Live Free or Die
Say My Name
Gliding Over All
The Dark Knight doesn’t have a lot in common with Breaking Bad but for one important quote, which goes like this: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” In the case of Walter White in AMC’s flagship series, that quote could not be more accurate. Unlike many shows that dip and peak across different seasons, Breaking Bad is one of those rare exceptions. Every season builds on the tension and plot layers that came before to eventually climax into some of the best episodes of TV ever written.
Last season ended in a suitably dramatic fashion. Gus Fring is dead. The operation is in complete tatters and Walter White is on top of the world. Until the first scene of this series of course. Walter White is a very different man; desperate and on the run. With long hair and tattered clothes, he’s evading the police and everything has imploded in his face.
This ultimately sets the mood and tone for the final season. We know Walter is going to be caught but now it’s a matter of how and when. This brings about a very different sort of atmosphere, one that feels much more urgent and desperate compared to season 2’s pink teddy and ensuing plane crash which foreshadowed a future outcome.
The main crux of the drama here comes from Walter trying to pick up where Gus Fring left off. He splits the business three ways between himself, Jesse and Mike. Things are good, at least for a little while, but Walter’s adoption of Fring’s position at the top also brings with it that same icy cruelty.
Unfortunately that line between right and wrong blurs into a messy puddle as Walter’s family life suffers as a consequence. All of this capitulates into some of the most shocking and unbelievable moments in TV history and a befitting finale that gives closure to almost everyone we’ve come to know and love over the 5 seasons.
Alongside the story are multiple instances of symbology, colours, lighting and clever camera angles that help to add more substance to the story. Walter’s family home, for example, is bathed in thick unforgiving shadows for much of the season. The camera intentionally creates a barrier between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” through pillars, windows and even a coffee table with fallen bottles.
That’s to say nothing of the different colours used, that have always been a mainstay here but generally reserved to Walter’s dress attire. This time it runs deeper than that, with various characters all given their own colour palettes too. Marie, for example, is surrounded by the colour purple – generally denoting extravagance and power.
Added on top of this is another crucial component of the series – the music. Every song choice is deliberately chosen with lyrics that really drive home the message being told. That’s to say nothing of the penultimate episode either which ends with a befitting rendition of the main title sequence we’ve heard so often over the years.
It’s really this masterful combination of elements that make Breaking Bad work as well as it does. Yes the story is shocking and features some crazy moments but Breaking Bad goes so much deeper than that. All the above elements combine to make a chemical reaction unlike anything else on the small screen.
Many people throw around the “best of all time” tag with reckless abandon but here that really is warranted. Breaking Bad sets a benchmark for the small screen; a perfect example of how television as a medium can be as powerful, if not more powerful than mainstream cinema. Whether you’re into crime dramas or not, this is a must-watch and the perfect final season for one of TV’s crowning achievements.