I was going to write about all the construction around campus, and then “Breaking Bad” happened on Sunday. Forgive me if you don’t watch, but America’s most popular show got me thinking about America’s most popular state of mind.
“Breaking Bad” is my favorite show of all time, at least it was. Sunday left me feeling like I needed a shower, left me feeling like I needed to apologize to a lot of people for a lot of things, left me wanting to burn all of my possessions and start anew.
My mom hates the show. She thinks it’s depraved. She’s also never seen it, not even a second. That always annoyed me, because I thought one should at least give it a chance. What does it say about a program when it makes you straddle the fence of rationalizing with the moral decisions of a meth dealer? A lot of things died in the last episode, including its artistic value.
In storytelling, you need change. It’s maybe the second rule after “beginning, middle and end.” What was so compelling about “Breaking Bad” seems to be turning into the sword it will fall on by series’ end: a good man turning bad. Walter White is going from bad to badder. That’s ultimately unsatisfying. We already know Walter was bad. What’s the difference if he’s just a little badder?
I don’t need Walter to repent. The show needs Walter to suffer. A show about karma and the things you sow needs to have its chief antagonist feel the weight of that reaping.
I fear “Breaking Bad” is so enamored with the “coolness/ craziness” of Walter’s psychopathy that they’re forgetting the humanity at the bottom of its darkest abyss.
We’re watching this to ultimately grow as individuals. To be entertained, sure; but the show has been — and needs to continue to be — forcing its viewers to come to grips philosophically with the idea of evil in this world and how bad deeds, even if tied to unselfish reasoning, will eventually cripple a person.
Last night, “Breaking Bad” took a turn for something different. Walter’s bad deeds crossed a line previously untouched. He taunted Jesse on his deathbed and in turn transformed his bad from morally conflicting into sadism purer in form than his own famous blue concoction.
It left me wondering why a world would be glued to a tale about ruined lives, blood, suffering and evil not prevailing but pervading. Sure it’s gripping, but when the deeper truths subside, what are we left with but icky feelings?
I used to relish the morality of the bigger picture, and now I just feel like I’m watching torture porn and evil acts trumping other evil acts. “Breaking Bad” might be living up to its title, a story about a man starting good and ending with a portfolio of depraved acts, but the only thing I kept thinking after the credits rolled on Sunday was: why am I still watching?
Follow Ben Holcomb on Twitter: @BenjaminHolcomb
As published in the Sept. 19 issue of the Pepperdine Graphic.