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The Best Product: Comparing Breaking Bad to Other Crime Series


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#1

Atomic Clock

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Posted Oct 3, 2011 @ 8:01 PM

I saw a thread like this on Boardwalk Empire and thought I'd start one here. I tried sooo hard to avoid this show because I have a serious bias against meth and the people who sell it. I watch The Sopranos, The Shield, etc, but didn't want to end up rooting for two guys who get others hooked on poison. However, my love for a good crime show over-ruled my moral objections. I just finished season 3 and I'm hooked.

One thing that pulled me in was BB's Wikipedia page. I know Wiki is suspect, but I saw that some critics claimed that this show is even better than The Wire and The Sopranos. Stephen King says it's the best scripted show on television ever. Other critics put it in their top 10 best shows of all time lists.

In watching BB, I've repeatedly been reminded of three other shows that have preceded it; The Sopranos, The Shield and Dexter. The Dexter comparison comes from Walt's secretive double life, high-lighted in the first two seasons. The Shield reminders come from the 'house of cards' plots, in which Walt and Jesse find themselves spinning more and more elaborate bullshit and must scramble faster and faster to get out of their predicament before the cards come crashing down on top of them.

the Sopranos parallels seem to emerge later, once Skyler starts to accept Walt's lifestyle and even becomes more involved in it. I'm also reminded of certain Sopranos eps like, "Pine Barrens," with episodes like, "Four Days Out," when Walt and Jesse are stranded in the desert with dead cell phones.

I can't agree that this show is as good as The Wire. Breaking Bad may have a lot to say about the war on drugs, but the epic theme of the cops vs. the drug dealers seemed to be better captured by David Simon and co. The Wire was never driven by plot twists and the events seemed to spring from the narrative in a more organic fashion.

BB relies a lot on coincidence and sometimes the twists seem a little too contrived for their own good. Walt just happens to meet Jane's father in a bar. Jane's father just happens to cause two airplanes to collide over Walt's neighborhood, resulting in a teddy bear from the wreckage in Walt's pool. Jesse just happens to run into the sister of the kid who killed Combo at a recovery meeting. I know this show is hailed as one of the best, but twists like these sometimes smack of forced writing. The Sopranos was mostly a success and seldom relied on gimmicky twists to advance the plot.

On the other hand, BB is a more entertaining show to watch than is The Wire. AI've been watching the Wire on and off for years and have yet to finish it because of the hopeless, depressing tone of the show. Bryan Cranston and company somehow make their characters more enjoyable, even as they are slowly destroying themselves. The dark humor of the show sometimes mirrors early Dexter and The Sopranos.

There's more to be said, but I'll wait for others to reply. In the meantime, I'm off to absorb season 4.
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#2

colacentral

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Posted Oct 4, 2011 @ 10:27 AM

I mainly agree with you - The Wire is a better show, and I often find myself watching BB and thinking "I wish they did that more like The Wire would."

On the other hand, Breaking Bad isn't intended to be realistic. The writing tends towards the symbolic and poetic rather than realistic. I hated the plane crash on my first viewing, but when I watched season two again I loved it. I think that it's wrong to view the crash as literal; it's a metaphor for the vast number of lives that Walt is ruining, both in his inner circle and in the wider world where his meth is reaching. I believe Vince Gilligan has described it as God raining fire down on him. So if you can view those kinds of moments as symbols the show works better.
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#3

warwick

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Posted Oct 4, 2011 @ 10:55 AM

The Wire wasn't for me, so I vote for BB. The police politics/mayor's office stuff would take me out of the story, and it seemed as though the writers were trying too hard to get the viewer to understand the link between inner city crime and politics. Okay, we get it.

I guess it was just a little too "gritty" for me, while BB seems to possess the perfect combination of grit and fiction. Still, my all-time fave is Deadwood.
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#4

HelenBack

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Posted Oct 4, 2011 @ 11:19 AM

To me, Breaking Bad seems truly sui generis. And also the best thing I've ever seen on television.

Which is saying a lot, really, because there is some very good, film-quality stuff out in recent years and currently.
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#5

Fisher King

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 2:18 AM

The entire 6th season of The Sopranos ruined the series for me.

The Wire was absolutely fantastic because it depicted real life so well, but I guess it was over my head and I became frustrated. Then I discovered Alan Sepinwall and his recaps explaining each episode, I rewatched and enjoyed it even more. The fifth and final season sort of fizzled for me until the last episode.

