Monday, 14 October 2013

Breaking Bad, you broke me good... and I'll miss you, so much...

*This post contains MAJOR spoilers regarding Breaking Bad, so, if you haven't yet watched it, and you want to, probably best not to read this...* 

Walter White, in the place he used to call home...

I don't even know where to begin writing this. I mean, I've watched some pretty decent TV shows in my time, but never one that has left me so emotionally drained as Breaking Bad. I actually watched the final few episodes last Friday, hoping that the weekend would give me some time to get over it all - well, that was never gonna work, really, was it? And this morning I sat and binge-watched the final few episodes all over again until I was nothing more than a gibbering wreck in the corner, still unable to accept that Walter and Jesse are gone. For the past five weeks I have spent every single night (bar two, that's all - just two) watching this outstanding piece of television, and now that it isn't there anymore, it's like I've got this huge, empty hole inside of me that just can't be filled. Not yet, it's just too soon, so even though my hubby decided we should start on Dexter last night, well, I'm trying, okay? But nothing can make me shake those post-Breaking Bad blues just yet. I need a bit more time.

Yeah. I needed a few of those during the finale, too...
Anyway, it is over, whether I like it or not, until I start watching it from the very beginning again, which I will do, because I'm a sad, obsessed super-fan so deal with it... sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. It's over. My Breaking Bad journey has come to an end, but, what did I really think about those final few episodes? Okay. Where do I start...? First of all, I have to mention the absolutely shattering Ozymandias - Hank's death, Walt's life finally crumbling down around him in the most shocking of ways... it was an absolutely exhausting, heartbreaking episode. And when poor Walt "Flynn" Jr. finally did find out the truth - it was draining! That poor, poor kid! He had it all dumped on him in a matter of minutes! I could have cried for him! But I hadn't started on the vodka at that point in our Breaking Bad finale evening so I was still relatively stable during this episode. 

Flynn finally learns the truth...
Not so much for the final two, though. Granite State saw Walt hiding out in a cabin in New Hampshire putting together his plan of action that would play out in Felina, and all I can say to Bryan Cranston is, what a man!! His portrayal of Walter White from mild-mannered chemistry teacher to ruthless drug kingpin with a scary-sized ego has been nothing short of incredible. For most of Breaking Bad I grew to love Walter; even when he was doing things I knew he really shouldn't be, I liked him. He was slowly turning into a bad guy, but you couldn't help feeling for him, because he was doing it all for the family, wasn't he? He had good motives at the heart of it all, and Cranston played Walter so well that you couldn't help but feel sympathy for him at times. Yes, there were also times when I felt a little uncomfortable with his actions, and when the manipulation of Jesse started to become more obvious I could start to feel my sympathy waning slightly. Then he shot Mike and I was kinda done with Walter. But during Granite State, when he was in that small and lonely cabin, hooked up to his chemotherapy, begging that "relocation" bloke to stay just another couple of hours, telling him he'd pay him an extra $10,000 if he'd do so... I actually felt my heart break for him. All that sympathy I'd once had for Walt came flooding back, I couldn't help it. But then I remembered the harsh and callous, downright nasty way he'd told Jesse how he'd stood and watched Jane die even though he could have saved her, and that sympathy subsided slightly. But, any actor who can make you feel sympathy for a character who has done the things Walter White has done, he needs to be congratulated for that. 

So, we knew his plan was to gun down Uncle Jack and the rest of his mad-eyed Nazi brigade, but not without saying a final goodbye to Skyler first, who I have truly grown to love throughout this show. Was never keen on her character to begin with, but the way in which Anna Gunn has portrayed her has been brilliant. Of course, it's during this final visit that Walter finally admits just why he really did everything he did - "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really... I was alive." Drew a bit of a gasp from me that did. But he was only confirming what most of us had probably suspected all along - his eventual selfishness. Because I'm still holding onto the hope that, in the beginning, he really had set out to do it all for his family. It was just that his ego got in the way.

Saying goodbye to Skyler.
Meanwhile, poor Jesse is being held captive by the mad-eyed mob, being forced to cook meth because Todd is nowt short of useless at it, and when he does manage to escape from the cage they've got him shackled in, they catch him and force him to watch the aforementioned Todd shoot Andrea in the back of the head! Could they possibly have put that poor guy through much more? By that point I was almost praying for this all to be over because I couldn't take much more of the emotional turmoil watching poor Jesse was putting me through. Aaron Paul has been a revelation to me during Breaking Bad. An outstanding actor in this role, he has played Jesse from the slightly annoying meth-head jerk to the tortured and battered soul that he became, and he's done it so well. So, so well. By the time we see him at the end of Felina he's practically unrecogniseable from the Jesse we met way back in Season 1. And it makes you realise just what a journey he and Walter have been through; what Walter White has put him through, what he's done to him. And it's sad and painful to watch, because their relationship had once been something quite special... or had it? Had Walter ever really cared about Jesse? Or was he always just someone for Walter to manipulate? I guess that will become a lot clearer during a second viewing.

