I just finished watching Breaking Bad season four. I really hate to do this, but spoiler alert from here on out. For anybody who doesn’t watch the show, you really should. So stop reading this, watch the show, all of it, and then as soon as you’re done with the season four finale, come back and read this. Seriously, get to it, it’s going to take you a couple of weeks, dedicated only to watching Breaking Bad, back to back to back, just so you can catch up to where I’m at. I’m not even caught up fully. I think season five is on the air right now. Whatever, I hate watching TV shows as they air, because I always forget what happened the week before. And then things will be getting really interesting and the episode will end and you’ll want so much more, so you stick around past the credits hoping they’ll do one of those, “next time, on Breaking Bad,” type teasers, but every once in a while it’ll be like, “In two weeks, on Breaking Bad,” and you’re like, goddamn it, two weeks? What the hell? And you go online to find out what’s the deal with the holdup, and it’s Labor Day or Arbor Day and AMC doesn’t want to risk losing any viewers who might be out celebrating whatever minor holiday might be getting in the way. But I’m not going anywhere. Just play it!
OK, wow, I’ve gotten myself way off course here. I really wanted to talk about the season four finale. I’m going to try to do this with as little in the way of explaining as possible, but there’s a lot, so bear with me while I completely butcher four year’s of great storytelling into about three or four mediocre sentences. The main character, Walt, is a high school chemistry teacher who starts making crystal meth in order to pay for his lung cancer treatment bills. Over the course of the series, he winds up working for this big time drug distributer. But by season four, the boss wants Walt dead. Walt wins, by hiding a pipe bomb under a wheelchair at a senior center where the boss has come to visit/euthanize one of his old elderly rivals. The bomb goes off, and you see the explosion from outside the old guy’s room. And then the drug boss just walks out.
And you’re like, what the? How could he have survived that? But then the camera pans around and you realize that he didn’t, not really, because you were at first only looking at the boss from one side. As the camera rotates around, you’re shown that the other side of this guy’s face has been completely blown off, like much, much worse than Harvey Dent’s was in Dark Knight. He straightens his tie, and then drops dead.
My point is, the whole season was so good, so carefully written, without a single hole in the plot. Why did they feel the need to add such a gruesome little twist to an already great show? It didn’t need to be done. All it did was freak me the hell out. Just go to Google images and type in “Breaking Bad Gus face” and you’ll immediately see what I’m talking about. It’s the stuff that my nightmares are scared of. And why? It didn’t really add anything. Just the fact that Walt got this guy was good enough. They might as well have had him walking out of the room holding his own intestines falling out of his stomach. And you know what the title of the episode was? “Face Off.” Get it? Because it’s the final confrontation between Walt and Gus. And also, because his face gets blown off.
It’s a pretty lame critique, but I love good stories, and I hate how they are often peppered with unnecessary scenes of overly gratuitous violence. Jesus, I sound like an enraged PTA member here. I’m not trying to make any broad points about society or violence or anything other than, from a purely personal point of view, I get these gross images in my head and they’re hard to shake. It’s why I stopped watching Boardwalk Empire. It’s like, OK, we need to make a show. Period piece, cool. Interesting characters, awesome. Compelling stories, fantastic. OK and let’s throw in a really long scene of some guy getting his throat sliced open, but he won’t die instantly, he’ll hold his hands to his throat to try to stop all of the blood from falling out immediately, and so it’ll be this long, protracted struggle, and he’ll keep gurgling and making all these terrible I-just-got-my-throat-cut-open sounds, and then he’ll falls to his knees, but just before he dies, he’ll take out a knife and stab some other guy right through the knee, not the leg, but specifically the knee, and you’ll hear the other guy’s kneecap crack in half, and all of the fluids underneath the kneecap will just pop, and now this guy will be bleeding too, and everyone’s bleeding, and I don’t even remember what this episode was about in the first place, because I’m too busy trying not to throw up.
I’m not saying don’t have the violence, but maybe just don’t get so graphic in how you show it. With violent scenes in great movies, there’s ways of doing them without zooming in on bones popping through flesh. Isn’t it an old trick to pan away from the violence, and so you only see the shadow of the violent act on the wall? That’s not so bad. It’s like sex scenes. Movies can do sex scenes without getting past a certain level of being too graphic. In fact, I think they have to, because if it is too graphic, it’s porn, and they won’t let you show it in a regular movie theater. And it takes away from the movie anyway. The Dark Knight Rises had a sex scene, but it was like two seconds long. It would’ve been ridiculous to see Bruce Wayne getting it on with Talia al-Guhl for any longer than we already did. What? I told you there were spoilers. So yeah, I guess violence has a similar threshold. Anything too graphic, and to me, it’s like violence-porn. I’m imagining somebody making movies of just crazy gross gruesome nonsense, like a slow motion shot of somebody’s hand going through a meat grinder or something. Maybe somebody would like that, I don’t know. But don’t put that stuff on regular TV shows, especially not the last episode of a really great season.