Boardwalk Empire has improved greatly over last season and has the potential to go ahead of the above. Then again, that show is run by The Sopranos crew, so who knows.

I like Dexter but it'll never make it to the number one slot.

Although not a crime show, Six Feet Under will never be topped in its genuine, original creativeness, but Breaking Bad comes very close.

Edited by Fisher King, Oct 5, 2011 @ 2:22 AM.

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#6

Xbones

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 7:10 AM

I glad Fisher mentioned "Six Feet Under" - what a masterpiece. I was looking forward to another Alan Ball series but don't think "True Blood" does it for me.
Breaking Bad is in my opinion best show on cable, I'm wondering if HBO is kicking themselves for not giving VG a chance with this show.
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#7

highlonesome

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 8:33 AM

To me, Breaking Bad has the best introduction/prologue of any show I've ever seen, crime or not. I'll never forget the wtf-ness of a middle-aged man in his tighty-whiteys, wearing a gas-mask, speeding through the desert in an RV with two bodies sliding around in the back. :D

Idk, BB is too different from the other crime shows I like to compare. Unlike the Wire (which is my favorite, btw...I really had no idea other people liked it much as I did), BB is a character drama at it's heart, and it's got a lot of artistic flare that crime shows usually lack.

Edited by highlonesome, Oct 5, 2011 @ 9:37 AM.

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#8

Ankai

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 8:37 PM

I kind of liked Dexter, but the premise started wearing thin, simply for being extremely narrow. I did not have too much trouble accepting that there were many killers who were freed for whatever reason, but I had trouble believing that there were that many serial killers or multiple murderers who were freed for whatever reason in one single city. If he were simply going after killers in some hotbed of crime like in Burn Notice, I could turn off that little part of my brain that says that this is just too much for me to accept. In contrast, we have seen maybe a few dozen criminals in Breaking Bad's ABQ and most of them tended to stick around for at least a couple of episodes.

While it may be fair to compare Breaking Bad to The Wire, I do not believe that it is fair to compare them on The Wire's terms. The Wire was about the American city, its institutions, and its effects on individuals. Breaking Bad has a very narrow focus, with the aim of turning Mr Chips into Scarface. The Wire was all about squashing change while Breaking Bad is about change. There may have been a few characters on The Wire who could have come close to having a similar negative character trajectory as Walt or Skyler, but that was not really the focus and several parts of their character arc were either off-screen or before they were introduced. In fact, I am not even sure that Breaking Bad really has made any solid statement about the war on drugs, except for that the drug game is dangerous and so is the war against t.



And [VAGUE SPOILERS FOR THE WIRE] let us not forget that the very first episode of The Wire had a certain confidential informant interact separately with the very criminal group that his police contact was just starting to investigate. The second season had two separate investigations at a dock begin within days of each other. The fourth season had a several different individuals from previous seasons who ended up interacting with the same group of kids for completely different reasons within weeks--if not days--from each other. And all of those little plot points that allows the criminal to just manage to get away or force someone's demise.
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#9

colacentral

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 8:57 PM

I'm not sure about that. I get your point, but the only one of those three examples that I agree stretches believability is the dock one. I recently rewatched season two and thought the same thing.

HOWEVER, there are many others, mainly from season five, that I would agree with.
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#10

Ankai

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 9:28 PM

More concrete spoilers for The Wire:

- Bodie has Namond working for him and Carver knows both of them. Marlo gets involved and eventually gets to know Michael. Believable, sure.

- Prez begins work at the very school where the kids attend. He has a few for homeroom and others for math. Eh...okay.

- Randy gets unwittingly involved in a Marlo-ordered murder, which brings him within a hair's reach of Homicide, but eventually to Carver. Okay, sure.

- Bunny gets roped into this academic project and decides that a Middle School is the best place to hold it. He goes to that very same school and Namond gets involved. Now this is getting to be a bit much.

- Bubbles has a brand new buddy and tries to enroll him into that very same school. Too much now.

- Cutty takes a part time job as a truancy officer or something at that very same school...which just happens to be the same school where his ex-girlfriend transferred to earlier. He also takes a special interest in Michael and also somewhat with Namond in his boxing gym. Yeah.

All of these things happen within months of each other. And by the next season, only one person is still involved with the school. So they all converged and then all left, barely noticing each other.
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#11

colacentral

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 9:43 PM

Haha, I dunno. It's made pretty clear that the Barksdale stuff is only a small part of Baltimore, and hence characters like Bodie, Namond etc are likely to interact and know each other. It's also not that unbelievable that Prez would end up at that particular school, it's just a coincidence.

