Two Steps Behind.

The season 4 finale of Breaking Bad aired last night and I’m sure the internet is full of reviews and recaps and speculation. If the explosive reactions I’ve seen on tumblr and twitter are any indication, it was a hell of a finale.

But I haven’t seen it.

I put off starting Breaking Bad for a long time. Not because I didn’t think it was good, I’ve heard nothing but positive things about the series since it started, but because I didn’t think I’d find anything to interest me in a series that’s so heavily focused on drugs. I should have known better. After all, I have no interest in football and yet find Friday Night Lights to be some of the most compelling and thrilling television of the last ten years.

I did finally cave to Breaking Bad a few weeks ago, though. The first three seasons were streaming on Netflix (I don’t understand people who complain about the lack of selection available on Netflix–there’s so much excellent television to choose from!–but that’s another post for another time), and the fourth season was ramping up on AMC. It seemed like a good time.

I had to push myself to watch that first season, though. It was like the vegetables of television; while it was clear that the performances were outstanding, the writing was top notch and the character work was impeccable, I was still watching a series that did not interest me on a fundamental level. I got through those first seven episodes, and then the season 2 premiere–all the while hearing from friends that I was going to get sucked in any minute–but then I let myself get distracted by the second season of Better Off Ted and by premiere week and by a slow-moving Friday Night Lights rewatch. And then, with increasing concern that I’d be spoiled for the events of season 4 before I had finished watching season 2, I pulled Breaking Bad back up on Netflix this weekend.

And promptly tore through season 2.

Here’s the thing about Breaking Bad: while I do feel like the episodes are too long at 47 minutes, and while I still find nothing interesting about the drug business, and while I’m thoroughly confused by Jesse Pinkman’s shiny white teeth, the series has captured me completely on a character level. My heart races every time Walt has to get something past his family (though I’m simultaneously hoping his secrets will come out at any minute), and I want only good things to come to Jesse, to whom good things seem impossible. My heart broke for Jane, and it breaks for Skylar and Walter Jr. on a regular basis. Even Hank, who I couldn’t stand at first, has grown on me considerably.

I’m not someone who generally has much sympathy for traditionally unlikable characters. I like heroes and I have since my Disney days, so it takes a truly outstanding series to convince me that I should side with a man like Walter White. Maybe that wouldn’t have been the case at the beginning of the series when he was desperate to find a means of providing for his family, but at the end of series two his motives have changed, he is no longer a good man doing a bad thing, and I still feel for him.

Breaking Bad is very concerned with consequences. Obviously, I can’t speak for seasons 3 and 4, but the second season starts laying the pieces for its consequences right from the beginning. The episode teasers of the stuffed animal in the pool, each one revealing more of the surrounding scene, all build to the consequences of Walter White’s actions on a grand scale. Consequences that don’t just affect him or Jesse or his family, but that affect the city of Albuquerque and the people flying over it. The second season foreshadowed this widening scope with the music video in “Negro Y Azul” and with Hank’s map of the blue meth’s expansion.

I may be two seasons behind everybody else, and my excitement may, therefore, be thoroughly uninteresting to those with a firmer grasp on the zeitgeist, but I had to share my excitement–that is, after all, what this blog is all about. And Breaking Bad is, if nothing else, exciting TV.


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