WARNING: VERY MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD… will not impact any future bingers. I PROMISE!
I always thought that I was too much of a hypochondriac and a coward to ever be a drug addict. But Breaking Bad has turned me into what I thought I’d never be. I’m a full-on joneser, bitch – and this show is my drug.
I know it’s overdone but I can’t stop saying it, bitch.
Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, BITCH, BITCH, BITCH, BITCH, BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
What is it about this show?
Okay, now that it’s over – now that my time for mainlining a new hit of BB has come to an end (and not by choice mind you, merely out of the fact that there will never be a new episode again) – I’m going to have to take inventory and start at the beginning. Because then and only then can I deal with a future that holds no more stories about the adventures of Walt and Jesse. Sorry to disappoint the women in my life, but I could deal with a future that didn’t include Skyler. But more on that later. (Note: She grows on you).
Almost six years went by before I ever tuned in. Well, I’m nothing if not opinionated. I tried watching part of an episode once. Eh. It was later in season one and it was a combination of boring and over-the-top. Of course it was. I didn’t know what the hell was going on.
But now that we’re in the 2010s and can instantly view almost any television series of our choice from the beginning thanks to Netflix, Amazon Prime, DVRs and well, uh, other more illegal means (Note: This IS a show about crystal meth makers), I, and anyone else with these kind of first world problems, have the option of changing their tune. Why did I change? Between my students, my family, my friends and the weird combination of BB celebrity tweets from the likes of James L. Brooks, Samuel Jackson, Aisha Taylor, Patton Oswalt and Melissa Gilbert (Half Pint from Little House on the Prairie??!!) I eventually had to give in. That and the fact that I can’t bear to be the guy that’s left out, especially from a cultural conversation (Note: This could have something to do with always being the next to last person chosen in gym class before I wised up in my senior year of high school and volunteered to be attendance monitor. But I’m not sure).
Still, how do you catch up and get with the program when there’s only 8 days remaining before the cultural conversation about the program you’re missing changes, the final episode airs and you’ve missed it all and can never get it back again? Well, it’s no different from taking a final when you’ve never done the reading; or writing a new story or screenplay on a deadline when you’ve procrastinated to the point of absolute terror. You cram.
Of course, there’s a kinder word for what we TV watchers do: BINGE.
Here is my story.
Pre Day One
If one more person posts anything about Breaking Bad or brings it up in a conversation I will literally buy a gun. Seriously. I talk to my sister, who binged in 2-3 weeks this summer in order to watch all of the final season with everyone else in real time this fall and ask her if she thought it was possible for me to do it in one week’s time for the final episode. I mean, she’s seemed happier than she’s been in months – a tense, hyped up kind of happy but still… I figured – we do have some of the same genes. So there could be hope for me. Maybe I should and could try this???
She was very encouraging and said, knowing me, it was probably doable – though like all good sisters, she did worry I might push myself too hard.
As were my students, many of who had been watching it for years or had binged months or years ago on their own. But when we factored in the dates and my desire to join the party with them in time for the finale 8 days later – and with the current total number of one hour episodes I’d have to watch at 61 (!) – I saw the grave doubt in their eyes. A person this old (Meaning ANYONE over 40) could NEVER pull this off. Especially one who has to spend part of their days teaching them and reading their work. Hah!! They don’t know me very well. They don’t realize I used to cover film festivals and once, when I was an aspiring TV writer in the 80s, watched six full seasons of Kate and Allie on a VCR before the days of DVRs in preparation for a pitch meeting. (Note: One that, incidentally, never even took place!) I knew that I could do it. What I didn’t know, however, and what they did know, was what I had in store.
Breaking Bad is a show about a mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer, fears leaving his family destitute from exorbitant medical bills and decides he could provide a tidy little nest egg for them if he uses his vast scientific skills to be a cooker of crystal meth. This gives nothing away since it is pretty much all covered in Season One, Episode One. But this is also not a proper summary of what the show is really about.
