(5th Season Spoiler)
The most noticeable part of Breaking Bad’s gripping development of how the series becomes increasingly intense. Throughout Breaking Bad, Walt’s moral guidance falls apart, becoming increasingly malicious with each season. Walt was never a pacifist — he would defend himself and kill enemies when threatened — but self defense progresses to outright violence as the series progresses. Each season climaxes with a scene of action and violence and clearly, each season becomes more and more extravagant. The third season has the execution of Gale, the fourth with Walt’s retirement home bombing, and the fifth with Walt’s bloody and destructive final stand against his enemies.
From my experience, the wild and cliff-hanging endings make Breaking Bad a tempting show to binge watch. But after hours of nonstop Breaking Bad, I felt that I was only looking for major plot and character changes, missing the more subtle points and symbolism that Gilligan has so carefully added to the series. When watching the show as intended — one episode per week — Breaking Bad feels slower and more realistic. The pacing of the show beings to make more sense, as the violence is meant to be a fleeting blip rather than a constant hum.
For many episodes of Breaking Bad, the final ten minutes can be like watching a completely different show. Gilligan spends the first 35 minutes setting up scenarios for Walt and Jesse, leaving the final ten for the action to unfold. Take “Crawlspace” (S4E11) for example. The first minute is filled with post-shootout action, but once the dust settles, the episode is devoted to developing tension until it rapidly and frighteningly unwinds into a whirlwind of terror and anxiety. After the initial episode teaser, Gilligan devotes must of the time in the episode to prepare for major events, all of which occur in final five or ten minutes of the episodes.
Average scenes from the first 40 minutes of Breaking Bad
Scenes from the last 15 minutes of the show
As expected from this pattern, season finales are intense and the series finale was particularly gripping. The last twelve minutes of the final episode are the culmination of almost every event in the series. It’s the pinnacle of the series. Though there is little time for viewers to enjoy the unfolding of the final events, Gilligan is able to finish the series tidily. There is little left to the imagination, which is quite relieving for many viewers, including me. More importantly, the ending gives viewers a deep sense of satisfaction. The sympathetic Jesse escapes and Walt defeats his enemies with both deception and outright violence. Furthermore, Walt dies with dignity in the most appropriate place: a meth lab. Gilligan even perfects the ending with music (Baby Blue, Badfinger) that compliments Walt’s greatest product (blue meth) and open with the fitting lines of “Guess I got what I deserved.” With a smooth and fulfilling ending, Breaking Bad secured itself as one of the most liked television series of all time.