Cutty is from there too, being part of the Barksdale crew. Why wouldn't he be at that school?

The unbelievability factor is in the fact that it all happens at the same time, so I get that, but I think season four is a bad season to pick if you're looking for that in The Wire. Season three's hamsterdam story or season five's fake serial killer are much more ridiculous, not to mention any scene with Brother Mouzone. Season four is generally considered the absolute pinnacle of The Wire.
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#12

Eddie the Swell

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 9:53 PM

@ Ankai,

Well said about The Wire, chap. The scope of that show was so vast, and every year they introduced a new element...cops, dealers, robbers, projects, turf wars, schools, politics, cities...

The docks were hard to swallow b/c they went from a classic character wearing the the black hat like Avon running the towers, to Vondas and whatnot, and the audience was still partial to West B-More and Avon's crew and then they go off on what seemed like a tangent w/the dock workers union...S2 was the weakest season, but still, whatever they did was based on shit that really happened. David Simon and Ed Burns worked for the Sun and they kept it way more real than probably any other show, taking their ideas right out of the papers.

We are all here b/c we love BrBa but let's be real: they are telling the story of a handful of characters only, and it is very limited compared to The Wire, which was information based and not character driven, and literally told the stories of hundreds of characters, if not that of the whole city of Baltimore.

Some say go with BrBa, take the metaphorical ride and all, and we do to a degree, but it borders on science fiction. If this was Baltimore, Jessie would have gotten a hot shot, bad package, and he'd be long dead, as would be Walt, for crossing Gus the 1st time, if not sooner.

On The Wire, they'd kill off someone major and largely reconfigure the landscape of the show yearly, and it always worked fairly well, however they sussed it out. Ensemble cast vs. premiere cast and all, and they both fly, but BrBa is not gonna be tops for people in the camp of the realism genre.

Also, it seems that BrBa may have gotten some ideas from The Wire, and not vice versa. Gus is awfully similar to Stringer Bell, the mastermind, right down to his willingness to harm innocents, and Saul (who is the man) definitely has some Mo Levy in him, so people can add those character elements to all the other tv/cinematic homages...BrBa did not invent the wheel.
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#13

colacentral

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 9:58 PM

S2 was the weakest season



Whaaaaat? I don't want to turn this into a Wire thread, but I rank the seasons like this:

1. four
2. two
3. three
4. one
5. five
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#14

Ankai

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 11:13 PM

The unbelievability factor is in the fact that it all happens at the same time, so I get that, but I think season four is a bad season to pick if you're looking for that in The Wire.

Sure, but if one of the knocks against Breaking Bad when compared to The Wire was the reliance of coincidences, I feel obligated to bring up the fact that all of those people on The Wire separately got involved with this one group of four kids at pretty much the same time. Not just the school or the area surrounding the school, but these four specific kids. Some were more involved with certain kids than others, but it was from the same group of four. Regardless of what season was better or worse, this type of stuff requires a lot of dramatic license.

In my opinion, Walt meeting Jane's father in a bar pales in comparison in the coincidence department.

There were several times in Breaking Bad, I remember particularly in Season 2, where two major events were to take place at the same time and Walt had to be at both of them. Yes, these were coincidences and maybe a bit too much, but they were (I believe) meant to provide Walt with a choice: be there for his family or continue down the path that he had secretly chose for himself. It showed in a somewhat extreme manner (almost a running gag) how his desire to provide for his family alienated him from his family. It displayed the choices that he made in stark and certain terms. With The Wire, a single error or a perfectly time sequence of little acts by multiple people who never meet each other could set something huge in motion that destroys the lives of many whose choices ultimately did not truly exist.
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#15

colacentral

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Posted Oct 5, 2011 @ 11:30 PM

Well, yeah. I think we fundamentally agree. But wasn't the point of The Wire that every little decision we make comes back around and effects everyone, even those we don't know? So Rawls would make a decision that would effect X, Y, and Z, which would then in turn effect Randy or whoever. Herc doesn't answer his phone, Bubbles gets another beat down, turns to the hot shot, that goes wrong, etc. If Herc had answered his phone, an entirely different sequence of events would occur - maybe Bubbles manages to get Sherrod back in school, but Sherrod does something which gets another kid get kicked out, that kid ends up on the corner and gets shot, etc. So those coincidences never bothered me. It bothered me more in season five when the news room was so disconnected from the other characters.

