Breaking Bad #505 - "Dead Freight"

I hope you weren't watching the closing ceremonies of the Olympics last night instead of episode 5 of Breaking Bad, because you guys, I need to talk about that episode. But I will be nice to the stragglers and put all the spoilers after the jump.

First: I found this piece Emily Nussbaum wrote for New York magazine (where she was the TV critic before her current gig at the New Yorker) about catching up on the first three seasons of Breaking Bad in a week to get ready for season 4. I found it highly relatable, since I watched the show the same way -- and I've been watching a number of shows this way, detached from their original airing schedule, since my kid came along last year. There is much about Breaking Bad that feels more like a movie than a TV show -- production values, but also continuity of images and plot and character and timeline -- and so, as Nussbaum says, it lends itself to viewing in big chunks. (Too many episodes in a row would probably make me an emotional wreck, though, so proceed with caution if you're thinking of a Breaking Bad binge.) I already can't wait to watch it again.

But in the past year my husband and I have also worked our way through The Wire, Men of a Certain Age, and Deadwood, and it is nice to experience a show as a completed project. (Even if, as I've been warned in the case of Deadwood, that project doesn't come to a satisfying wrap-up). We're free from the worry and stress that comes with getting attached to a show while it's still "live" -- we don't have to wonder how many seasons the network will let it go on. We don't have to watch it dwindle, like The Office, and wonder each week if it's still worth watching. We don't have to be afraid the network will pull the rug out from under it, like with Arrested Development or Community. And we don't have to endure the long waits between seasons that are standard for cable dramas. It's just there, in a box set, ready for us to watch or not watch as we please.

The down side to this approach is that it's harder to find people to talk about the show with as you watch. (Boy, season two of The Wire kind of stank, didn't it?... What do you mean you can't remember what you thought about it nine years ago? I'm ready to discuss it now.) And, of course, as Nussbaum says, " if everyone watched this way, no great series would make it past the first season." So someone will have to keep risking heartbreak, I suppose.

And now on to this week's Breaking Bad, because nothing stops this train (ha ha ha ha):

Holy cow. That ending. I think it wiped my memory of any other things that came up earlier in the episode I might have wanted to discuss, so please remind me what I'm forgetting. I am still marveling at the emotional abuse I took in the last few minutes of that episode, rooting for the heist to come off; gasping at Walt's ever more blatant disregard for the lives of others when his ego is on the line; celebrating when, despite Walt's awfulness, the plan succeeded -- and with nobody hurt! And then: a sucker punch to remind us that the guys we're rooting for are well and truly bad guys. Little boys on bikes are like swimming pools on this show: they betoken ill. By the way, this "two-screen experience" AMC keeps wanting me to try out: what is that all about? Why would I want to look at a different screen while Breaking Bad is on the TV? This is not a show I want to be distracted from.

Mollie Wilson O'Reilly is editor-at-large and columnist at Commonweal.

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