Taking the Good with the Breaking Bad

Sorry I didn’t get this up yesterday, I got consumed in other stuff. But even though it’s now almost two days old, I can’t let the Breaking Bad season premiere go without mentioning it.

ooooo, a junkyard. that's, uh, not scary or intimidating at all, actually.

When you watch Breaking Bad, you’re surrendering yourself to a few principles:

  • You will like no one in the show, and you’re not supposed to. It might be the only show where the ultimate intention is for you to not like a single character. That show could turn Derek Jeter’s fans against him.
  • More than any other show, maybe ever, there’s a good chance that after watching it, you’ll feel like you got punched in the gut and then had sharp pencils stuck underneath your fingernails. But in a good way. Yeah, it’s possible.
  • You have to give yourself up to the fact that there will be episodes where not much is going to happen.

And herein lies the only problem Breaking Bad has ever had. When the show floors it, like Mike nearly driving into that head-on collision with Walt, it’s insanely crazy and jaw-dropping and completely awesome. You’re another Gus Face victim if you don’t think so. But when the show slows down, it crawls along like a snail on Xanex. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. It’s that time the show usually sets aside for important character development through one-on-one dialogue and interaction. Remember the one with Jesse and Walt stranded in the desert? Or last year’s fly-in-the-lab episode? For some people, it’s one of the charms of the show. For others, it’s why they can’t watch.

On something like Community, which loves itself some crazy episodes, you know where you’re at with the show. Paintball, stop-motion, My Dinner with Andre, those are true “stunt” episodes. They don’t interrupt the continuity of the other episodes (mostly because there isn’t a terrible amount of it to begin with, but still), and they’re always at the same pace of every other episode. Breaking Bad is different. You can almost hear the screeching of the tires when it veers off the fast track.

Which brings us to Sunday’s season premiere, maybe the show’s most important episode from a commercial standpoint. Last year’s season finale was one of the most breathless, brilliant finales you’ll ever see. And really, the last four episodes of last season were all amazing. So you’d be guaranteed that every fan of the show would be glued to the set. Then there were the new fans the show keeps getting because AMC airs all the old episodes and tells people to DVR them. And then there are the Netflix streamers, people who get that service specifically so they can catch up on TV they’ve missed.

Even with the Dish Network BS, it was pretty obvious Sunday’s episode was set to be Breaking Bad’s highest-rated episode ever. So you might expect it AMC to give creator Vince Gilligan and his writing team a little nudge in the direction of explosions, gun fights, babies riding puppies … the stuff that gets eyeballs. To Breaking Bad’s complete credit, that didn’t happen. It was a true Breaking Bad episode. Aside from Mike pulling a gun on Walter, the biggest action was a laptop crashing against the side of a junkyard truck. Not exactly Die Hard stuff. But the subtleties of character — on display Sunday when Jesse dropped back into the mix with no fanfare, Mike getting the call about Gus, Skyler nearly trembling in fear of Walt — is what makes Breaking Bad one of the best shows on TV, not the bombs that blow up at an old folks home.

If you’re just getting in to Breaking Bad now because you heard how crazy exciting and nuts it is, and then you watched Sunday and tried to figure out what the frigg people were talking about, give it time. While you’re watching and waiting, appreciate the what Breaking Bad is all about. Character, story and the tense anticipation that leads up to the inevitable payoff. If the show’s history is a guide, then you will get your payoff. And you will love it. SEASON PREMIERE GRADE: B

If you were like me at the end of Breaking Bad and stuck your middle finger up at your TV screen when you were told “Scenes from the next episode of Breaking Bad will be seen during the premiere of Small Town Security,” then here is that sneak peek. It comes with a petition to sign to make sure AMC will never, ever, ever make us watch its crappy reality show to see what’s coming next week in Breaking Bad. Actually, no it doesn’t. But it should. Hey, anyone wanna take a wild stab at what the real meaning of this clip actually is?

While we’re on the subject of great cable shows, I give you the only two news items I saw come out of Comic-Con that I really enjoyed seeing:

Sons of Anarchy is coming back Sept. 11, which is a week later than usual for some reason. It usually starts the day after Labor Day. Whatever, just glad to have it back. Last year SOA was pretty close to the opposite of Breaking Bad’s last season. Twelve awesome episodes to start the year, crappy two-part finale to close it out. But the teaser trailer for this season? It’s pretty nice, if not a little condescending. Jax is at his wit’s end, being pulled in four different directions from Gemma, Tara, Clay and the club. It was wearing on him last year, obviously, but it’s going to get worse and sooner or later, it’s going to send him off the edge. Hey, that’s what he did in the trailer! They sent him off the ledge! Literally! See how that works out? Mr. Sutter and FX’s marketing department, I beg of you, put down that bat you’re beating us over the head with. We get it.

And then there was the Walking Dead trailer, another one you had to sit through that Small Town Security crap to see. None for me, thanks. But whoa — maybe it would have been worth sitting through it! These guys know how to make a trailer. Great, random teases (“We spilled blood!”), great action, pretty good description of exactly how this year is going to go and then boom! The money shot in the last couple seconds of … well, I don’t wanna spoil it for you. Heh. We now have to issue spoiler alerts on trailers. This is probably the last time I’ll do that, but it’s a pretty big twist and got me jazzed up, so I want all the other Walking Dead fans to have the same experience. We knew he was coming back, but the way they worked him into the trailer was cool. Here’s one question to ponder as you watch it, because it’s the first thing I thought. Doesn’t the show, even in this four-minute trailer, seem to have a better flow with Shane out of the picture? Is it just me? I sided squarely with Team Shane, but maybe he just needed to go for the show to get some mojo back.

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