Next week sees the return of perhaps one of the greatest television shows ever: Breaking Bad. It’s also been quite a bit of time since we’ve visited Breaking Bad Shakespeare, where I threw out the idea that Breaking Bad was Shakespearean in it’s plotting, characters, comic fools, comedy, drug use, and tragic flaws. (Shakespeare as big on drug use. You tell me A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written by someone sober.) But since I’m re-watching Breaking Bad in honor of it’s return, and the fact that this is the most popular series that this blog has ever done (Way more popular than Dukes of Hazzard Wednesdays) I’ve decided that I wanted to go back and explore this show some more.
Note: Obviously, spoilers for the current season follows. Given that the show itself is returning, has been on DVD, streaming, and parodied on countless shows (it was on the opening of the Simpsons, people) there’s really no excuse for the whole, “but I haven’t seen it yet!” stuff. We can’t have a discussion while we’re worrying about older spoilers. Also, Benedict Cumberbatch is Khan, Bruce Willis is dead the whole time in the latest Die Hard, and Clark Kent is Superman. I think that about covers it. (I’m not covering any spoilers done in interviews, etc. Just things that are up on the screen.)
When last we Walter White and the Scooby Gang, Walt was busy staring at his giant pile of money, Hank seemingly figured out that Walt was Heisenberg (or at least associated with him), we learned about Franch dressing, and we never got any further clues to Walt in New Hampshire with a fake ID, buying guns about a year after all the other stuff we just saw. (with hair!)
As mentioned, I have been re-watching the show, gearing up for every last little clue that the show holds for us, and trying to re-think some of the Shakespearean connections I made before. (Other than making me re-thinking how much I hate Skyler) there’s one element that could blow my whole theory straight to hell: The Ending.
Think about it, a good ending can make or break a show. Some shows have perfect endings (think Star Trek: Deep Space Nine or The Sopranos.) Some shows have terrible endings that make you rethink watching the show (Battlestar Galatica.) Some shows have deep, meaningful endings that isn’t spoon-fed to you, makes you think, so naturally people hate it. (Lost.) This is a critical moment for the series.
How Breaking Bad ends could really change how we think about the show. This isn’t something that can end with a “it was all a dream” and Walter White waking up next to Lois from Malcolm in the Middle. This can’t end with Walt figuring out that he was rich all the time in his family. I would argue that this show can’t end with Walt dying. No... we need a creative ending. We need something unique.
Breaking Bad has been about one thing the whole time: Walter White. Not Walter White the meth kingpin. Walter White the failure. Walter White the guy who gave up on a fortune with Gray Matters. Walter White the father/husband who’s pride got him into this situation to begin with. The ending needs to focus on that: Walter White and his tragic flaw.
The truth is Walt had about a million ways out of this situation during the course of the series, and he’s turned them all down. This series could have ended in the second season: his rich friends offer him a job, he takes the job, he gets help, boom. Done. We focus on Jesse Pinkman and his quest to sell his house. (Breaking Real Estate? Spin off!) No this series has been about his pride and his desire to let his family know that he wasn’t that much of a loser. Not just his family. EVERYONE. We’ve talked about this before when we talked about Gus Fring: he saw the future he could have and he wanted it. (Enough to poison a kid and bomb an old folks home.) I’m building to a point, trust me.
The show can’t end with Walt’s death.
I know that’s the default idea: the show has to end with Walt dying, probably in a hail of something. Perhaps gunfire. Or his cancer returning. Or finally just offing himself because Skyler is so annoying. (I’m sorry. I know she gets better but those first few episodes are rough on her character.)
But it can’t. That’s not his tragic flaw. His flaw goes further than ambition.. his flaw is entitlement. Terrible, terrible entitlement mixed in with his ambition. He sees where he can be one day... and he thinks he's entitled to be there. He needs to get to a point where he’s low... I don’t mean really low... I mean LOW. I mean he needs to be stripped of his power with no chance of him ever getting any of it back. It may not just be prison, either. He needs to be kidnapped by another drug lord and forced into service. Maybe he needs to lose everything so he’s sitting on the streets. He needs to be left alive, but with no sense that he will ever be able to raise himself up again. He needs to be stripped of not just his ambition, but his entitlement, his hope... everything. He needs to be in a hole from which he will never escape. (Just not one in the ground.)
Again, we’ll have to see. This is a very critical juncture. I’d say these eight episodes are the most important episodes of the series. I’m hoping that we’ll see something good. One things for certain: Bad Shakespeare is going to be around to take a look.