Idiot Box: All Bad Things Must Come To An End

Three Faces of Walter White
Three Faces of Walter White (images courtesy mattsoncreative.com)

So, tonight, one of TVs all-time greats goes out with a…bang? Well, I’m not sure – not many are, really. Only those closest to the production are privy to how this fantastic series will end it’s legendary run. With few, if any, unsatisfactory moments in the whole canon, I’m sure creator Vince Gilligan will not disappoint. Sure, there will always be the usual persnickety curmudgeons who’ll bicker about how upsetting any particular series finale is (I’m not guiltless – I hated the ending of “Lost”), but sometimes people are wrong (I was in the minority that the ending of “The Sopranos” was pure genius – and I was absolutely right).

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I came to “Breaking Bad” late. Critics, friends, my brother Sean, and co-workers were heralding it’s magnificence since it’s shortened first season (only seven of its prospective nine were completed due to the writer’s strike of 2008). Even after the tsunami of awards bestowed – including three straight Best Actor Emmys for Bryan Cranston and a Supporting Actor Emmy (only 1 at the time I started watching) for Aaron Paul – I still queued it on Netflix in my “To Watch” list.

Last summer, with the show heading into it’s final season, I decided to binge-watch (before binge-watching was a thing) seasons 1-4. One Saturday in July 2012, I gathered the necessities (mixed up some Diet Orange Soda Stream, grabbed a bag or two of kettle corn popcorn), and with remote in hand, I cued the first episode and decided to see for myself – four years later – what all the fuss was about.

What. The. Fuck.

From the very first few frames, I was transfixed. I sat spellbound for hours upon hours for two Saturdays and two Sundays. After a marathon landslide of jumbled, variegated emotions, I was spent – emotionally and physically – while simultaneously adrenalized, intoxicated, galvanzed – and with less than 24 hours to go before Season 5’s premiere, I was going through withdrawals.

The first few frames of S1 Ep1 of "Breaking Bad"
The first few frames of S1 Ep1 of “Breaking Bad”

Not very often in one’s lifetimes does one bear witness to one of the 10 greatest – and staggeringly remarkably acted – TV shows in the history of the medium. Hyperbole? Nope, not a scintilla.

The final season 5 would be split into two parts. A few weeks ago, the first of the concluding hours started airing, leading to tonight’s series finale.

“Series finale.” I could hear the collective plaintive wails already.

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To celebrate this classic drama, artist Scott Campbell was commissioned by Sony and Gallery 1988 to create a sorta historical pop culture reference of the show. Campbell created “Breaking Bad On The Mount.” While one can “bitch” (pun intended) about who and what are missing (for example, no Uncle Jack and his band of merry Neo-Nazis), or not appreciate the aesthetic of the piece (many of the characters don’t exactly look like the actors portraying them), I love it – it’s filled with reference and reverence, whimsy (which, I’d argue, even in the darkest hues of the show itself, was a part of it’s very DNA) and depth. It works – at any glance, you know who is who.

On last week’s episode of “Talking Bad,” the live, post-“Breaking Bad” after-show, host Chris Hardwick introduced the work, and a limited sale of 300 sold out almost immediately the next morning. (Click to enlarge.)

Breaking Bad On The Mount
Breaking Bad On The Mount

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I don’t want to wax philosophic about “Breaking Bad,” and I will surely not be so naive as to think this brain can explain every minute detail or nuance of it’s many multilayered arcs, twists and turns – I’m just not that smart. Besides, infinitely more brilliant minds than mine have dissected every episode for the past 5 years, and will continue to do so, and smarter folks than I are sure to give their own parting, illuminating, astute observations and reminisces.

All I can muster is a nostalgic, saturnine “Goodbye…and thank you…” I don’t regret waiting years to start watching. In fact, removed from the hype, I was able to appreciate on a far more earnest level the complexities and brilliance of the show.

But it doesn’t make the ending any less harder to take.

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