This week I finished a second viewing of the entire series of Breaking Bad. What a journey!
My overall view shifted significantly from the first viewing. Where the unknown and anticipation drew me to the next episode the first time around, the second viewing was lead by details previously unnoticed and anticipation unfelt in the first go around.
Watching a series as detailed, thought-out, and designed as BB requires multiple viewings to truly appreciate. It truly is a piece of art that continually unfolds itself in new and exciting ways.
The thing that I least expected in this second viewing was the building dread I would experience. Finally, I get Mrs. White. I can see it from her point of view. While many did not appreciate her character (myself included) in the show, a second viewing made me appreciate her female intuition. I found myself applauding her and being able to follow her line of thinking. This was refreshing—I liked her.
Walter, I grew to hate. That selfish, deceptive, manipulative bastard! The irony of justifying everything “for the family” played well with his talent for making people do what he wanted to. What troubled me most about him was his ability to be what he needed to be in order to get his way. If he needed to be strong and demanding, he was strong and demanding. If he needed to be a pitiful, crying shell of a man, that is what he became. He had no shame and mercilessly pursued his goal even at the cost of his pride… Which is ironic, because it is his pride that made him keep going. How does a man operate like that?
Finally, there’s Jesse. Poor Jesse. I really felt for the guy this go ’round. That said, I don’t have hope for him. He’ll end up a druggie in some small town throwing the rest of his life away. He wants better, but he can’t stop blaming himself for all the deaths he’s caused. Aaaaand I can’t say that I’d handle it any differently.
But of all the character perceptions that shifted for me… of all the changes that I had about the show with the second viewing… the thing that caught me most by surprise was…
How hard it was to watch the last half of the season. Everything is finally coming to the climax. Jesse’s finally standing up for himself! Hank is finally getting the upper hand! Walt is finally looking down the barrel of a loaded gun that he can’t hide from and it looks like things are going to work out and Walt will finally have to surrender!
But, alas, it is not so. I know what happens, and it is terribly painful to watch a second time. What I consumed through the beginning was now dreaded. It was mentally and emotionally tiring to watch these characters go through this trauma again. How awful.
And in spite of that, I still find Walter White to be the perfect anti-hero. He dies doing what he loves. He finally comes clean with Jesse. He embraces not only his death, but who he is: “I did it for me. It makes me feel alive. I was good at it.” He finally embraces his identity and doesn’t run from it any longer.
He is Heisenberg through and through.