« Movember Reign | Main | Because Freedom. »
Sunday
Sep292013

*No spoilers here, though this is about spoiled people (that's us)*

The thing is, Breaking Bad really is that good and worth thinking/talking about. If you aren't caught up or haven't seen it at all, this won't mess with that -- and you really should check it out. Anyway, being the overly analytical nerd that I am about such things (no shame in my game), I offer the following:

I'm disappointed with a lot of the analysis that I've heard/read, even from folks seemingly pretty closely affiliated with the show. The story isn't about whether Walter White is evil incarnate or whatever, much less Walt vs. Hank being some Satan/God silliness, or the truly creepy and terrifying misogynistic takes on Skyler, etc. 

It all starts, of course, with taking the whole 'would you steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?' to a really extreme level, which is a really simple premise done incredibly well. Initially, that (along with a lot of other brilliant character complexities) makes Walter White a really compelling anti-hero. As the plot expands, though, we see not just one person (WW) attempting to deal with a life that hasn't meet their expectations on any number of levels, we're dealing with a world of them. 

It was one of many strokes of genius to make this show's central protagonist a chemist, as what we're watching (as we always are, in any story) is the reaction that occurs when these characters (elements) are, figuratively speaking, put under various levels of heat, pressure, etc. Those reactions are their choices. They are only inevitable in the sense that, inherently, whatever the elements are that make up each person have all been forming all their lives, leading to these moments. Every character that has any sort of autonomy (i.e. everyone but the kids) makes their choices, over and over again. It's not about them being manipulated by Walt (though that is a superpower survival skill of his that he wields masterfully and brutally) or otherwise forced into their particular ugliness. Whether it's through ambition, greed, complacency, fear, shame or some other universal human condition, the scars of the various characters (the origins of which we don't know in many cases, which rules) lead to choices that slowly unravel them. As obvious as that sounds, that's sort of the point. None of these people are evil, any more than any of us are. 

All of the time, to wildly varying degrees, we as individuals and as groups are making the same sorts of strategic plays to protect our egos, anesthetize our wounds, deny the present moment, take more than we need at the expense of others and generally nibble away at ourselves and each other, kind of sneak our way through our lives without getting found out. As we can see by the state of our species, this isn't working out super well -- for anyone, really. The destruction and horror doesn't generally doesn't happen in big, dramatic moments (though those are what we love to mythologize, along with the big miraculous wins). That is usually the story that gets told, especially with the blissful redemption at the end. That doesn't seem to be what's going on in BB, at least in the obvious ways. In BB, as in life, the tragedy has unfolded in little bits and pieces, barely perceptible sometimes, almost as if by magic -- or as if big, supernatural (or governmental, or financial, or social, or all the other concepts we worship) forces of Good and Evil are pulling our strings. That, of course, is the worst sort of bullshit and exactly the attitude that leads to still more apathy, etc -- and that is what this brilliant, heart-wrenching, beautiful show is about. At the crucial moment(s), just making the wrong call, for the wrong reasons (and we all have our reasons): that is breaking bad. 

Here's to great art and learning about ourselves through it.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
Sign In To Say Stuff
Just lemme know and I'll set you up with an account, no worries. Just trying to stop the bots. Thx!