99% Pure and All Bad

Fellow Baddites, it’s official.  I am now one of you.

Remove your masks, tip your black pork pie hats, shower me with hundred dollar bills and just call Saul.  I am a full fledged Bryan Cranston groupie and the newest member of the Breaking Bad fan club.

Make that a ZERO TO 62 member.  I just went on one hell of a Bad bender and am now emerging from the underground lab that used to be my living room.

And my reaction?

That was meth’d up.  Really really meth’d up…

Chemistry has never been my strong suit. Call me Jesse, if you will.  I know just enough to unintentionally set something on fire.  I’ve never liked the periodic table.  It lacks symmetry.  It’s clear that elements are missing, and that bothers me.  And why all those little numbers in the corner boxes?  They look like Scrabble tiles, which could be fun because I really enjoy making triple letter double word combos.

What I do remember most about chemistry is that all reactions start with a catalyst.  Befittingly, my primary addiction, Poshmark was the catalyst for my Breaking Bad addiction.

Btw, you can stop sucking up all the air from the room.

It all began when I received (what I now know to be) the biggest compliment I have ever received on Poshmark.  I was sorting through Posh comments one morning and saw that a fellow Posher said – about my closet – “it has more surprises than an episode of Breaking Bad.”

“Wow.  Really?  That’s SO sweet!!! (multiple question marks buzzing over my head) But I don’t get it.”

At precisely the same time I was getting strange Breaking Bad “love” in my Posh closet, the buzz for the series finale was becoming deafening.  Wow again, as I had no idea it was already ending after such a “short” run.  I couldn’t even remember that it had all started in 2008.  It just never was on my radar.  My household never watched it, so no one missed it.

OMG. Would you stop gasping?

I didn’t watch it THEN, and I had good reason.

I surmised from others that Breaking Bad’s storyline had no breaks.  It’s evident now just how immediate those breaks really are, each one’s action blending right into the next. And it’s shocking to know that the hardcore Bad fans, the ones who started with the series from day 1 and have remained loyal to it all this time, never got what Vince Gilligan likely intended for them – a 99% pure product that only Walter White could cook.

Series creators can have a brillianty concieved vision – a story to tell – only to have the translation squashed by the timeless rules of the small screen and the market that supports it.  Censorship, commercials, uncertain contractual obligations, hiatuses – these all conspire to taint the vision.

Vince Gilligan would never have been able to showcase Walt’s terrifying metamorphoses in a 3 hour movie. He had to make a long-term commitment to yield the highest possible attention to detail.  That’s what makes Bad so good – those little plot twists that keep you glued to your seat.  Character development, foreshadowing, continuity and symbolism would have been criminally neglected if scripted for the big screen.

But unfortunately, the result was far from pure.  Bad’s viewers got contaminated product, a watered down version of Gilligan’s vision.  Mind you, I’m not bashing the show.  Far from it.  I’m merely stating my opinion that something as visionary as Breaking Bad got lost in it’s own scheduling requirements.

Think about it – sixty-two 47-minute episodes stretched over 5 years.  That’s roughly 2 days of Breaking Bad delivered to you in about 2000 days.

That’s akin to jumping on a water slide but being told to stop every few feet along the way.  And while the thrill may be there, the process of getting to the bottom kind of sucks.

When a TV show I’ve never seen gains cult status, that’s when I make the difficult decision to look away.  I decide right then and there that I won’t budge and get into it halfway.  I place myself into information lockdown and I wait.  I wait and stay clueless because I’ll go crazy if I become another sheep in the peak and lull world of television.

Instant gratification.  Gotta have it.  I don’t grow plants from seeds.  I don’t commute to work.  I don’t create rousses (yeah, look that one up).  I don’t buy lottery tickets.  I steer clear of  blow pops.  I despise ketchup from glass bottles.

Got a fabulous show that you want me to see?  Still in production?  Just keep me out of it.  It’s as bad as telling me there’s a toy surprise in the Cracker Jack.  Screw the popcorn and peanuts, just give me the f_ckin’ toy.  You really have no idea how many pounds of cereal got wasted at my house because of that ass-trio of Snap, Crackle and Pop.

Call it my weakness, but I couldn’t possibly watch Bad until the last episode was in the bag.

And what a wise decision indeed.

I knew before I started that Breaking Bad was about crystal meth.  I knew that Bryan Cranston had won a slew of awards playing a chemistry teacher turned meth cook….

…and that’s about all I knew.

The weekend of the the show’s highly anticipated series finale, I swore to steer clear of social media and talkative friends.  I announced my presence in a room by stating that I was intent on starting the show soon and didn’t want any mention of plot or characters made aloud.  I then set aside an afternoon that began with Walter White’s flying pants.  I streamed, via Netflix, the uncensored episodes one after the other, only stopping for life’s basic needs.

I watched whole seasons in a single day.  I muted my phone, invited everyone in my household to do anything ELSE but watch with me, took root in my recliner and synthesized what I was seeing.  No lightweight 50 pound batches for me.  I did the full 200, with a little bit of overage.  I did what few others can claim.  I watched EVERY episode of Breaking Bad from a virginal “untouched by fan” perspective, not just the last season, but all of them.  Number one to number 62.

