Gearing up for the end of 'Breaking Bad'
All you Breaking Bad obsessives are surely aware that this Sunday is the beginning of the end: eight more episodes to finish off the tale of Walter White.
We ended last season (or what the folks at AMC would call the first half of this season) with Hank having finally uncovered Walt's secret. And we began that season with a glimpse of where Walt will be a year hence, celebrating his fifty-second birthday en route from New Hampshire to Alberquerque (or so it would seem) with a trunk full of major firepower. How we get from here to there, and what comes next, are questions I've been mulling over all year, so I am very very keyed up for this Sunday night. And I hope you'll come here to talk it all over, like we did last summer (that series of posts begins here).
To prepare ourselves, some recommended reading.
First, I loved this essay by James Parker in the Atlantic. He captures so much of what makes Breaking Bad so very good, and he is particularly insightful with regard to the relationship between Jesse and Walter. The magazine teases the essay with a question about how the series might (or must?) end, but to me the predictions are the least interesting part of what I've been reading. I'm much more interested in the analysis of what we've seen so far.
In that vein, I also highly recommend this piece from the New York Times by A. O. Scott. He focuses on what the show has revealed about its main character, Walter White:
The sides of his personality — sociopath and family man, scientist and killer, rational being and creature of impulse, entrepreneur and loser — are not necessarily as contradictory as we might have supposed.... Walter may have wanted us to believe — and may, at moments, have convinced himself — that he was a decent man driven by desperate circumstances to do terrible things, but that notion was either wishful thinking or tactical deceit.
Scott does go off on what feels to me like a digression about meth and its place in contemporary American life and culture, especially since he is right that "the sociology of meth has never been the point of Breaking Bad." But I love his take on Walt as "a mighty empire builder out of an Ayn Rand novel, biding his time amid the weaklings and plotting his revenge." The main difference being that, if Breaking Bad were an Ayn Rand joint, you'd be meant to feel good about rooting the Walter White.
Those essays are worth reading for longtime fans and newcomers alike. (If you still haven't seen the show, AMC is running the last few seasons marathon-style starting Friday. I can't say I recommend cramming, though — I wouldn't want to be responsible for what watching all that Breaking Bad in such a short time might do to your blood pressure.)
For those who are caught up but could use a quick refresher, take nine minutes to watch this very funny video recap of the first four-and-a-half seasons.
Or you might enjoy this adaptation of Breaking Bad as a musical performed by middle-schoolers (I liked Gus and his singing chickens best of all).
Other recommendations? Predictions, hopes, fears for these final episodes? Leave them in the comments. And See you back here at dotCommonweal after Sunday's premiere!
About the Author
Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is an editor at large and columnist at Commonweal.