It’s really about the dissolution of the middle class American dream, about greed, about liars being rewarded, villains who are really heroes and vice versa. It’s about the destruction of the nuclear family in great part due to the times we live in and the people we choose to live with. It’s about fathers and sons, husbands and wives, the burdens and joys of being in a family and the very idea of what or whom constitutes family. Moreover, it’s about drugs, sex and a little bit of rock ‘n roll – well, the current version of it, anyway. Hell, if I had only known that I might have begun watching six years ago. Which might not have been that good for me. Not in a show that mixes all of the former with drug lords, car chases, shootings, knifings, poisonings, twenty feet wide beds of cash, sleazy lawyers, corruption behind every bit of cactus in Albuquerque, NM, and drug montages set to some of my favorite forgotten hit songs of the sixties – Crystal Blue Persuasion and Windy. As Carrie Fisher famously wrote, instant gratification takes too long – especially in a story like this one. I don’t think I could’ve been strung along over that big of a period of real time with this kind of story. I experienced that once with one very destructive love relationship I had in the early eighties and vowed to NeVeR AgAiN (BB Fans: Note the typeface there?) put myself in that position.
Or, to phrase it another way: If anyone tries to make a case to you that binge watching an entire series in a matter of days is improper viewing because it doesn’t give you the necessary breathing room television episodes are supposed to have, tell them this – I wish I could have done it in 61 straight hours. #ChannellthatBitch!
Day One – Friday, 7pm
Note: I hate the wife. I’m drawn to the 16 year-old kid with cerebral palsy for reasons I don’t want to examine (Uh, not what you think. Or is it?). I feel bad for Walter White, even though he’s a straight, middle-aged white man who by his very birth has enjoyed an odd type of superior status in the world. He’s smart and moral but has had a lot of bad luck. Plus, now he got cancer. Even before this his wife treated him like a child.
Walter’s idea to cook meth with his former failed chemistry student Jesse is misguided but sort of brilliant. I’ve met Jesse and so have you – he’s Sean Penn’s Spicoli from Fast Times At Ridgemont High if Spicoli had lived in the desert and graduated from pot into a full on drug dealing meth head. Jesse might seem stupid but he’s not dumb. And he has a good heart. He reminds me of the cool guys I let cheat off my tests in high school.
I’m partial to family dramas but I’m finding myself much more drawn to the drugs and suspense. My heart is racing a little. Wow – there are an awful lot of drugs. And a gun or two. Or three. But the money’s coming in and there are an awful lot of lies starting. Hmm, this can’t end well. I feel for Walt when he has to shave his head from chemo and I do like his badass new black hat.
But unlike Jesse I was a very good student, even in subjects like chemistry that I wasn’t interested in. In fact, I remember the name Heisenberg. He was a famous scientist. Actually physicist. I google him. Oh, right – also a Jew who managed to live and work in Germany during the Nazi regime. Uh, oh. This is CANNOT end well. For me or for Walter – who now likes to call himself Heisenberg when he’s wearing the black hat. Yes, that’s right, it’s a BLACK HAT (get it???). As for me, it’s 3 in the morning and I’m done with all seven episodes of season one. Clearly, there’s trouble ahead.
Day Two – Saturday, 2pm
I’ve got work to do and plans tonight so I’m just gonna watch a few. Poor Jesse. He’s the dangerous screw up in high school and college who was always nice to me when he didn’t have to be. I want to reach out and help him. I wanna hang out and have him teach me a few things. Like – how do you come up with those cool expressions? (Note: Do NOT say writers). How can you be so fearless? How are you able to cry at the drop of a hat and yet, shoot guns or shoot drugs a second later? Plus, he’s got the hair I will never have. I love him and sort of hate him all at the same time. Young Blue Eyes.
Then there’s Jane. Whenever I meet a girl whose hair and makeup is that jet black – a gal who is also artistic and sober after what clearly must have been a debauched adolescence – I’m frightened. In both a good and a bad, bad way. Jesse, of course, evokes no such thing. Which is part of the reason we (I?) love him.
As for Walter, he’s beginning to scare me. I wish I had the nerve to shave my head. Actually, I don’t. He’s twice my size so it won’t look nearly as good on me. We’re talking macho vs. sickly, skinny guy with a nasty attitude. If I were Jesse it could work. But clearly I’m not. And I’m beginning to be happy about that.
Omigod – it’s 6:45 pm and I’m not showered and I have a dinner date half an hour away in 45 minutes. I’ve got to stop. WW J & W do? They’d take the five extra minutes and finish episode six.
I do. And I’m not sorry.
I’m home. And it’s on. Oh – it’s soooo on. I’m beginning to understand where Skyler is coming from. Walt’s got a bit of an ego, doesn’t he? Well, okay, who doesn’t. Plus, he has CANCER. Still, when your spouse lies to you – when the trust is evaporating – all bets are off. I remember the guy from the eighties and that crappy relationship I was in and suddenly I’m with her.
