The great (really great) series, Breaking Bad, returns on AMC August 11 at 9 pm ET, with the final eight episodes.
For those of you who've been hung up on Don Draper's tailspin, that ain't nothin' compared to the transformation of Walter White from a mild-mannered, non-risk-taking, high-school chemistry teacher to a terminally-ill, meth-cooking monster, whose wish to leave his family big money leads to a cat-and-mouse game with his DEA brother-in-law, and to inexorable and increasing moral decay.
There are yuks with his partner-in-crime and former student Jesse, and family issues aside from the murders and mayhem, but that doesn't describe the show's overall excellence. You have to experience it.
Like many now-obsessed BB fans, I was late in joining the game -- only last season, based on people urging me to get past my aversion to graphic violence.
By the time I started watching, during the first part of Season 5, WW had already embraced the dark side, and I never felt the complete evolution of his character. So in the past weeks I've been devoting a couple of hours a night, and more on weekends, to catch up on the 46 episodes I missed.
Holy Heisinger! BB is as addictive and superb as the meth Walter cooks.
If you're a BB virgin, there's still time to commit to possibly the best TV series ever. Past episodes are available on DVD, On Demand, NetFlix and other providers, and AMC is just into a Friday night marathon, counting down until the final season.
After my gushing, if you're still wavering, here, without real spoilers, are 10 reasons why going back to the beginning of the series is worth it:
--- WW's slow, steady move from good to evil is stunning to behold. Each episode masterfully furthers the nuances as well as the actions, and to miss any of them is to take a piece out of the puzzle that may be needed later.
--- The theme builds through each episode. Watching all episodes connects you with references and plotlines, forwarded with economy and intelligence toward the ending.
--- Quality is consistent in every detail, including the exceptionally relatable characters beyond the main plot who generate their own dynamic: The intimate dialogues between Skylar and Walt. The sibling rivalry between manic Marie and Skylar. And plotlines dealing with illness, disability, infidelity and money woes in a world of greed.
--- The suspense level builds from episode to episode because of details you know already: a poison bean, the tinkle of a bell, a glass eye under a bed. And you're always afraid that bumbling brother-in-law Hank will stumble upon the truth, or Skylar will blab or...
--- The imaginative and often beautiful visual details alone are worth a complete viewing, and often build on each other a foreshadow: The increasing cash stash, from bag, to vent, to storage unit. The variations of the desert. A shaking car. Body parts falling from the sky into a pool. A pink stuffed toy in an otherwise black-and-white film. The bright Albuquerque light versus the dark interiors of WW's house.
--- WW's health is often shown in a cough, a look, a pause and not much more, but sometimes references back to previous episodes to push forward an underlying march toward illness as well as evil without words.
--- Bryan Cranston's superb acting is a whole piece. And truly award-winning.
--- Everyone else's acting reacts to WW, and characters change subtly and sometimes shockingly throughout the episodes, forwarding the development. And Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn and the rest of the cast are exceptional.
--- The writing often reflects the past as it furthers the plotlines but is always honest and believable without unneeded exposition and stiltedness. Kudos to creator/writer/director/producer Vince Gilligan and to the other writers!
--- BB is written as a whole masterwork. To jump in at the end if like seeing The Godfather Part 2 in the last 30 minutes or reading the last chapters of War and Peace.
With that, on to the finale. I can't wait, but like so many others who have discovered Breaking Bad, I'm sorry to see it end.