I do agree with you though, I guess I have just a fractional, microscopic difference of opinion about which coincidences annoy me and which I give a pass to.
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#16

iggypop123

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Posted Oct 6, 2011 @ 1:33 AM

Whaaaaat? I don't want to turn this into a Wire thread, but I rank the seasons like this:

1. four
2. two
3. three
4. one
5. five


Well you just did. That is absolutely a pathetic ranking. its
4, 3,1,2,5. That is the right ranking.

What makes ranking or comparing the shows difficult is Breaking Bad has not concluded. The wire had to rush its final season because it was always struggling not to be canceled had to cut episodes. Breaking Bad wins awards, makes AMC money so there is never that problem. Those things affect the quality. Season 5 for the wire was weak, i think most would agree with this. The fact that AMC basically said either give us 5 episodes or 2 more seasons might challenge the writers. I always thought this show only should go 5 seasons. Now it will go 6. It could ruin its overall ranking and maintain the wire on top. But there are some similarities especially in both 4th seasons. For a while Walt was MIA and was being carried by other characters yet it was its best season. In the wire, the closest thing to a protagonist or its star was Mcnulty and he was invisible that season and it was like "who cares, the kids are amazing."
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#17

highlonesome

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Posted Oct 6, 2011 @ 12:52 PM

Lol, pathetic ranking? You're like one of those music fans that can't accept that people may not like Led Zeppelin. No offense. ;D

I LIKED season 5 (tho it was weak compared to the others). And 2 was my favorite. I liked the whole death-of-the-working-class theme.

With Breaking Bad, tho, I don't have a favorite season so far. It's so serialized it's kinda annoying they even have to split it up into seasons at all. I like to think about the series so far as a whole, not divided into seasons. Even tho I realize they never planned the entire series out, they're making it up as they go (which proves they're great writers that they can pull that off...I remember thinking one time that they had actually planned the whole thing out)
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#18

stillshimpy

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Posted Oct 7, 2011 @ 11:49 AM

The Wire was a great show, but it wasn't a perfect show. Neither is Breaking Bad, but it's so emotionally involving.

My favorite "Oh spin me another one..." improbability from The Wire was how often McNulty found amorous companionship despite being drunker than most people have been in a cumulation of two life times, pretty much always. Plus, they were always quite attractive. So it isn't as if The Wire never did anything goofy. My favorite "Oh my God, what would he smell like? Ugh." was when he had the grievous hand wound, taped up with duct tape and the waitress was all "Hellllooo, Sailor!"

In David Simon's world Dominic West is apparently irresistible. Don't get me wrong, he's a handsome guy, but between the booze the hand wound that should have put him in the hospital, the waitress would have had to burn her bed afterward. Ugh.

Beyond that, the "notebook is empty!" flourish of the "Hey, if you didn't see Shattered Glass, let's watch this really long and rather silly exploration of the death of print media. Also, we're going to flog the living shit out of the use of Dickensian Aspect." Boy did they wear that joke down to a nub.

Breaking Bad also does dark comedy reliably and I personally find it funnier. That's always going to be the deciding factor in the "which was better" for me. What I personally liked better. I personally like Breaking Bad more as a show. I just like the characters more. By the end of The Wire I wanted a piano to drop on McNulty's head .

There's one other thing, when I started watching The Wire I got four episodes in and quit. It just didn't capture me the first time. The pacing really could have had Kubrick screaming, "Is anything ever going to happen?" I did eventually give the series another shot, because people were always telling me "Best!Show!Ever!" and I have to agree, it turned out to be a very good show, arguably one of the best ever. Pacing from Wagner at times, but really a very good show.

I resisted Breaking Bad for a long time because I thought the premise was repulsive, but again, people I respected were talking about it and I thought, "Sure, what do I have to lose?" on the same weekend I tried out Sons of Anarchy. I never made it through Sons of Anarchy disk one, but Breaking Bad had me hooked for good by the end of the teaser. I had to know, absolutely had to know, what was going on.

The Wire I went back to in that sort of "eat your vegetables" way. It had bored me nearly silly the first time I ever tried and it was only through repeated recommendations that I tried again...slogged through the first four episodes and found out "Wow, I quit exactly one episode too soon back in the day, this is great!" but five hours to hook me? Yeah, I'm not exactly the ungettable get.

I watch Boardwalk Empire because it's a fun period piece. It doesn't compete for me. Somewhere out there is someone who will react to that with a "What?!? I love Boardwalk Empire, it is so much better!" and here's the thing, it will be true for them. There's no "this one is provably a better show" when it comes to "Why do you love this show?" at least, as far as I know. Sure, there are awards and critical buzz but I can tell you this: Last Sunday I watch both Boardwalk Empire and Breaking Bad.

