mike.

Unlike LOST, Breaking Bad isn't the kind of show where you can really come up with outlandish predictions and theories that actually might play out. I don't feel like I've written anything above that most fans haven't thought as well. We're talking about who's going to survive and who's going to die and whether or not Walt will ever be caught, and that's about it. Having said that, I would LOVE to hear any of your spoiler-free theories (are there spoilers out there for this show, even? I don't know, but if there are, please be cool and don't post them here) in the comments section. And yes, I'll probably post about Breaking Bad again at some point after tomorrow night's mid-season finale. ENJOY IT!

By the way, did you guys know there's a REAL Walter While who cooks meth and is on the run in Alabama right now? Whoa.

I guess I better try to end this on a lighter note. Fellow Jesse/Aaron Paul fans, CLICK HERE!

- e

Is it Sunday yet?