For four years now, I’ve known the glorious freedom of life without cable, a life that doesn’t include any mandatory weekly viewing of our favorite shows. My wife and I just wait for them to come out on DVD, then do it in a glorious marathon session. After which, we watch the DVDs. (Thanks for reading, angel.)
We finished up Season Three of Breaking Bad this week, and if there’s a better show on TV right now, my farts smell like freshly baked bread. Walt is too deep in the drug game to exit gracefully, his wife has left him, and his psyche is so shaky, he can go from gently singing “Horse With No Name” to getting maced for threatening a police officer in a matter of minutes. Bryan Cranston continues his masterful portrayal of a family man in a tough squeeze; you root for him thoroughly, no matter the depths he reaches, because every questionable move he makes involves sticking his neck out for Jesse, his depressed ex-junkie of a partner. But for the first time on the series, Cranston’s been one-upped. Giancarlo Esposito was introduced in season two as Gus, the clean-cut proprietor of a fried chicken fast food joint and the most calculating, cold-blooded drug lord you ever did see. Season three has him welcoming Walt into his fold, setting him up with an ingeniously hidden lab and treating him like the most benevolent of bosses. Esposito’s measured performance outshines everything around it – when he realizes his main rival has been vanquished via cell phone, he registers a quick, Cheshire smile, and it’s enough to give you chills.
Breaking Bad has always been satisfying as an allegory for the importance of conscience – as the 21st century Southwest border version of a father stealing a loaf of bread for his kids, Walt is the ultimate antihero, a guy whose middle fingers to authority make you want to stand up and cheer. By the end of this season, however, a do or die mentality takes over, and you start to wonder if Walt’s moral compass is finally starting to lose its magnetism. Which makes his desperately brave actions of the last five minutes downright exhilarating. This season might’ve been about the draining nature of divorce proceedings and the horrifying world of drug cartels (complete with bad-ass sociopathic gangsters in sharkskin suits), but Breaking Bad remains, first and foremost, a morality tale. And that’s what has me chomping at the bit for next summer’s marathon of season four.