Wow, I don’t think I’ve seen the actor Giancarlo Esposito since Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. Well, he’s certainly different – all suits and buttoned down shirts, y’all. And is he playing this guy gay? Nah, it must be my imagination. Neat and fastidious is not necessarily a code word for gay anymore. Still, I don’t mind it. The character is one of the biggest drug dealers in country, works in a straight man’s world and has managed to outsmart and outlive everyone else. Kudos to him. Plus, he reads Walt Whitman. Which makes him erudite. And I guess is also a big clue about who he is. Duh. It’s now 3:30 am and I have three episodes left to the end of season 2. Fine. I’ll go to bed. But I’m not sleeping all day tomorrow. I mean, Today.
Day Three – Sunday, 8:30 am
Why is my dog BARKING!! That little rat!!! I mean…I love my dog. I have to find out what’s wrong. I mean…I hope she’s okay.
Wait – she’s a BITCH! I should have known.
I posted my blog and dozed for 15 minutes but really, I can’t sleep the day away. Maybe I’ll just turn on the TV for some company. Oh look – Netflix is still on. I forgot to put it back to regular TV. Oh well, might as well continue before I go to the gym.
Is Jesse and Jane sort of supposed to sound like Jesse James, the badass outlaw? Perhaps not. I think I’m pushing the metaphor. Thank God Bob Odenkirk has been added for comic relief. I remember when he used to date Janeane Garofalo, and this was before she had tattoos. Boy, am I getting old. I’m much more of a Walter than a Jesse, I think – at least age wise. How did that happen? And who has all of my drug money? And why aren’t I the head of something bigger than this blog? Walter’s doing it and he’s sick. And tired. I’m just the latter. Plus, I’m beginning to have trouble breathing.
One thing I’ve learned over the years, though, is to stay away from gay guys like Esposito’s Gus. Yes, I’ve met a few. They usually have slightly better suits but, then again, most of these guys lived in New York and L.A. There is a difference. Sorry to my friends who are in the fly over or under states.
Meanwhile, I think Walter has crossed a line. In fact, now that season 2 is over, I’m sure he has. This series is very anti-drugs. In fact, it should be shown in high schools. Why isn’t anyone writing about that? And seriously, what world do I live in? High schools? In 2013 America? I don’t think so. It’s not the seventies anymore. I’m off to the gym.
I pulled a stomach and I think groin muscle after 2 hours at the gym trying to work off all of this tension. Damn it. Well, I guess there are worse things. I can walk and I’m only a bit twisted inside. Maybe I’ll turn on the TV for some therapy. I’ve earned it.
I’m on season 3 and I’ve got 13 of them episodes ahead of me. And I’m injured. I guess I have to take it easy and relax. Click.
I’m beginning to like some of these lines. Things like:
I trust the hole in the desert I’d leave you in!!
My favorites, though, are the Jesse-isms. For those who don’t watch (or skipped what I’ve written so far and started at this part) he likes to use Yo and Bitch a lot. In one of these episodes he’s lamenting about cleaning up the meth lab and dreams of having assistants to not only handle all the dirt but to wait on him hand and foot. Imagining what it would be like, he fantasizes lines like these:
Is it any wonder that I love this guy? Even when I hate, and have always hated, the taste of Gatorade?
It’s 2:30 am again but it doesn’t matter. I’m on Season 3 and, as they say in the old country, this shit’s getting’ real. Blood is being mopped. It’s very Sweeny Todd without Johnny Depp, Angela Lansbury or even a whiff of show music. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if they do eventually go there.
Oh, and P.S. – I’ll never look at an ATM machine the same way again.
Day Four – Monday, Sometime in the afternoon
I’m in more pain than I thought and wish I had some meth. No, not really. It’s just a fantasy. But speaking of fantasy – Click.
Oh God – Gus, Gus, Gus, Gus. I’d still choose a gay villain over Sean Hayes. Because I don’t think I want to live in the world that Sean has saved. At least with Gus there’s a chance I could still get to read and understand Walt Whitman, eat fried chicken and wear clothes that don’t come from J Crew. Though I’m not quite partial to jewel tones so I might have to think about the latter.
