There are imitators, then there are initiators. And for Vince Gilligan’s dark and brooding tale of one man’s spiralling descent into evil, Breaking Bad very much belongs to the latter category. Having initially placed its big stamp on the small screen back in 2008, the multi-award winning show is now approaching its much-anticipated curtain call. It’s a series that redefined the parameters of the small screen medium; a cerebral, thought-provoking thriller that was absolutely insistent about creating an immoral yet memorable persona. That persona in question is Walter Hartwell White; better known to you, I and the Albuquerque cartel as Heisenberg.
So often a show would ebb and flow in its concluding runs, creatively coaxing on recycled ideas and a general lack of momentum. For Breaking Bad, though, Gilligan’s creation is teetering on the edge of immortality. A fitting conclusion to what has been described as the greatest television show of our time would position the odyssey of Walter White on the medium’s pantheon. The kind of series you compare future television shows against and lambast because, quite simply, “it isn’t as good as Breaking Bad.”
It’s astonishing that the original concept for the show was passed around broadcasting channels six years ago as though it was, well, a stash of illegal methamphetamine. From HBO to FX, Breaking Bad stumbled around the major TV corporations before finally finding its home at AMC. Since this time, it’s attracted coveted guest directors such as Rian Johnson, Michelle MacLaren and Adam Bernstein; created diverse, memorable characters like the tragic Jesse Pinkman and morally oblivious Saul Goodman, and even popularised the use of ‘Bitch!’ in a colloquial context. It’s a show that lures you in with an innocent, cancer-stricken chemistry teacher caught in the limbo of a mid-life crisis before veering abruptly down on the good-guy-gone-really-bad narrative path.
In essence, Walter White, crippled with advanced, inoperable lung cancer, is forced into financially supporting his family before his time runs out; a support that transforms the humble, suburban dad of two into a merciless drug lord. This narrative gamble, one of manufacturing a corrupt central protagonist for mainstream television, has undeniably paid off. Gilligan has established a character arc that is perpetually dark and pretty much immune to compromise, which grants Bryan Cranston’s protagonist a gravitas that stands shoulder to shoulder with James Gandolfini’s monumental role in The Sopranos. It’s no wonder that the audience, myself included, find it difficult to watch just one episode at a time. After all, this is the series that recently earned a place in 2014’s Guinness Book Of World Records as the ‘Highest-Rated TV Show’ courtesy of Metacritic.
And so, after five technically stunning and downright arresting seasons, Walter White will hang up the Heisenberg guise once and for all. It’s an end that we always knew was coming, and to commend his thought-provoking journey, here are eight subsequent reasons why we’ll lament the end of his captivating reign.
Be warned, while I won’t seek out and expose specific plot points, if you aren’t caught up with the show, err on the side of caution – or should I say, tread lightly – before delving into this article.
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