It’s coming along, guys. And by “it,” I mean my affinity for and loyalty to Breaking Bad. I’m a slow convert to the Heisenberg religion, whereas I feel most people feel the spirit almost instantly, but it’s all becoming clear now. Okay, enough with the bullshit religious imagery.
I think this season might be my Turning Point Season, though it’s hard to pinpoint a moment as the actual Turning Point. Many shows take their time in establishing a pace, so much so that skeptical viewers need to be reminded and cajoled to stick it out for the reward on the “other side.” Think about The Wire, probably the most notorious example of this phenomenon. I agree that it’s a weakness, that the show doesn’t hook you from the get-go, but I also think that viewers need to recognize that not every episode of a show is perfect, nor should we expect it to be. It’s all one big, rolling experiment. Another example of this is Parks and Recreation, wholly mediocre until Season 2 premiered and we all started laughing. So it goes.
Breaking Bad has been slow for me because, for some reason, I haven’t felt particularly compelled to care about any of these characters. Yes, the situation at hand is sad and desperate, but it seemed at once mundane and minuscule. This season, however, Walter White’s reach extends beyond that of his immediate family. He begins to develop into the drug lord I know he’ll become (because the internet exists and it’s impossible to avoid spoilers) and his selfish actions affect more people than he can even comprehend–the addicts, the pushers, the poor, the defenseless. You know, now that I’m writing this out, I think I can identify it. It’s when Walt realizes that he’s responsible for Hank landing in the hospital. Both Bryan Cranston and Dean Norris get the chance to display very layered emotions this season, because they’re both harboring so much stress, and it manifests very scarily in the both of them. I don’t know what’s coming with regards to their confrontation, but I can only imagine it’ll be incredible and electric and toxic, all at the same time. Speaking of confrontations, let me give Gus a shout-out real right quick. Giancarlo Esposito does something creepy, stoic, and mysterious with his face that I cannot place, but it is downright terrifying. I almost don’t want to know what happens (even though I know what happens) between him and Walt next season. Walt needs to start making some friends, amirite?
On the lady front, I feel like both Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Marie (Betsy Brandt) have gotten the chance to act more this season, too. Skyler’s banging her silver fox boss, Marie is coping with the fact that her husband is more volatile than he already seemed, and both of them display a lot more strength than we’ve been able to give them credit for previously. Perhaps Breaking Bad‘s slug-like pace is actually its saviour when it comes to character development, then, since it’s always so bothersome when characters exhibit mutable personality quirks willy-nilly. A real person takes a long time to establish new habits and build confidence, and both Skyler and Marie are on this realistic track.
Of course, not all of this show is realistic. Most of it isn’t. (Or maybe it is, I’m not familiar with the New Mexico crystal meth trade.) I’d imagine many people would consider the final scene of “Half Measures” to be their favorite, or Turning Point, or what have you. It’s when Walt shoots Gus’ minions for Jesse, then tells him to RUN. I didn’t write “spoiler alert” just then because that moment was spoiled for me a few years ago, and I still was genuinely slack-jaw surprised, so suck it up. But as insane as this moment was, it didn’t quite affect me like I felt it should have, because it marked the moment when Shit Got Cinematic. Shit had been cinematic before, literally, with all of the symbolic framing and fly-on-the-wall-subtly-shaky-camera moves this season. It’s been brilliant, actually, to see how the directors of each episode choose to tell these stories; most of the time the style is effortless and understated, like they’re in the room not trying too hard to show off because they don’t want to get caught by some crazy guy with a machine gun. But watching Walt flip to the dark side with one gunshot was basically something out of a Tarantino movie. Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator, clearly wanted to display that he’s got greater ambitions for his series and for Walt. But I still couldn’t believe that a chemistry teacher would do that. Maybe I’m a… cynic?
I’m still excited for Season 4, and genuinely so. I don’t feel obligated by pop culture to watch this show anymore–I feel compelled. Mostly because I’m mesmerized anytime Aaron Paul comes on the screen and punctuates his sentences with “Bitch!” but I guess I can settle for a thrilling plot twist or two, too.