In any event, Walter’s new lab is ONE COOL CRIB. It sort of reminds me of Frank N. Furter’s science fantasy place in Rocky Horror Picture Show. In fact, Walter’s new lab assistant, Gale, could be the before version of Eddie in Rocky Horror.
Leading a double life is not easy but Walter’s getting the hang of it. He’s even staring down cancer. But does he wonder where his son is disappearing to when he says he’s with a friend? Nah, too busy. I’m hoping Walter, Jr. (now Flinn) is getting laid. Though I’m not sure we’ll ever find out. And truly, it’s not our business anyway.
The White family is in a shambles but as a child of divorce I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. It does get better when the fighting stops. But only IF the fighting stops. Which doesn’t seem likely here. Suddenly, younger children have entered the mix and there are more meth heads than you can shake a stick at. I can’t bear to look at any more rotting teeth. Which begs the question of why Jesse’s are so always so pearly white. Whatever. It’s a fantasy. And it’s Jesse.
Uh, I spoke too soon. Holy mother of whomever – I’m not sure I’m liking Hank, the DEA brother-in-law anymore. He thinks he can do what to Jesse?
My stomach hurts really bad – not so much from the gym injury but the bald and built TWIN (actually, they’re just brothers but they do dress alike) MEXICAN ASSASSINS. They are sort of like post millennium Terminators without the Austrian accent. Actually, they don’t speak at all. Well, barely. Which makes them even scarier.
I’m afraid to look at what time it is but I know it’s dark and everyone else in my house is asleep. Season 3 is over and it’s a cliffhanger. I don’t teach till tomorrow night so I usually go in the office later. I can prepare and do my readings…whenever I get to them. IF I CHOOSE TO GET TO THEM!
No one has ever died from binge watching a series – good or bad – though there is a cult movie from 1935 called Murder By Television (starring Bela Lugosi) that posits it is possible. Though not so much from the content of what’s onscreen but more the rays being emitted.
I’m not too far gone to realize BB has taken over my life but I am too far gone to stop watching. This was my choice. No one forced me to do the drugs. And NO ONE is going to force me to stop doing them.
Damn it – I have to moderate a panel of former students who are working at cool jobs in the entertainment industry to educate current students about to get into the entertainment industry. I know how I will get through it. I’m a Ginsberg. That’s close enough to a Heisenberg. I’m the best cook around and I know they’ll be buying what I’m serving up. Click. Pause.
Day Five/Six – Sometime that night after 10pm and before 2:30 am Tuesday morning
I’m not sure where I am. Here’s what I do know.
- I don’t want to live in Albuquerque.
- My partner downstairs doesn’t take kindly to me calling him bitch.
- I’d better be nicer to my partner downstairs because he tells me he can get me the missing first 3 episodes of Season 5, Part 2 that are not on Netflix and are not scheduled to be rerun on AMC until Sunday. Since I already have the final five episodes after those this will ensure I have what I need to keep me fully wired through Friday night and meet my deadline of the one week binge. Being nice is a small price to pay. Though it’s no longer in my nature to be nice. Still, like Heisenberg, I can fake it.
Walter is great even as he’s reinforcing the old cliché: Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely. He’s turned Jesse into something he was never meant to be and he’s turned himself into someone he was always meant to be, as we’re beginning to find out. After a lifetime of working in show business the one thing I’ve learned is that rarely is the person who is rising up to be the most rich and powerful among us also the warmest and fuzziest.
I’m scared. I’m very scared. Yeah yo, I am. To quote Skyler, who I’m beginning to have some sympathy for:
Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.
I taught my Day Five, I mean, Wednesday night class. Luckily one of those bitches didn’t show up so I got home a bit earlier. Pass the pipe. Er, I mean the remote.
Day Six – The Late Morning. I think?
If I can’t kill you, you’ll sure as shit wish you were dead. – A Jesse-ism
A guy opens the door and you’re afraid I’LL get shot?? No, I AM THE DANGER! – A Walt/Heisenberg-ism
Jesse has crossed the line and even I can’t make any excuses for him. Except…well, never mind. I’m trying to avoid spoilers. And…I have a really bad headache.
Like all great criminals, Walt reveals more of himself than he should because of his own ego. But I don’t assume this will sink him because there are two more seasons left and because Sen. Ted Cruz is still standing. (Note: Show business and politics will always be extremely inter-related).
Plus, there’s the old mute drug lord at the senior citizens home who can only communicate by dinging a little bell at the top of the arm of his wheelchair. Not to mention…well, a lot of other stuff.
