Also, one thing that's really bugged me logistically is the short time line of all of this. Why make it just a year? That doesn't seem plausible in the least. Walt was at the point of selling meth overseas in just over a year!?! Come on.
I hear you, but this doesn’t bother me very much. The narrative trajectory of Walt’s transformation works and is believable to me in itself. That is, I wouldn’t even know we’d only seen a little over a year elapse thus far, or thought about it at all, if the show hadn’t spelled it out with the birthdays. Certainly the brevity of the timeline given occurred to me, and I’ll agree that any realistic scrutiny of it stretches plausibility. But on the other hand, it really doesn’t affect anything. “This whole story takes place in a two year time span? Huh. Seems like it should be more like five.” It’s a valid point, but it just doesn’t matter that much, so I can shrug it off.
The convenient conveniences I’ve previously mentioned, bug me more. They’re more substantial imperfections with an actual effect on the quality of the narrative itself. But, hey: even within the show, Walt’s product is only 90-something percent pure.
As to the critic’s article, I’ll take them point by point:
1. I agree Walt was never really “a nice guy.” From the very first episode, there is an emasculated frustration and nerdy sort of egotistical rage abrew in WW. But this is why his transformation works and is so believable. It’s why no matter how horrible his transgressions become, it works. However, while Walt may never have truly been “a nice guy,” he did have remorse; a conscience; self-doubt; confliction and sorrow over the transgressions he was rapidly being sucked into committing. He functioned well within the bounds of the law and of social norms, and he was (and to date, still is) a very loyal husband and – in his way – a dedicated father. So while I would agree that Walt’s ethics were always more a matter of convenience, inertia, perhaps even some cowardice, rather than of conscious moral conviction, I don’t see it as a problem in any way. On the contrary it is part of why the character’s evolution works. There are many people in our society whose ethics are largely ethics of convenience. This show illustrates the trajectory of a character for whom those threads get tugged a little too hard, and the whole facade begins to unravel, revealing the ugly, wounded, villainous core.
2. I can understand his disappointment with the female characters in the show, but don’t share anywhere near his degree of it. I don’t find them inauthentic or non-believable characters. The writers try to do some interesting things with them, but ultimately they do get short shrift to Walt, Jesse, Hank, and even Gus. The decision to focus on those characters isn’t something I hold against the show. If a show with a set of female protagonists focused on them to the exclusion of better developed secondary male characters, it wouldn’t bother me much either. Focus on what’s interesting and the story that you want to tell. I think people are a little hard on Skyler, and at first I thought they were too hard on Marie too, although I confess the writers seem to have given up trying to do anything of particular interest with her. There’s only so much time. Additionally, quite frankly, some people are simply not that deep or interesting – and there’s nothing wrong with a show reflecting that reality, as long as they aren’t dwelling pointlessly on what isn’t interesting at the expense of what is. And for the record I thought Jane was a pretty good character. Andrea, not so much. Lydia I like a lot, but sadly, with her late introduction, there doesn’t seem to be time to squeeze in a huge role or a lot of backstory for her. And in defense of Lydia’s twitchiness, they introduce her into the story at a point of – for her – extreme crisis and fear of being brought down. The final episode of the season did at least give us some reminder of her considerable value to the previous – and present – operation. And while a bit high-strung, she’s nothing if not careful, so I disagree Gus wouldn’t work with her. Again, we are introduced to her at a time when her world is unraveling and at which she is in the dark about a lot of what has happened or why.
3. Jesse’s “lame drug montages” – I don’t see it. Have there really been so many, outside of Jane introducing him to heroin (which was mostly handled in one shot)? He started out as a drug user and falls back into that in times of stress, sure – personally, I’ve never felt this aspect of the character or show to be overplayed a la Trainspotting, though. If anything, the opposite – the temptation would be to dramatize and dwell on Jesse’s own drug dependence in the face of their operation a good deal more, but the writers seem resistant to that. There was admittedly a point in Season 4 where I’ll confess I was getting a little bored with Jesse’s repetitive bouts of self-loathing, but it was short-lived, and quite frankly, it’s a functionally appropriate counterpoint to Walt’s trajectory. Jesse’s generally a pretty amazing character, if you ask me, one who vastly exceeded my expectations and who’s been full of a lot of (mostly) believable surprises. The caveat to this is I do admit that I think he sometimes magically becomes a little *too* intelligent/competent when the plot demands; but, not to the extent it renders the character inauthentic or less than compelling.
