Making “Good” on “Breaking Bad”
Well one of my favorite shows is no longer around. The final episode of “Breaking Bad” aired last night. The show delivered the goods and brought the saga of Walter White to its tragic and fitting conclusion. What more could someone want out of great story-telling than a journey that showed that “ends” don’t justify the “means” no matter how noble the goal. In the end, Walter had to admit the truth… that in trying to preserve his family and their way of life, he had destroyed it. Walter had to come to grips with the fact that “he” did the terrible things, (cook Meth, kill, lie, cheat, intimidate, etc.), not for his family, but to feed his insatiable ego.
As a former federal and state prosecutor, I loved the ability of the show to convey the core truth of so many things. The DEA agents, such as Hank Schrader reminded me of the agents and cops I had worked with in prosecuting drug dealers, bikers and those involved with racketeering. The jocularity and bravado of the agents was real. The drug world was accurately portrayed as ruthless, violent and bad to the core. The Arian Brotherhood really does weld power in prison populations and is capable of reaching out and make things happen. I heard such stories first hand as a result of investigating and prosecuting inmates involved with illegal activities from behind bars. The ravages of Meth were not hidden or glamorized. The emaciated rotten tooth prostitute showed the ugly effects of Meth use and the carnage of family members left behind in its wake. Jesse Pinkman, Walt’s partner, lost his girlfriend, Jane, to an overdose and a second one to an execution. The ripple effects of Meth’s evil led to a grief stricken father to fail at his job as an air-traffic controller resulting in an airliner full of people crashing with another plane. In real life ugly things do happen as a result of illegal drug distribution and use. However, the ugly truths garner little attention from those in middle-America unless it touches someone they know.
The show might have been unbearable to watch for all its death and grimness were it not for the comic relief provided by some of its “characters” such as the sleazy attorney, Saul Goodman, who seemed to always “know a guy, who knows a guy.” Saul, an Irish Catholic, changed his name to sound like he was a Jewish attorney to increase his appeal to those who, as “Saul” put it, “wanted a member of the tribe.” “Saul” was hilariously over the top when the story line needed it most. “Saul” was always quick with a quip in the show’s darkest moments. “Badger” and “Skinny Pete”, Jesse’s loony friends broke the tension with their buffoonery and missteps as drug dealers.
Rarely does a show deal so honestly with its characters, subject matter and fans as “Breaking Bad” did here. The writers and the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, made “good” on ‘Breaking Bad” by not dragging out the plot line for commercial gain. The series was character driven. It had a real story arch that allowed the show to end where and when it should. Walter White, an under-achieving high school chemistry teacher, diagnosed with cancer, found that there are no quick fixes in life. Ultimately, “Breaking Bad” by Walter White led to no real good.
Congratulations to Vince Gilligan and his talented writers, cast and crew on a brilliant T.V. series that made “good” in the end.