Breaking Bad just ended its fourth season with an explosive finale – I am going to avoid mentioning any of the events that occurred so this will stay spoiler free – I just want to talk about how mad it made me. Being an avid fan of the show, I had high expectations for this season, but feared that it would not be able to live up to the standard set by the first three. What made me angry though, is how truly awesome this season’s episodes have been and how I now have to wait until next year for more. But that is not all – Breaking Bad’s qualities remind me of what disappoints so much about other TV shows: Vince Gilligan (the creator and primary writer) credits his characters with such intelligence and will never take an easy way out to maintain the status quo to prolong the life expectancy of the series.
In a previous piece, the schedule was such that it led to a comparison of Breaking Bad and Entourage – this time the show I watched immediately prior was Dexter – again it is an uneven matchup between the two. The Showtime series about a serial killer was fantastic to watch in the first season, but success was, in the end, its downfall. Since it became popular, the creators and network understandably want to prolong the run of the show – but this results in never changing the formula and taking no risks with character or plot development. The supporting cast in Dexter are only there to give some respite to Michael C. Hall in his portrayal of the title anti-hero – in Breaking Bad, those who first appeared to be light relief end up being complex characters and major players in the storyline (such as Hank or Saul).
If you examine the synopsis of the series without seeing any episodes, you would expect Bryan Cranston’s Walter White to be a more likeable character than Hall’s Dexter: the former, a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer starts cooking meth to provide for his family before his inevitable death; the latter, a serial killer who kills other serial killers. But the writers go out of their way to make Dexter someone the audience can get behind, whereas there are no such considerations for the protagonist in Breaking Bad. We all know what Walter has done and at this point he is a fairly unscrupulous guy, yet somehow we’re still rooting for him.
So, Breaking Bad has got me mad, for being so damn good – and soon it will end forever- which is how it should be, but why can’t other shows match its standards? Why has the only series that is better – The Wire, of course – also ended and thus I have no new episodes to anticipate? I have to accept the timely end of these shows- as they peak. If they petered out, like so many once-great shows (can you say The West Wing or 24), or if there was talk of a movie, or a new season (a la Arrested Development) their integrity would be compromised. Breaking Bad is so well written, well acted, superbly scored and keeps me guessing in all the right ways – I’m already missing it.