Breaking Bad Season 5B: The Spotlight Problem

Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 9 Blood Money (2)

Back before its finale ran in 2010, viewers of Lost had ramped up the guessing game to such a fevered pitch the Internet discussed releasing a cease-and-desist letter to Internet commenters. Not only was the end game an unknown, but the potential machinations for reaching the end game could not be calculated. Most everybody had a guess, and plenty of those people were pretty damn certain about it. In the end, the show became an exercise in the validation of fan theories and Internet speculation. Plenty can be (and has been) said about the ending to Lost, but it cannot be denied all of the prognosticating detracted from the overall enjoyment of viewing the show. The final episode is a string of wonderful moments that capture the fantastic relationships we had watched developed over the course of 6 years. Of course, it should be noted that the ending certainly didn’t do the show any favors. Still, all the guessing, speculation, and theories caused the finale to do so much damage to people’s overall perception of the show people don’t think it’s a Pantheon Drama (spoiler: it is).

The problem that plagued Lost is also the one staring Breaking Bad right in the face. More people are watching the show than ever (by a wide, wide margin). Sunday night’s on Twitter appear to be nothing more than a Breaking Bad message board. The fall TV season is on the horizon, so Breaking Bad is the only show in town. Lots of people are paying attention to see if Gilligan and the crew can stick the landing (spoiler #2: they will). If you asked any AMC executive, I’m sure they would tell you all the scrutiny and attention is a good thing. Maybe it is, but that doesn’t mean all the attention won’t impact the way we experience the final season of one of the best shows of all-time.

As with most final seasons of iconic dramas, the final season of Breaking Bad has been an exercise in making predictions. With more information rolling out throughout the first 4 weeks (“Hello, Carol”), predictions from around the interwebs have been revised, scrapped, and served up like breakfast to Walter, Jr. They’re everywhere, and if you want to play the prediction game, there is no shortage of people who will play with you.

Here’s the thing: If any show is meant to be experienced instead of prognosticated, it’s Breaking Bad. With its compelling and tightly-contained story, the show has shocked, surprised, horrified, and excited viewers. Watching the story unfold for the previous 5 years has been one of the greatest experiences in television history. Why now do we want to search every episode for Easter eggs and clues that will lead us to how the finale will play out?

Allow me to propose an alternative: Instead of spending the next month debating exactly who is going to be the recipient of Chekov’s ricin or who else is going out in Heisenberg’s final blaze of glory, just sit back and experience the final month of a show that we’ll never see again. It’s the perfect combination of timing, actors, showrunners, and rarely matched quality. If we spend all of our time wondering what will happen, it makes it a lot harder to appreciate what is happening. The end game is in place. All that’s left is the journey. Don’t worry about what awaits at the end. You may miss something special along the way.