I have all day to do this and I will. There is tuna in a can downstairs, bread and water. That’s all the time I can spare right now. All I need. All I deserve.
Wait, this isn’t day six. I’m quoting what happened last night, which is really early this morning. Everything I just said on Day Six really happened on Day Five. Or Four. And I soooooo don’t care.
What I do care about is that I have 2 three-hour classes to teach today and I haven’t read any of their outlines. Pass the six pack of Diet Coke.
Yeah. Right. That’s what the label says on the outside. On the inside – I’m not telling. But – you know.
Wow, that went better than I thought. Kudos to Diet Coke. (heh, heh). Still, now that I’m home – me and the significant other, we usually watch Project Runway on Thursday nights. Walter and Skyler’s equivalent was probably bowling before all this started. Luckily, like all good long-term marriages, my partner and I have our own stuff to do this particular night. He’s busy working on an honest to goodness book and asked not to be disturbed. Like I planned to.
Suddenly, I’m not tired. I mean, At. All. Click.
It is so in keeping with who I am that the final episode of Season 4, which was voted the best episode of television in any number of publications that year, was among my least favorite. As I tell myself and I sometimes tell my students:
It doesn’t pay to look too forward to anything, especially anything in movies or on television. You’ll inevitably be disappointed.
Not that many parts of the whole thing weren’t great. There’s a seminal moment that was very cool and lots of stuff gets resolved. Not my addiction, though. Never my addiction. I have to see what happens in just the first episode of Season 5, Part 1, Episode 1. Okay, maybe Episode 2.
I do this and I am treated to one of my favorite Jesse lines of the series:
Plus, somewhere along the line I find the first few missing episodes of Season 5, Part II on the table near the TV in a teeny, tiny package marked BITCH!. Presents like this will often magically appear in BB world. Though they also always carry a price. Hmm, I’m not gonna think about that now. I’m excited and tired at the same time. And I have a big cook ahead of me tomorrow.
THE LAST DAY
The rest of season 5, Part 1 and all of Season 5, Part II, except for the final episode, which will be broadcast Sunday night. Together that’s almost 12 hours of television. Hmmph, it’ll be child’s play to hit all of that up. Like – seriously – me not being able to hit it up is akin to chances of me trying to keep up with Robert Downey, Jr. on any sort of drug binge 20 years ago. That was a time long before he got sober and long before I needed to.
Something happens when you know you’re in the home stretch of something you so, so worked for and are about to get. There’s an…exhilaration? And some sadness. But no time to reflect. Not now. Not ever. Well, at least for now.
Walter White is the smartest person in the room. And he isn’t interested in money so much as he is in BUILDING AN EMPIRE!!!
He’s turned into a non-ethnic, southwestern version of Don Corleone. The major difference is that instead of hearing the Tarantella we finally get to enjoy Tommy James and Shondells’ version of Crystal Blue Persuasion as he cooks the blue-tinted drug he invented that is now being fetishized by users round the world. My question: Why did it take them so long to use this song and why didn’t I ever see it coming?
Some time after the song stops, or perhaps it was a long time after, something I know all too well suddenly comes out of nowhere and hits me over the head. No, it’s not the significant other, though that would be justified. It’s that the first rule of drama is: If you introduce a gun or anything else that threatening in the beginning of your story you know it’s going to have to be fired or explode in the end. I’m beginning to see the totality of what Walt and Jesse and Skyler and the rest of the family are up against. And up to. Not to mention some of the other morally questionable drug enablers I’ve grown to love this week. It’s getting Shakespearean, yo! Did you see the end of Hamlet, Macbeth or even Romeo and Juliet?
I have no idea that is what will happen. In fact, I have NO idea what will happen. I only know that I can’t eat, my stomach is in knots and if one more person leaves a message on my cell phone or machine I am going full Luddite.
Sometime later that evening —
I can see the end in sight because I just watched the last episode before the final episode pass behind me. I’m done. Caught up, I mean. Yes, it’s really early the morning of the eighth day but I wouldn’t advise you challenging me on that just now. Not after what I’ve gone through. Not just yet.
SUNDAY NIGHT: One episode remaining. One hit left.
It was beautiful. Every last millisecond. It was sooo worth it. All of it.
And I ain’t sayin’ any more than that. Bitch.
Pass the pipe. Er, the remote.