Until right this second, I hadn't given a second thought to the Boardwalk Empire episode. Not that it was bad, just BB was thoroughly engrossing. I think that ends up being individual. What do you personally find engrossing?

Going back to The Wire, all of season five, since I'd seen Shattered Glass and never much cared for McNulty, was the sort of stuff I watched and didn't think about much afterward. Does that mean it wasn't a good story? I'm pretty sure it was a good story, it just bored me stiff.

It's like ice cream flavor preference, ultimately it just comes down to "which one do you like more?"

Edited by stillshimpy, Oct 7, 2011 @ 11:50 AM.

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#19

colacentral

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Posted Oct 7, 2011 @ 12:19 PM

I've read that alot, about taking a few episodes to get into The Wire, and everyone I've tried to get into it has taken at least a few episodes (my poor girlfriend took 9 or 10 episodes until she started to like it; I was persistent) but I loved it straight away. I think I just found the slowness refreshing. All my favourite books and films are slow too, it's an illness.
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#20

stillshimpy

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Posted Oct 7, 2011 @ 12:40 PM

I think I just found the slowness refreshing. All my favourite books and films are slow too, it's an illness.


One I generally share, colacentral. This is mortifying to admit because for anyone who has seen the movie, it always makes people have an expression on their face like, "Big fan of slow, I take it?" but I loved the film A Passage to India (and the book too, but for whatever reason it startles people less that I loved the book). I had to see it all the way back in high school and while I was all, "Wow, what a beautiful film! We're so lucky to have to see this for a grade!" my friends were more of the "Someone fake a seizure so we can get the hell out of here." mindset. To this day my poor husband tries to dive for cover or distract me on the rare occasions it wanders by on cable, "Let's watch that!" "Or we could build something out of dryer lint, that sounds equally appealing."

I will tell you this, I never cried harder at anything on TV -- and whereas I don't cry easily, when I get started, boy do I commit -- than I did to the end of season four of The Wire. Oh my God, was that ever wrenching and emotionally involving. I was drained afterward. Breaking Bad has never made me cry. Tear up? Yup, end of last season, but I've never shed a tear. Whereas you would have thought I'd lost a blood relative at the end of season four.

So I don't know, what makes something great? I think both shows are great. I know that I've actually watched a bunch of things this week. Sunday night is the DVR death match at my house, it's currently got so much on that it's Sunday night for four days running here as I try to catch up. There was Boardwalk Empire and I'm sure a lot happened on it. Things I can actually remember, I just have to try. There was The Good Wife, which was good, but not great (I don't think it's a great show, but I'm sure someone out there legitimately does). Pan Am continues to be cute and refreshing. Look, the sixties could be pretty! And it's primarily cute that the show tries to delve into weightier topics.

But I know none of that matters inside of my head because Breaking Bad ate my brain for the week, with an episode that arguably didn't have writing that I was particularly impressed by (I'm waiting for the resolution, but I thought it was messier than usual)...and again, that doesn't matter because there is a part of me that wants Sunday night to get here and another part of me that never wants Sunday night to get here because then the show will be gone for nearly a year.

Normally I sort of flit around the forums, discussing things here and there. I watch things I never have a word to say about, but I do generally have a comment or two. Mostly this week, Breaking Bad ate my brain. I'm like the chick in the old Mervyn's commercials: Open.Open.Open, outside the series door.

That's one of my measures for greatness though: How caught up in something did I get? So far, at the end of every Breaking Bad season, by the penultimate episode I am mentally chewing my nails off up to the elbows.

It's not that The Wirev completely failed to do that for me, it did at times. It's just that Breaking Bad almost always hits a point where it is exhilarating, involving, tense and sometimes heartbreaking. I don't know if that's the standard by which to measure anything, but I know it is something that works for me.

Edited by stillshimpy, Oct 7, 2011 @ 12:49 PM.

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#21

Ankai

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Posted Oct 7, 2011 @ 12:48 PM

Personally, I did not find The Wire hard to get into. It did not necessarily hook me from the beginning, but there was nothing that made it difficult for me to continue past the first episode.

But wasn't the point of The Wire that every little decision we make comes back around and effects everyone, even those we don't know?

