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Television PopWrapped | Television

Goodbye Breaking Bad: PopWrapped Bids Farewell To AMC's Groundbreaking Show

PopWrapped | PopWrapped Author


09/30/2013 12:31 am
PopWrapped | Television
Goodbye Breaking Bad: PopWrapped Bids Farewell To AMC's Groundbreaking Show
Media Courtesy of Cinema Blend

Jamie Harsip

Content Editor

As you almost definitely know by now, AMC’s amazing series Breaking Bad ended tonight. For the past five seasons, this show has defined drama on television, and set the bar for both its contemporary and future series. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Breaking Bad has truly changed the face of television as we know it. The show began when jaded and world-weary chemistry teacher Walter White was diagnosed with end-stage lung cancer.  As a high school teacher, his health insurance simply cannot cover treatment. Long story short (and really, it is kind of a long story that gets Walt there), he decides to partner with a former student of his in the production and sale of crystal meth. That student is Jesse Pinkman, played brilliantly by two-time Emmy-winner Aaron Paul. Jesse suffers throughout this series more, by far, than any other character on the show – possibly on TV. Ever. The most memorable loss of his was certainly the death of his girlfriend, Jane (Krysten Ritter).  The reason it was so memorable is probably because she didn’t just die – Walter White let her die. This was arguably the climactic moment of season two of the show – the season that brought in many of Breaking Bad’s diehard fans. The season that attracted the most new viewers was, inarguably, season three. This season brought one of the best episodes of TV ever made: “Fly.” This was a bottle episode that took place almost entirely within Walt and Jesse’s high-tech meth lab, which was provided to them by Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). It’s difficult to explain just what made this episode so incredible; you really just have to have seen it. The premise is that a fly has gotten into the otherwise-sterile lab, and Walt insists that it has to go. It’s a contaminant, and even though they’re on a tight production schedule, they cannot continue cooking until it’s gone. The episode showcases Aaron Paul’s and Bryan Cranston’s unbelievably brilliant talents beautifully. The end of this season also brought the introduction to the show’s most chilling, horrifying villain: Gus. Yeah, yeah, yeah – the name Gus doesn’t tend to inspire fear, but this Gus is different. On the outside, to those who know him through his day job, the man suits the name – Gus Fring is a mild-mannered, charity-giving, fairly wealthy restaurant owner. To those who know him by his night job, Gustavo Fring is a merciless, cold, cruel drug overlord. I mean, the guy slashes someone’s jugular with a box-cutter in the first episode of season four without batting an eyelash. And then he cleans himself off methodically and tells Walt and Jesse to clean up the mess. In this situation, by the way, that includes disposing of the body. By the time viewers were treated to that sight, the show had really started blowing up. The fandom exploded, viewership grew by leaps and bounds, and Breaking Bad finally began to be seen as the incredible show that it is. That is to say, it was finally being seen. To say that Breaking Bad ended its run as anything less than a multi-generational pop culture phenomenon would be to do it a grave injustice. Vince Gilligan, the show’s executive producer, put his heart and soul into the how, and it truly shows. It’s not every show that has the flexibility and range to be both a critical hit and a fan favorite, season after season, for its entire run. But Breaking Bad certainly did that. AMC has been on the rise with its original series for the past six or so years; Mad Men and The Walking Dead both contributed to that, to be sure, but something tells me that the show with the most grandiose legacy from this burgeoning era of AMC TV will end up being Breaking Bad. It was, if you recall, a pretty big “upset” when Bryan Cranston beat out Jon Hamm in the Emmy race for best lead actor in a drama series back in 2008. Mad Men was a huge cultural phenomenon at that point, and the assumption was that Jon Hamm would have a repeat performance in that category from the Golden Globes, but no. The winner was the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, who was on some show no one had heard of, and who hadn’t even been nominated for the Golden Globe. The character Bryan Cranston won that award for playing, however, was not the same character we just saw in the series finale. The true marvel of Breaking Bad is, without doubt, the way it has developed the character of Walter White. At first, the public school teacher with cancer was a sympathetic figure. People felt for him, and they rooted for him, even though he did some pretty illegal and amoral things. But after a while, it became harder and harder for viewers to stay on his side. Whether it was his letting Jane die, his poisoning of an eleven-year-old child, or his murder of a former confidant, eventually most viewers came to the same conclusion: Walter White is not a good man. How often can a show bring its viewers from first wholeheartedly rooting for a character to literally wanting him to die horrifically? It’s not every show that can bring such varied and visceral reactions to its audience. It’s not every show that can keep audiences on the edges of their seats week after week. It’s not every show that can do the things that Breaking Bad has done for the five seasons it was on air, plain and simple. Breaking Bad was special. It was a show that set a new bar for TV dramas, and for film and television in general. In the final episode of Talking Bad, the discussion show that aired after every episode of the final half-season of the show, Vince Gilligan talked about how he admired Rod Sterling, the man who created The Twilight Zone. He discussed how over fifty years after it first aired, people of all generations still talk about it, and will talk about it for generations to come. It’s the definition of a television classic. Gilligan expressed hope that maybe, just maybe, his show could gain an inkling of the legendary status that The Twilight Zone has achieved. Well, Vince, if my opinion means anything, I don’t think you need to worry about that. Breaking Bad will, without doubt, go down in history as one of the great dramas of all time.


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