September 27, 2013

THE SOPRANO PROBLEM:

Breaking Bad's Endgame (Steve Erickson, 9/27/13, American Prospect)

Breaking Bad's achievement of psychology over plot is a rarity on television even at its best, and while "arc" may be the most overused word in visual storytelling, including by people who don't know an arc from a boomerang, this is TV's arc of triumph, which accounts for a viewer passion that's 96 percent blue ice and the stuff of untamed addictions.  I entirely take my friend Tom Carson's point, expressed on this site a few weeks back, that White is a dinosaur and the figure who finally will exhaust the current vogue for antiheroes, and not only has Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan taken the point as well but he's run with it and made it the show's unspoken agenda: What antihero, on TV or anywhere else, can possibly follow a hero so anti that any heroism left is only our collective delusion?  Week in and week out over the course of five seasons the show has challenged our need for something redeemable about White, and the only suspense left for the finale to resolve has less to do with him than with us: Will the show grant to White the slightest absolution, and will we be able to stand it if it doesn't?

Of course I root for absolution, but then I'm a cheap sentimentalist who nonetheless harbors a gnawing dread. Last year at the San Diego ComicCon where I took my teenager (with whom I bond over Breaking Bad like other dads and sons do over baseball), Gilligan and the show's cast convened before an overflow crowd that posed quandaries of existential ethics like: When did White cross the line? At what point did the break to bad become irreparable? Even as some arguments raged for earlier moments of damnation, everyone agreed a moral rubicon was reached at the end of the second season when White passively watched the girlfriend of partner-in-crime Jesse Pinkman choke on her own vomit. Gilligan, however, was having none of it: Walter, he maintained, had gone wrong from the get-go. 

From the moment you heard the premise this was an impossible series to care about.  After all, if personal economics justified crime Jean Valjean would be the hero of Les Miserables.
Posted by at September 27, 2013 9:35 AM
  

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