Sure, but the scope is so much larger than in Breaking Bad, which is so much more personal. The focus of Breaking Bad seems to be mainly on the decisions that Walt makes, with Jesse being a close second and Skyler a third. Hank and people in the drug game like Krazy-8, Tuco, and Gus, may force Walt into a corner, but it is usually Walt who somehow goads them into it in the first place and then he has to struggle out somehow. It would have been one thing if the Cousins simply killed him in the second episode of the last season, but he was saved at the last minute and did not even know that they had been in his house. For the most part, it is about the choices that he makes, not the choices made by others who don't know him. Unless you count Gale convincing Gus to hire him. And it was Gale who died because of that. In The Wire, the choices are more casual, often impersonal, and the consequences may be both inevitable and sudden. You cannot escape just by sinking lower, you just fall.

Boardwalk Empire is fine. Sometimes the story is disappointing and the show sometimes takes extreme liberties with history for reasons that I really do not understand.
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#22

Fisher King

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Posted Dec 12, 2012 @ 12:21 PM

This is not a comparison between Breaking Bad and The Wire, it's just a mashup using BB clips with the 5 seasons of The Wire's opening themes.

http://youtu.be/97PxJ-_6JwM

Edited by Fisher King, Dec 12, 2012 @ 12:26 PM.

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#23

Atomic Clock

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Posted Dec 12, 2012 @ 1:48 PM

Holy cow, you guys! I'd forgotten that I'd started this thread over a year ago. Glad to see that some people responded, even if it's kind of turned into a BB vs. The Wire debate, which I didn't fully intend.

I wrote my initial comments after finishing S3. I'm now all caught up and I will say without reservation that, if Breaking Bad can close the series next summer with a finale appropriate to the series that has come before it, it will be the best crime series of all time, imho.

I still haven't watched all of The Wire, though I've made it through the first season. Yes, it's an epic show and I respect it. It's also slow, depressing and ultimately feels hopeless at it's core. Beyond that, I can't make any fair comparisons until I finish the series. Alan Sepinwall inspired me to get back into it after reading his book, so I'll be back with more later on The Wire, but it's gonna be slow going.

Sepinwall also inspired me to rewatch much of The Sopranos; I'm surprised no one has mentioned it here. When the show was great as it was during it's first three seasons, it was often brilliant. But as the show moved on, it became more hit-or-miss. It still contained flashes of greatness such as Ralphie's whacking, the NYC war and Tony B arc in Season 5 and Tony's shooting and Phil's vendetta in Season 6.

But we also had plenty of missteps; Johnny Cakes, Pie Oh My, Christopher's movie, etc. We also had plenty of controversy; Tony's dreams, too much family drama and not enough violence, too much violence and not enough therapy, etc. Oh yeah...and the ending.

Now, I know I haven't seen all of The Wire, yet, but even it's fans have their own arguments as to which season was the best and as to which plots worked and which didn't. Most fans and critics seem to agree that the last season was the weakest. Some think Season 4 was the best, while others argue that the series was over when Stringer died. The point is, there is no universal agreement on anything in The Wire.

Quick! Someone tell me which season of Breaking Bad is the best. Which is the worst? I don't actually mean to start that debate, but I want to illustrate a point. I can't do it. That's because BB is hyper-serialized to the point that, but for the conventional format of television, it really can't be broken up into seasons. It's all one long, continuous story really. Whereas every other drama, no matter how good or bad, does somewhat of a reboot in between seasons, BB never does. It always picks up either seconds, minutes or hours after the conclusion of the previous one. I think the longest break we got was in between seasons 2 and 3 when a few days had passed.

This form of a narrative allows for tighter storytelling. Yes, Season 4 of BB was great and probably raised the stakes for Walt and Jesse to a whole new level as Walt's war with Gus took on momentum, but we didn't need any new villains or characters to bring in a bigger game. All the writers had to do was tread the ground they had laid so carefully in the previous episodes. Every character, save a few supporting bit parts here and there, had come along before S4. Yes, we got a couple of new characters in S5 with Lydia and Todd, but their entrance seemed natural after Gus's death, not because we were entering a new season and it was just time for new players to come on to the field.

Let me address one of my own criticisms from last year; that of the plot contrivance. Yes, BB does it, but so does every show, including "The great ones." You guys have already argued the contrivances brought by The Wire. Even Sepinwall, who names The Wire as his favorite show, admits that David Simon took dramatic liberties when it served to tell a better story.

