"Besides cats and porn, most of the Internet is taken up by advice for writers."—Junot Diaz at the Brooklyn Public Library
It helps to inspire the many writers that don’t write or creatives that don’t create.
I’ve been thinking a lot about last night’s “Breaking Bad” series finale; what follows are some thoughts and impressions about justice and the moral universe of the show.
Spoilers abound, so click at your own risk.
Part of the issue is the finality of the series ending. Had Walt lived then there’s likely a great section of the audience that would have wanted him to continue being Heisenberg. There would always be that question of “what’s next?” Instead, Walt died on his own terms which bring the consequences on him versus everyone else in his world rather small. Then that becomes the writer’s problem—does Walt get apprehended before his death going with the notion that “justice prevails!” or does he live leaving the audience without that sense of finality?
Breaking Bad had a good ending, but perhaps not a great one.
Raise your hand if you don’t know what you don’t like, but you know you don’t like anything with the word “Obama” in it.
With only one episode of “Breaking Bad” left, I’ve been reflecting a lot on this stunning half-season. For the longest time, I told people that I didn’t know how the show would end because I didn’t know anything about the morality of Vince Gilligan’s universe. But I have the sense that we know now.
First of all, “Breaking Bad” is phenomenal television. I can’t remember ever watching tv and feeling the way I’ve felt for the past few weeks. My pulse is racing; my mouth is hanging open; I’m feeling anxious; I stand up and walk around, clenching and unclenching my hands; I can’t go to sleep afterward.
These final episodes are very difficult to watch. I very much doubt I’ll ever watch them again. I’m horrified by the way the story has unfolded, by the brokenness of the characters’ world and the unfairness of the violence.
And, as I said to one of my students this morning, I feel like we deserve it.
For all the times, early on, that we rooted for Walt and Jesse; for all the times we didn’t root for Hank or we bad-mouthed Skyler; for the people who made or bought Heisenberg t-shirts because they appreciated Walt’s swagger when he adopted that persona … now we’re being shown the consequences of the choices we made. We never really saw the human costs of Heisenberg’s criminal enterprise, beyond its effect on drug dealers. There aren’t extended scenes of kids smoking meth or anything like that. But now the chickens have all come home to roost in a way that’s just unrelenting, culminating — for me — in the perfectly callous murder of an absolutely innocent person.
You ought never to root for the guy who breaks bad; if you do, the past three episodes show you what you’ve really been rooting for.
Yet, anti-hero dramas such as Breaking Bad serve as a great rebuke to classic tales of the White Knight. The show goes to an extreme, but for the longest time, we were (and are) told to be purely good. Shades of darkness and self-realization have a place—part of the show’s approach seems to be answering the question “What happens when you decide to stop being good?” Embracing the classic images of “good” work in 50s themed sitcoms, but doing it in reality or even in drama can become a point of frustration. Look at Jack from Lost, though he had issues for many purposes he was the White Knight. His archetypal good guy qualities seemed grating to many viewers. Part of the beauty of anti-hero dramas is not only being able to see the consequences of “breaking bad” as Professor Kohen mentions, but also the ability to see in and seek the gray. Many people now find that Walter White isn’t the cool good-guy-gone-bad anymore, he’s terrible. However, there’s a lack of desire of the Jack Shephard good guy type. We prefer the grayness that reality brings.