I tried to watch Breaking Bad three separate times.
The first time, I got through the first episode. I hated every character in it – they were all annoying and obnoxious, with absolutely no dimension that I found appealing.
The second time, I watched the first two episodes. There was some promise which devolved into a Hydrochloric Acid-fueled Tom and Jerry episode, so I stopped again.
The third time, I made myself watch the entire series. The show had just ended, and I thought that maybe if I could watch it all in a row, I would see why everyone loved it so much.
I just (ten minutes ago) finished the series finale for Breaking Bad. If you haven’t watched it, don’t worry. I won’t spoil anything, but it won’t matter, because the entire series is completely predictable.
I like good television. I revel in smart writing, and clever plot twists that require the audience to remain transfixed to their television so as not to miss a thing. The highest quality shows can display emotion and plot development without a word being said. I’m also highly critical of television, because I despise shows that pander to an audience, that treat the viewing public as if they’re stupid, that need to hammer everything home with force and the subtlety of a nuclear explosion. But I also enjoy shows that are popular – I never dislike something just because everyone else in the world enjoys it. I just don’t listen to anyone else’s opinion while I form my own about any show, no matter how high the praise is from the public at large. And after watching 62 episodes, I have formed my own opinion.
Breaking Bad was not that good.
It is certainly not, as it’s been called by many, many people, one of the greatest television series of all time, nor one of the best-written television series of all time.
It is better than most shows on television, today and in the past, and that’s a good accomplishment, even though so many shows are utter crap. It was fun to watch, and enjoyable after I got through the interminable first season, but it wasn’t compelling. It wasn’t interesting enough to keep me glued to my set, waiting for the next episode.
Breaking Bad was predictable. Every moment was telegraphed blatantly, and good writing was eschewed in favor of ridiculously heavy-handed symbolism. Forget subtlety – even the stupidest audience member would be able to follow along with the simple, paint-by-numbers plot machinations. There were very few surprises, too much reliance on deus ex machina, and a staggering amount of coincidences.
The characters were, for the most part, two-dimensional, with almost no character development until the final season, which was too little, too late. The final season, with a quality that was well above and beyond the previous four seasons, had no substance beyond a mandate to finish the storyline and wrap everything up, following a linear plot that basically had stepping stones set along its path.
Breaking Bad suffered from a multiple personality disorder. Was it cartoony? Was it realistic? Was it gritty? Was it emotionally charged? Who the hell knows? Certainly not the creator or the writers. At times, I felt like I was watching an episode of Malcolm In The Middle – you know, the one where Hal did something stupid and was running around trying to fix it before his family came home, and then the tone would shift in mid-episode to something that bore a pale resemblance to the serious worldliness of The Wire.
I never cared about the characters. Let them live or die, and it wouldn’t matter. No single character had the anti-hero feel of Omar from The Wire or Alice Morgan from Luther. No death had the emotional resonance of Joyce Summers in Buffy The Vampire Slayer or Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos, or Lane Pryce in Mad Men. No single character showed even a semblance of the range of emotion that Martin Freeman’s John Watson demonstrated in the season three finale of Sherlock. And, even worse, the show suffered from a misogyny that surprised me. With the exception of Andrea Cantillo, every single woman was written as paranoid, bitchy, insane, manipulative, twisted, or otherwise as an annoying, hateful character.
Those reading this post may assume I deplored Breaking Bad. I did not. I would rather watch the entire series again than even watch one episode of terrible shows like Big Bang Theory or Gossip Girl, or recent seasons of True Blood or Dexter, or any show with a laugh track, or any reality show. I enjoyed the series, mostly. I wouldn’t rank it on my top 5, or even top 10, but it’s certainly a relatively decently crafted story with a good plot. My purpose in writing my review of the series isn’t to talk about hating it, but just to cut through the hyperbole and ridiculous proclamations of everyone claiming that it’s the best series ever.
It’s not. It’s not even close. It’s flawed and amateurish, but a good effort from someone who wrote some of the best episodes of X-Files that ever aired. And I hope that Vince Gilligan’s next effort improves on this one, because something he creates does have the potential to become the best. Someday.