I’m pretty late to the Breaking Bad bandwagon; so late, in fact, that I only just started watching it last weekend (We got a late start on Mad Men too, in case you didn’t see. Don’t blame us; we do things at our own pace here at Raked). Back when the first season aired, I caught a bit of the second episode, but for some reason it didn’t resonate with me and I never returned to it. I follow the cultural TV zeitgeist, though, so I’ve heard how great the show is supposed to be, and I’ve heard about plenty of plot spoilers along the way. During some downtime this weekend, I figured that I would watch a couple of episodes and see what all the fuss is about.
And yes, the show is good. Really good. I spent basically all of Sunday watching the first season, and tacked on two more episodes from the start of the second season the next day. The acting is great and there’s a fair bit more action so far than I had expected. I’m no cinematographer; in fact, I don’t think I have much of an eye for visual design at all in general, but the show so far has done some interesting visual montages that I keep thinking back on. One that stands out in my mind is the montage of Jesse and Badger cooking meth in the RV out in the desert. There are a couple of other instances of this, and I find them all delightfully welcome surprises, especially since it seems to me like the rest of the show is shot in a fairly straightforward way (then again, I could be completely wrong; like I said, I don’t think I have much of an eye for design, nor do I have the kind of visual understanding or vocabulary that can really help me express what I’m seeing).
But I’ve got to say, as much as I’ve enjoyed the show so far, marathoning it is draining in a way completely unlike any other show I’ve marathoned before. In the past, I could (and did) watch several episodes of Lost, Mad Men, and Battlestar Galactica every night for weeks without getting worn down, but after my extended viewing Sunday through Monday, I feel emotionally worn out. The existential dread that Walt carries around with him is depressing. The fact that each episode seems to pick right up after the last one left off only seems to drive home the fact that every moment is absolutely important because there could be so few of them left. I’d also imagine this worn out feeling I have has something to do with the fact that I know, in a general sense, how this story is probably going to end. This is not a tale of a man’s descent into corruption but eventual redemption. It’s the story of a man being liberated by his supposedly terminal diagnosis, but not in a hackneyed way that allows him to appreciate the beauty in sunsets and blades of grass; his cancer and his bitterness in an unfulfilled life have liberated him from having to care at all about anyone else’s feelings. We are watching a man become a monster, one slow, compromised moral step at a time. It’s fascinating and horrifying all at the same time.
The last episode I watched on Monday was Season 2, Episode 3 “Bit By a Dead Bee.” Walt and Jesse have narrowly escaped death at Tuco’s hands. Near the end of the episode, an exhausted Jesse calls Walt to inform him that the DEA suspects nothing. Walt immediately instructs Jesse to get ready to make another batch of meth.
“You still want to cook? Seriously?” says Jesse, incredulously.
“What’s changed, Jesse?” Walt replies, in a flat, dull voice that gave me chills.
I like this show, but after that line, I may be watching it a slower pace than before.