Breaking Bad is over. It’s finished. It’s completed. Its long and glorious run is over. I couldn’t be more happy with how everything turned out. Oh, sure. There are minor narrative threads left dangling like Gustavo Fring’s past in Chile and what ultimately happens to the tormented soul that is Jesse Pinkman, but the last half of season five of Breaking Bad is a big ass bottle of ‘Holy Fuck’. Never let it be said that Vince Gilligan is anything less than a master craftsman. His sense of narrative structure is impeccable. The show from top to bottom is a master class in storytelling.
Strangely enough the elements that impressed me the most out of the five seasons worth of material that Gilligan, Cranston, Paul and company generated was the meticulous attention to detail. I’m originally from the southwest. Arizona, specifically. In Arizona meth is a huge problem. I had whole swaths of friends that would dissapear for months at at time, and when they’d turn up again, they’d look ten years older. Meth, man. Meth. I had friends set their lives on fire with meth. Drugs in general run rampant in the southwest. In Arizona there’s really only two things to do to have fun 1) do drugs or 2) get pregnant.
Write What You Know (How Many Teenage Meth Head Friends Do You Have, Vince Gilligan?)
In Breaking Bad the teenagers talk like teenagers, the meth heads talk like meth heads. I know this seems like a pretty self explanatory thing, but it’s really not. There’s nothing worse than having a character who is supposed to be a teenage party monster being written by a forty something white guy who hasn’t been to a party in over two decades. I don’t know if Gilligan and co had ‘youth consultants’ or if they lurked on chatrooms but the speech patterns of the drugged out kids in the show is shockingly accurate.
I relate deeply with both Walter White and Jesse Pinkman. Unfortunately they’re perfect synecdoche for the most undesireable aspects of my personality. Walter White is an overly intellectual chemist who sacrifices everything he stands for in order to help his family. He compromises his morals in order to gain financial independence for his family. Now, I’m not saying I’ve ever been in a position to start a drug empire, but I’ve definitely made poor decisions out of a desire to ‘further a greater goal’. That is to say, while Walter White killed people and sold meth to babies I kept thinking, ‘fuck, that’s me’. I’ve never done anything even remotely as terrible as Walter White but, because of the surrounding ephemeral details, I felt that I could and that didn’t scare me. Which of course scared me. I relate to Jesse Pinkman, not necessarily through my own actions, but through people I’ve known. I knew a girl who took every single oppurtunity to fuck up. Any possible way she could make a situation turn out poorly for herself, she would. Self sabotage through self imposed ignorance. Every time that Jesse attempts to rise above a conflict or get things to workout for himself he fails. That’s just his lot in life. He’s built to fail. I’ve known a few people like that, and it’s the most emotionally taxing thing I’ve ever dealt with. The entire time I knew this person all I wanted to do was help her. I wanted her to succeed. I wanted her to rise above and have a happy ending. But I guess some people are just set up to live out a tragedy, no matter how badly they want a happy ending.
Take Things By The Teeth
Breaking Bad has obviously had a massive cultural impact. It’s on everyone’s lips. It’s the talk of the town. The phrase ‘I am the one who knocks’ is on t-shirts, for christ’s sake. Breaking Bad has done more to hopefully show young people the evils of meth than a thousand ‘Not Even Once’ ads. Let’s hope they’re listening. let’s hope that people aren’t just wrapped up in the glamor of the decent.
Breaking Bad has helped me analyze myself as a person. I went into it expecting to watch a teacher transform from Ms Frizzle to Scarface and I left with a slightly deeper understanding of my own flaws and imperfections. Watching Aaron Paul weep struck a deeply rooted chord with me. I haven’t felt such a kinship with an actor ever. I mean that literally. Over the course of the last season of Breaking Bad Jesse Pinkman is forced to endure unspeakable horrors. By the end of it his face is disfigured, his eyes are swollen from crying for a year straight, and his body is irreparably damaged. I’ve experience pity for a character before. Where you just want to hold the character for a minute and reassure them that everything is going to be ok. But the sublime beauty with Jesse, and my friend, is that ultimately it won’t. There’s nothing anyone can do. They’re just build to fail. Built to be destroyed. Constructed to be deconstructed through their own poor decisions. They’re just not right in the head. I don’t mean that on a chemical imbalance level. I mean their cognitive abilities are warped. They just don’t perceive the same decision making pathways that you and I do. They can’t help it. They just don’t.
Breaking Bad is about so much more than meth. I don’t mean to sell it as just that. It’s about the emotional bonds that are severed when you lie. It’s about selfishness. It’s about meaning well and fucking things up, irreparably. It’s about confronting death. It’s about how money changes everything. It’s about how the road to hell is paved with the best of intentions. It’s about the future that you attempt to sell yourself. It’s about how the battle is lost the minute you start bargaining with yourself.