When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better. – Vast Wasteland Speech
Not since The Sopranos have I ever been so emotionally sucked into a Television show the way I have been with Breaking Bad. And I’m just starting with the second season. Chuck Klosterman writes in an article that out of what’s arguably the four best Tv shows of the past decade — The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad — Breaking Bad is the best of the four. I don’t know if I could make that call, or if I even dare to. As he explains in the review if you “try to suggest that one of these shows is somehow better than the other three. Then it becomes a fucking bloodbath.”
And again, I just started watching the series. I also haven’t seen The Wire. When The Wire debuted at HBO, I thought it was just another police procedural but with profanity. The Sopranos was an intense roller coaster. There has never been something so compelling to watch. And Mad Men has been nothing short of inspiring. But Breaking Bad is scarily good. The four shows deal with moral complexities. They deal with the so called gray areas. In the four shows we kinda root for the bad guys. But with Breaking Bad we really root for the bad guy. A guy on the verge of evil. Klosterman’s take:
“Breaking Bad is not a situation in which the characters’ morality is static or contradictory or colored by the time frame; instead, it suggests that morality is continually a personal choice. When the show began, that didn’t seem to be the case: It seemed like this was going to be the story of a man (Walter White, portrayed by Bryan Cranston) forced to become a criminal because he was dying of cancer. That’s the elevator pitch. But that’s completely unrelated to what the show has become. The central question on Breaking Bad is this: What makes a man “bad” — his actions, his motives, or his conscious decision to be a bad person? Judging from the trajectory of its first three seasons, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan believes the answer is option No. 3. So what we see in Breaking Bad is a person who started as one type of human and decides to become something different. And because this is television — because we were introduced to this man in a way that made him impossible to dislike, and because we experience TV through whichever character we understand the most — the audience is placed in the curious position of continuing to root for an individual who’s no longer good. And this is not a case like J.R. Ewing or Al Swearengen, where a character’s over-the-top evilness immediately defined his charm; this is a series in which the main character has actively become evil, but we still want him to succeed. At this point, Walter White could do anything and I would continue to support his cause. In fact, his evolution has been so deft that I feel weird describing his persona as “evil,” even though I can’t justify why it would be incorrect to do so.”
So do yourself a favor if you have Netflix. Queue up Season 1 episode 1 and thank me later.