Breaking Bad Season 5B: Expectations and Reality

Breaking Bad Season 5B (1)

4 days from today, the final season of Breaking Bad will begin. The show will run 8 more episodes, Walter White’s story will come to some sort of logical conclusion, and we’ll go our separate ways. These are the facts, but they can’t even begin to tell the story of what will begin on August 11th.

In recent years, viewers’ relationships with iconic shows have grown more obsessive and more possessive. When a show nears the end of its run, we want to think that the final season somehow belongs to us. We’re the showrunners and the writers better do what we say or we’re going to yell at them on the Internet. The long form nature of television provides an opportunity for these intense relationships to be fostered. The actual showrunners and actors involve already feel an intense pressure. The added fan pressure often leads shows to go in one of two ways: Unabashed fan service or a giant middle finger (I’m looking at you, David Chase). In either case, it prevents the show from reaching the artist’s ideal conclusion. In most cases (now I’m looking at Veena Sud), the artist’s ideal conclusion is going to be the best conclusion.

Somehow, Breaking Bad seems immune to such pressures. There are two main reasons they’ve become immune, and both reasons are a testament to the show’s quality. The first and most obvious reason is the show’s reputation for quality. There are no shaky parts to the 53-episode run we’ve seen thus far. Some episodes are better than others, but every season has been beloved by TV critics and fans alike. Even the strike-augmented first season has received retroactive praise. Vince Gilligan has never steered us wrong, so it’s kind of ridiculous to worry about him failing us at the end. Given how much he’s agonized over the finale, chances are he and his writers have found the best ending.

The other reason for the lack of obsessing over a successful ending is because Gilligan and company have already shown where we’re going. Therefore, he’s completely taken the ending out of play. We know where it has to end. We know where the trail is heading. All we have left is to see how we get there, and what role the others play in the ending. Standing at the precipice of the final 8 episodes, all that’s left to do is make the leap. The drop is sure to be terrifying, gripping, and a blur of visual beauty and horror. Much like the statements in the first paragraph, these are indisputable facts. We have no reason to believe differently. We’re in good hands. We’re heading to the same place we’ve been going since the series began. It’s not elaborate storytelling that makes Breaking Bad great. The show’s greatness is rooted in character work, intricately constructed plot, and the performance of a lifetime from Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. Everything else is merely icing on the cake.

The show will run 8 more episodes, Walter White’s story will come to some sort of logical conclusion, and we’ll go our separate ways. Let’s agree to just enjoy the ride.