4. How is “Yeah, bitch! Magnets!” machismo Hollywood dialogue? I loved that, just seemed like Jesse being Jesse again, in a moment of brief excitement. “Do you understand?” I don’t recall as a piece of dialogue, nor can I imagine why it would be a particular problem. Walt's machismo in general is admittedly taken a little more at face-value in Season 5 than in the past, where it was undercut and mocked at every turn, but hey; it was probably time to let Walt just be a a pure bad-ass for a few episodes. We all know he's going to fall shortly. And for all his purported bad-assery, he's still being painted meta-narratively as a cowardly insect, slinking about the shadows. It's not a preachy show, but nor does it really glorify very much about Walt. Walt's a dickhead, just a really fascinating one.
5. I agree here – Breaking Bad’s plotting is far from air-tight, and at least once or twice per season, a little too gratingly convenient. However, I still say it stacks up quite favorably to almost anything else on TV. Le Samourai is full of plot-holes, it’s still a great fucking movie.
6. I get what he’s saying, but I like BB’s use of flash-forwards. They’re always handled with such style, and they genuinely, effectively create a great deal of guessing and suspense, at least for me. I wouldn’t be one to heavily defend the climax of Season 2 though, which I felt to be one of the show’s goofiest twists. In retrospect I sort of appreciate the surreality of it all, and Season 3 is so compelling that my disappointment was short-lived. But even if the substance itself was a little much, I’ll give them this much: I never would’ve guessed it was coming. And while the plane crash may not be the show’s strongest twist, it’s fundamental ability to continually surprise me – without going off the deep end completely, or losing its central narrative focus – is part of what keeps me watching.
7. The show is formalist and stylized, by nature. Personally, I like that – it’s part of what makes spaghetti westerns appealing, film noir, the aforementioned Melville. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a style I enjoy when it’s done well, which I feel it is in BB, at least relative to the landscape of TV entertainment. Your mileage may vary.
8. I haven’t seen The Sopranos, Deadwood, or Mad Men, so I won’t poo-poo them or rule out the possibility – unlikely as I find it – that they are superior to BB. They are three shows I would like to and plan to eventually see. Now, I have seen The Wire; The Wire has just as many flaws and problems as BB is purported to have by this critic, and I enjoyed it less as a whole. It was better than a lot of other shit on TV, easily, but it was preachy, uneven, and self-congratulatingly hyper-topical. And for as broad as the cast of characters was, I only liked or found myself engrossed by a couple of them in any given season, and none of them to the same extent as WW or even Jesse, with the possible exception of Stringer Bell.
9. Addressed this above. The timeline is strangely short; it’s a bit baffling. It also matters very little.
10. Fair enough.
I enjoyed The Onion’s forecast:"Breaking Bad Creator Thinking Maybe Next Season Should Take Dark Turn"
LOS ANGELES—Following last Sunday’s Breaking Bad midseason finale, creator and showrunner Vince Gilligan told reporters that in a departure from the “light, fun tone” that has characterized the program thus far, the concluding episodes may take more of a darker turn. “Ever since the very first episode, in which [main character] Walt is diagnosed with cancer and forced to sell meth to provide for his pregnant wife and cerebral-palsy-stricken son, I’ve thought that perhaps one day we could begin taking the show in a grittier direction,” said Gilligan, adding that while the program’s ongoing depiction of a man slowly succumbing to an illegal lifestyle defined by power, violence, and alienation was fine for four and a half seasons, he “wouldn’t mind” eventually exploring some grimmer themes. “I know our audience has gotten comfortable seeing Walt regularly kill drug dealers, endanger his family, and poison small children, but, personally, I think people would be interested in seeing a slightly more sinister side to the character.” Gilligan’s announcement comes just weeks after fellow AMC showrunner Matthew Weiner announced it was “entirely conceivable that the next season of Mad Men may touch on how men deal with marriage.”
Incidentally, now that BB is on hiatus for some ungodly amount of time, the next show in my queue is Game of Thrones, which friends have been pressing me to watch. I got sucked into Showtime's cheesy-ass THE TUDORS, so I'm guessing Game of Thrones should pass the time pleasantly enough. We'll see. It may be time to give Mad Men a go as well.