David Chase wasn't above a contrivance either. The FBI was his favorite trope. The Feds just happen to arrest Uncle Junior before Tony can whack him. The FBI comes a knockin' on Johnny Sack's door just after Tony whacks Tony B, but before things can be patched up with Phil. Ray just happens to have a heart attack before he can publicly flip on Tony. Ewgene just happens to commit suicide before he can do the same. The Feds try to plant a bug in Tony's house, but their efforts keep getting hampered by a flood in the basement, then by Meadow, who just happens to take the very lamp with the bug in it back to her college dorm room. In fact, aside from the major plots involving Big Pussy and Adriana, the Feds are mostly just window dressing as the Jersey and NYC mobsters go around committing murder after murder with no consequences from law enforcement. Even at the end of the show, the Feds give Tony a helpful little nudge that gives him the advantage he needs to win his war with Phil. How considerate.

The world doesn't operate this way on Breaking Bad. Every murder has consequences, before and after. Whether it's Walt's first murder in Jesse's basement, to his indirect murder of Jane, to Jesse's murder of Gale, to the murders of Gus and Mike. For every murder there are consequences, both intrensic and extrensic. Hank represents the consequences from the law and, based on the mid-season cliffhanger, they will play a big role in the final eight episodes next summer.

That's another nice thing about BB; not every character is an irredeemable piece of trash as you find in The Sopranos. Yes, they are all well-drawn and have their flaws, but they are human. Walt starts out as a sympathetic kind of anti-hero, but he's now made the dark leap to full-on antagonist. Skyler has stayed mostly unsympathetic, in my view. Meanwhile, Jesse has made the opposite journey, becoming the conscience of the show. And I find myself cheering for Hank as well. He may have been a loud-mouth blowhard, but he's changed and grown over the course of the series. He's always been a good cop and I believe that he's a good person at his core. If he were a character penned by Chase, he'd be a serial adulterer at best, and a wife-beater or corrupt cop at worst.

If The Sopranos is all about the futility of change, Breaking Bad's central theme seems to be that change, for good or ill, is the only constant we have in our lives. IN fact, chemistry is all about change. How's that for irony? Amid all of the dark violence of the show, it's a refreshing message.

As far as finales go, the only series I've seen fans consistently praise from beginning to end is The Shield. Even then, the final moments of the show left things kind of open-ended should tptb ever want to do a movie. I hope we don't get that with BB and if Vince Gilligan's recent interview is any indication, we won't.

There's more to say, but I'm a little long. What do others think?


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#24

thatguy01

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Posted Dec 12, 2012 @ 4:22 PM

When it comes to 'clueless feds,' the ABQ meth trade puts the Tri State Mafia to shame. The local ASAC traded bbq tips with the old boss, and the new boss organized a simultaneous rubout in jail of everyone the feds arrested from the old regime. The only reason the feds have any idea of what was going on is that Walt very publicly blew up the old boss and his secret manufacturing plant. Until then, the feds were actively ignoring the only cop who was on the right track.

Edited by thatguy01, Dec 12, 2012 @ 4:23 PM.

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#25

Atomic Clock

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Posted Dec 12, 2012 @ 5:51 PM

You're right. I guess we could debate as to whether or not Merkert should've given more creedence to Hank's theories, but to tptb's credit, at least they addressed it at the beginning of S5 when Merkert was sacked in favor of Hank. Gotta wonder what Hank's professional fate will be when his bosses learn that his own brother-in-law was Gus's successor.

I never made it through Sons of Anarchy disk one, but Breaking Bad had me hooked for good by the end of the teaser.


I've stuck with SOA throughout, and it doesn't hold a candle to BB. Then again, with the arguable exceptions of Boardwalk and Homeland, nothing today does.

Boardwalk Empire is fine. Sometimes the story is disappointing and the show sometimes takes extreme liberties with history for reasons that I really do not understand.


The official reason is, "dramatic license." The unofficial reason is the ego of the show's creators. Same thing with Deadwood. David Milch took all kinds of liberties; George Hearst was not a murderous tyrant, Seth Bullock and Wild Bill Hickok never knew each other, etc. But in spite of the fudging, critics still call Deadwood a masterpiece. Whatever merrits will be used to judge Boardwalk, historical accuracy will not be one of them.


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#26

JOnanGoopta

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Posted Dec 12, 2012 @ 9:10 PM

I'm going to have to go with Season 4 as the best season. The first season had some phenomenal episodes and was an entirely new thing on television, but the characters were, at that time, much less developed, especially characters like Jesse, who was supposed to get killed and was treated like more of a comic prop than a character at first.