But, as the final few scenes played out, and Walter finally made it to the Nazi clubhouse (after poisoning the lovely Lydia with ricin-laced Stevia... ), throwing himself on Jesse to save him from the hail of bullets that saw off that thoroughly vile group of people, was he doing that because, somewhere deep down inside, he still cared for Jesse? I want to think that was the case, I really do. I want to think there was still a little part of Walter that wanted to see Jesse happy and, God knows, if ever I've wanted a TV character to be happy it's Jesse Pinkman. Oh, and I almost cheered when he finished off that child-murdering piece of filth Todd with the shackles they'd kept him imprisoned with. A perfect end for a man who deserved no less. 

But the moment I think a lot of us - especially those who, like me, have come to love Jesse Pinkman - had been waiting for was when Walt told Jesse to shoot him. Jesse asks him to tell him that that's what he wants; he needs to hear Walt say it's what he wants. And when he does, Jesse throws the gun down at Walt's feet and says "Do it yourself." And for the first time - probably the very first time - Jesse stands up to Walt. He tells him no. He disobeys him. He doesn't do what Walt wants him to do. But that final look between the two of them, before Jesse speeds off into the distance, delirious and almost hysterical with emotions we can't even possibly begin to understand; that final look between him and Walt, that broke my heart for reasons I can't begin to describe. Watching that look between the two of them, it was almost as if every episode flashed before my eyes, their entire journey happening in some kind of super-fast-forward replay from where they began, to where they ended up, both of them broken and battered. It was probably the saddest thing I've ever witnessed in a TV show. 
Jesse Pinkman you're STILL killing me...
But the tears didn't start to fall until those final few seconds, when Walt walks through the meth lab Todd and his uncle had set up, knowing he's been injured by one of his own bullets, knowing he hasn't got long left. And as Badfinger's 'Baby Blue' starts playing, probably the most apt song they could possibly have found for this finale, Walter's love for that world he created, it's obvious. And it also seems appropriate that he should die on the floor of a meth lab, but as that song played out, and we get that long, rotating shot from above of Walt lying dead, that's when every emotion this show has drawn out of me over the past few weeks, it all came to the surface. I'm even filling up writing this, and yes, I know it's ridiculous - it's a TV show, for Christ's sake! I get that, yes, but - Breaking Bad wasn't just any TV show. It grabbed you from the get go, it took hold of you before you had a chance to break free and it eventually became more addictive than the meth Walter White cooked up. It's a show that will stay with me not just for a long time, but forever. Because I doubt I'll ever watch anything like it again.
Walt says goodbye to the thing he loves most...
So, thank you Bryan Cranston, for giving us Walter White. For all his flaws - and he had many, many of them - he was a man I loved. And I still love him now. Thank you Aaron Paul, for giving us Jesse Pinkman. We laughed with you, we cried over you, we prayed for you. Thank you Saul Goodman, for bringing us the much-needed blasts of humour - "Don't drink and drive, but if you do - call me."

Thank you to everyone who played their characters so perfectly from Anna Gunn's slow-burning Skyler to Dean Norris' wonderful Hank Schrader. From the chillingly calm chicken-shop drug king Gustavo Fring to the fabulously deadpan Mike Ehrmantraut. But a special mention has to go to Jesse's co-horts Badger and Skinny Pete - that Star Trek script scene was a definite highlight in the Breaking Bad comedy moments. And it was so lovely to see those guys pop up in the finale.

To each and every one of you, thank you.

Oh, and, of course, thank you Vince Gilligan - you're a genius.For thinking of this in the first place, you're a genius! 

Breaking Bad was TV at its very best. Thought provoking, clever, unique drama that I doubt can ever be repeated. It was a show that didn't promise any kind of happy ending for anybody; a show that charted the downfall of not just one man's life, but the lives of all those around him, too. But that's what made it so good. That's what made it special.

Breaking Bad got to me good and proper; it took over my life for a very short period of time, but it will stay with me forever. 

It's over now, and those characters are gone. But they will never, ever be forgotten. Walter White, I miss you...

Gone, but never, ever forgotten...

This post has been duplicated over on my Breaking Bad blog, and over the next few weeks that's where I'll be talking about some of my favourite Breaking Bad highlights, sharing tributes to some of the incredible actors and the characters they portrayed, and generally just reliving some of the best moments from one of the greatest TV shows ever.

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