And the added bonus of knowing when I was ready, I’d have the finale at my immediate disposal, was the black hat on my Heisenberg.  No waiting.  No wondering.  No zoning out.

It’s unfortunate that I didn’t do this with Dexter. (Dexter semi-spoiler ahead, btw)  I began Dex in the fourth season, got hooked, rented the first 3 seasons and then waited 3 summers.  My interest in the whole series got squandered so badly that by the final season I just didn’t care anymore.  Dexter became a huge downer no matter how it could be wrapped up in the finale.

I suppose I would have been more keen to see Dexter lower himself into the water with Deb’s body, inject his own neck with his usual hypodermic and disappear silently into the waves, waking hazily to find himself strapped down with saran on his execution table… that next scene materializing into Dexter being strapped down to a prison execution table.

And I guess my interested would have been piqued to then see another hypodermic appear onscreen, guided by the gloved hand of a prison employee, and directed into Dexter’s IV line.  And as the deadly solution was delivered, the camera would fade to

{yawn}

Too many breaks.  Too much waiting.  Too much build up.  I’ve already forgotten how we got here.

What I gave myself by waiting for all of Breaking Bad to be made and delivered was a streaming 60 hour movie premiere shown just for me.   With nobody else in the room.  There were no moments of “oh, I bet he’s gonna kill him!” or “wait, rewind that last bit” or “can you pause while I pee?”

I stayed in the Bad zone through shortened nights of sleep and meals consumed in front of the screen.  My bladder unwillingly doubled in capacity, and I did the one thing I would never have imagined – I stopped Poshing for 3 days.  I want to gasp at that last revelation, but I’m still breathless from all the Bad I just witnessed.

My Breaking Bad marathon was devoid of Facebook statuses and fan boy tweets, griping over plot points, swooning over explosive gun battles and all attempts to sway me into a certain theoretical direction of what would happen to Walter White in the last episode.  I saw the series in one drawn out breath, fast forwarding only on the last 8 DVR’d episodes.

Before I go any further, I urge you to STOP here if you’ve never seen the show.  Wait for all the seasons to be released on DVD.  Do as I did.  Wait and stay clueless.  Though you’ve probably read or overheard conversations on the finale, try your best to stay ignorant.

Knowing anything beforehand is like having a fly in your lab.  Any contamination, though minute, compromises the sample…

(HERE BE SPOILERS)  Take me at my word, people….

 

 

What did I gain by waiting?

I never had to wait for season finales and season premieres.  A 47 minute episode never felt like a rip-off.

I stayed in the story and caught all of the references.

I never had the concern if the series would get a 5th season. I thought Gus would be around through the finale.  You can imagine my shooting out of the chair when he emerged from Hector’s room, screaming in horror as the camera panned around and fist pumping with a thunderous “boo-yah” when he dropped to the floor.

I never had to speculate for months on end why the pizza was not cut.

The pink teddy bear stayed fresh for me all throughout.

I immediately caught the casual victory in the crustless sandwiches.

I maintained adrenaline from “Half Measure” to “Full Measure”.

I witnessed Walt’s lust, greed and degradation in a more realistic time span – it felt like the scripted two years, not a physical five.

And what have I learned?

I’m so happy my bathtub is on the first floor.

I will never again ring the bell at a front desk.

I will steer clear of restaurant sweetener packets.

I will always look at my mother’s souvenir spoon collection and reflect how Marie unwittingly set up Hank’s deadly collision course with Walt.

Yesterday evening, I sat through “Ozymandias” with my hands over my eyes.  I didn’t remove them until Holly was found in the fire truck.  I noted the lone dog crossing the street as the red van disappeared from view.  I then sat quietly in my chair for 20 minutes and debated if I could finish the last 2 episodes.  That might have been the only moment when my heart desired the episodic lull.  But I needed the denouement.

And when Walter White succumbed to his gunshot wound on my screen early one morning, I wept.

I wept not for Walt, but for every unsuspecting soul destroyed in his powerboat wake.  How clearly these faces lingered in my mind…like Krazy-8, chained to a pole with a bicycle lock – one broken plate away from escape.

I had just met him for the first time days before, after all…

Today, my television is dark.  I sit in quiet contemplation of how this ghost of a man chemically changed into the ghost of a nightmare.  I alone render my verdict of when the man lost his soul.  There is no office discussion around a water cooler.  There is no water cooler, only the one that doused Walt’s wrist.

I lived Breaking Bad in one fell swoop, and came out of it tingling – every element of me exposed.

That I could meet Vince Gilligan in person and kowtow to his methodical and brilliant genius – what would I say?  I would tell him that I got it.  I got his vision in it’s purest form – crystal blue and crystal clear and at 99%.   I lived the show like they all lived it, feeling Walt’s manipulation at every harrowing turn and never getting a single break from the chains, the betrayals, the beatings… Not until the moment I crashed the gate.

And as I drive away into the night, crying and laughing at my escape from Mr. White, I sense a release of a different kind…

I think I’ll buy myself a blow pop.

 

 

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