By 4, though, the characters were well-developed, including the truly incredible villain that was Gus Fring. From the first minute of the first episode, the show was almost unbearably tense, There was enough comic relief in the form of Saul Goodman and interpersonal humor between Walt and Jesse to keep you from losing your mind. And the final episode was such a stunning climax that they could have ended the series on it without it being unsatisfying.

How Season 5 stacks up we can only tell by the end, but so far, it is unremittingly grim and depressing. An already dark show has gone pitch black. For example, when the best case scenario for your lead character is that you hope he dies doing something noble, because he is such a bastard he has to die, the show is dark. The darkest moment of this season was the utterly senseless killing of Mike. I was not at all surprised that Walt ended up killing Mike, but the way he did it was horrifying and hit me like a gut punch.
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#27

Scrb

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Posted Aug 4, 2013 @ 6:44 PM

Yeah it's almost time to consider the legacy of BB as it draws to a close.  Giligan, Paul and Cranston are the celebrated rockstars and Gilligan intended the show to be about the moral decay of the characters, about people who start out to be good becoming progressively bad under increasing duress.

 

All the plaudits that Cranston have received are fully justified, as he's created one of the most memorable characters in the last 20 years or so.

 

But the hook for me is how the show drove towards confrontations, each bigger than the previous ones, and resolving them in unexpected and thrilling ways, from the first time Heinsenberg shows up to free Jesse from Tuco all the way to how Fring is dispatched -- also you have Fring going into the cartel's stronghold and decapitating it and escaping.

 

There's kind of a genius at work in how the characters solve what seem to be no-win scenarios.  Could these big scenes, really the signature of the series, be part of the depiction of the characters?  That in the descent into evil, they're able to tap into a certain genius?  Or perhaps some mediation on what people are capable of when confronted with extreme threat to survival?

 

There is a certain improvisational genius but it's not necessarily in real time, except when Walt realized and decided in an instant to let Jane choke to death.  As a terminal cancer case, one might think that Walt would be given to rash, maybe even reckless approaches, such as when Jesse was going to confront the two dealers by himself.

 

But no there is clearly a method in his madness, at least when it comes to plotting ways to defeat his opponents or obstacles.  Other than very high intelligence and scientific training though, there is nothing in his background to suggest he'd be capable of outwitting the morally unhinged (yet some meticulous like Fring) criminals he has to defeat along the way -- indeed, Walt breaking bad to become this alpha criminal mastermind with unbounded desire for power (building an empire) is really incredible.

 

As the protagonist, Walt White is given most of these sensational moments but when you really look at it, it's kind of an MO, coming up with genius ways to fool and ultimately defeat opponents.  As mentioned before, Fring defeats the cartel and you can also say that Hank also has to improvise to beat the Salamanca twins after being shot and left while he goes to retrieve his ax.

 

Ultimately, these scenes are not about the characters in the show so much as the character of the show, which delivers one breathtaking confrontation after another.  The nuances of character development are there but the big crowd pleasers are these big confrontations which attest to the genius of the writing.


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#28

ph3iron

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Posted Aug 5, 2013 @ 3:45 PM

Glad you like it but i think its pathetic
I haven't met one fellow chemist who likes it. Maybe we are too anal but a lot of the chemistry is wrong. So what, one might say - its TV? A more basic criticism I guess is that the plot is so unbelievably ridiculous. A high school chem teacher can outwit and survive the worst of the really bad drug cartels - really!
My bro who had to watch it as part of his expert witness on illegal labs maybe put it best - tiresome and inaccurate.
Maybe I've been spoiled by the euro The Killing (US version lousy), The Bridge (US version also lousy)
Now THERE are a couple of riveting mysteries with fabulous scripts. No slam bang thank you ma'am action in these.
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#29

thatguy01

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Posted Aug 5, 2013 @ 3:55 PM

Yeah, don't want no adrenaline-pumping heists on my TV.  

 

For realism re: Walt in the meth business, I commend Bambi vs Godzilla to your attention.

 

http://www.youtube.c...h?v=n-wUdetAAlY


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#30

Ankai

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Posted Aug 5, 2013 @ 6:24 PM

Maybe we are too anal but a lot of the chemistry is wrong.

Well, okay.

 

I have seen both original versions of The Killing and The Bridge and while I enjoyed them, each of them have Breaking Bad beat in the ridiculous storyline department. The Killing had way too many coincidences based on people doing particularly bad things all at once (and the second season was just stupid), while the ultimate reveal of The Bridge was utterly farcical, way beyond any hyperrealism that Breaking Bad has indulged in.


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