Retro-blogging: Breaking Bad

Walter White is one dumb mutherfucker.

There, I said it. I had to get that out there front-and-center since it’s  the most forefront conclusion I’ve arrived at after sitting through the first 3 1/2 seasons of “Breaking Bad” in the last couple weeks.

I recently had a week off from work with no plans. The first four seasons of “Breaking Bad” have been staring back at me from my TV cabinet for months. It seemed like a good time to do some binge-watching of everyone’s favorite meth-based drama. Since the final season is nearing its conclusion, I’m playing catch-up. I know this. I’m currently on episode four of season four. If you haven’t watched up to this point and are planning to, you may not wish to read further. Conversely, if you’re completely caught up with the series, my observations may seem off-base or idiotic, since I’m still about 15 episodes behind. So be it.

Here are a few of my impressions and observations thus far:

  • As I stated right from the beginning, Walter White is an idiot. Remember the kid in high school who was really book smart but had no social skills or knowledge of how anything in the outside world worked? How he would ace every math test but be clueless about the latest news or have any knowledge about how to interact with people out in society? That’s Walter. It’s obvious from the beginning that the guy is a helluva chemist and generally a pretty smart guy, but he has no real clue about what happens in the real world. He’s naive, condescending, awkward, and unaware. This has, actually, served him well in some instances. (His first encounter with Tuco where he retrieves the money owed to him and Jesse comes to mind. His stupidity does allow him to be brazen if nothing else.) But generally speaking, his myopia and lack of social awareness bother me.
  • Speaking of which, there are a real lack of likable characters on this show, right? Who do you root for? Jesse, I suppose, is a sympathetic figure who can be considered likable. In contrast to Walt, his lack of “book” intelligence comes off as somewhat charming and part of his appeal. Jesse seems to have feelings. He’s tormented by the hurt he causes others. By contrast, Walt is pretty much the biggest liar and most condescending person I can think of. I find myself hoping that he’s going to get his ass kicked every episode. (I enjoyed the scene in the bar when Mike did just that.) Hank started out as a fairly likable adversary, but has morphed into a jerk. His wife, Marie, has been supremely annoying and detestable from the beginning. Skylar was once a figure to sympathize with but — after the baby, her affair, Walt’s admission, and her involvement in the “operation” —  she became almost as comically naive as Walt. (Her suggestion to Walt that he should go to the cops after the bar fight with Mike was particularly amusing. Good idea, lady!) To me, the only people worth rooting for on the show are those who possess enough self-awareness to know exactly who they are, what they’re doing, and the consequences of their actions. (All of these things are pretty much lost on the characters I mention above, save for Jesse.) So that pretty much leaves Saul, Mike, and Gus.
  • It’s been said that as much as 70-80 percent of crime in the city of Detroit goes unsolved. Viewing “Breaking Bad,” I feel like that would actually be an improvement for the city of Albuquerque. Through the first 4 1/2 seasons of “Breaking Bad” I don’t think the ABQ PD has solved, or been close to solving, even one homicide. (Please correct me if I’m wrong on this.) From memory, I can count at least a dozen murders since the beginning — an assortment of gang bangers, dope dealers, children, chemists, junkies, hit men, and border crossers have all met their demise, yet not one case has been closed by ABQ PD. Stunning.
  • Am I the only one that feels like it was a little too convenient — read: lazy writing — that at just about the same time that Walt became cancer-free, another family health situation developed (Hank’s injuries) which necessitated the continuation of Walt’s involvement with the meth trade? I mean, really? That’s the best they could come up with, to replace Walt’s motivation from his own health scare to Hank’s? I could probably buy this line of reasoning a bit more if, perhaps, Walt was doing this to get back in the good graces of Skylar by agreeing to help out her sister and bro-in-law with their health care expenses, but thus far he has all but ignored that angle. (Perhaps this will come to fruition in forthcoming episodes.)

All that said, “Breaking Bad” is indeed terrific. I’m not sure I’m as enamored with it as the rest of the world, but it’s certainly high-quality entertainment and deserving of most of the praise it receives. I’m looking forward to continuing to catch up with the rest of the world.

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