Friday, October 4, 2013

What's In An Ending

For roughly 10 million folks, this Sunday was met with friendly conversing over snacks about varying death predictions, probably donning some Heisenberg fedoras, and quietly cheering (to not disturb other watchers of course) as the opening credits for the television event of the year started. After five seasons, Breaking Bad is over, and the rampant discussion continues days later.

Hostility in bashing the quality of the final episode has not been seen by these eyes - rather fans are banding together, suffering those pangs of loss, for there will be no more hyjinx with Walt & Jesse, or catching Jr./Flynn at breakfast, and no more blue meth. Done. Finito. Out.

Whether through binge watching for the last month, or riding high on the Bad for years, last Sunday was truly a phenomenon of the ages. Silly seeming to those who don't get attached to the stories streaming off of a screen, but yes, I stick to my guns about the final episode of Breaking Bad being an event. Not a vacation or party, or sporting match witnessed live, just a culmination of fantastic fiction.

Let's not forget this type of hubbub has happened tons of times before. Anyone remember Lost? Many have probably blocked out that epic build up of suspense and eventual let down, so we'll move on quickly and not mention the meaning of the island. On a brighter note, in the age of sitcoms, Seinfeld, Friends, and Everybody Loves Raymond, also had their giant swan songs tuned in by millions of Americans, which I know included most of you out there.

For me, Breaking Bad went out in a blaze of marvelous perfection, yet I'm sure someone could spend days arguing the opposite. (An insane person!) Instead of analyzing the true brilliance of every moment, or discussing the morality of Walt,  let's instead make this a spoiler free zone and skip ahead to a more interesting notion that isn't dissecting the show, but rather a broad idea about endings.

We've all been there, and if you're like me, you feel like a total idiot. "Why am I so upset! It's just the finale of a TV series for god-sakes!" you yell triumphantly to a room whose only other occupant is your cat.

No, being in love with TV doesn't necessarily make you a crazy cat lady (yet) and over the last couple days digesting the final tale of Walter White, I have been thinking more about these erratic emotions we all have for television finales. As I write this, I've decided they make a lot of sense.

Week after week in our modern culture, we come home, kick off our shoes, snuggle on the couch, and allow ourselves to be taken out of our own world, and into that of another. We can balance our own lives against that of the characters we're watching or completely dissolve our stresses away by getting absorbed in the comedy and tragedy of make believe. 

Unlike a movie, which could average around three hours, television shows ask viewers to stick with a story and remain attached to characters for hundreds of hours, over weeks, and for the best shows, years.

Television shows ask that you rush back from a dinner out with friends so not a minute is missed, or finish up homework extra quick that night. You can tune into your favorites alone on your computer, or even better, grouped together with family, friends, and other appreciators in the comfort of our living rooms where weekly traditions are formed. 

Oh, the conversations! Nearly the best part about TV is talking about it each week after the newest episodes have aired. I'm all about binge viewing old shows, or catching up a couple episodes at a time, but there is nothing better than the instant gratification of tuning in for a show when it's on live to both you and the rest of the world, and then striking up bombastic discussions once the closing credits role.

[Thoroughly enjoying this extra special Entertainment Weekly]

There's book clubs, so what's the difference? I happen to enjoy books and TV. Discussions over high quality writing, excellent acting, and vivid direction in television have the same merit. Literature snobs could disagree, but I say any art that makes you think and creates exciting conversation will always be worthwhile.

The simple pleasures of TV can bring together those from different lives with varying opinions. People who may never have anything in common, could crack up together over a Michael Scott, "That's What She Said" joke, or get into a lively discussion over the merit of creating characters with mental disorders, like on Homeland.

Really, with all this dedication to stories that inundate our daily schedule and wedge their way into weekly conversations,  how can we be anything but tragically jarred when it is all just suddenly over?

That is the killer about a television shows last episode and at times has made me feel all gloomy on the inside. No matter how well it is done, that collective enjoyment, that cultural bond, will slowly dissipate. There's always reruns and the appreciation will always be there for a series that stands the test of time. In that sense, I'm not worried about Breaking Bad, but what's gone is the excitement of catching a new episode for the first time -  the shock over a plot twist or perfectly phrased line can only happen once.

We all know there can always be another show. I have experience you know - just a couple years ago I had to pull my heart off of the football field when Friday Night Lights ended.  Now it's happening again, but this time it's taking my heart out of the crystal meth business and the deserts of Albuquerque.  

Breaking Bad had a lot in common with that rag-tag gang from Texas (besides sharing many of the same actors). Both shows could have told more stories, spread thin trying to make the audience happy for 10 seasons, but they decided to go out with all the class and excellence in the world. They demonstrated how the end of a series should be and why it made it extra hard to say goodbye.

When it's good, you don't want it to end, but sometimes you just gotta cut those breaks on the RV turned traveling meth lab.

We'll get through it together! Those tremendously riveting stories created by the Vince Gilligan team will be missed, especially when balanced against less than quality storytelling. At least all of your favorite actors from Breaking Bad will be inundating you in movies and TV for years to come. The possibility of Bryan Cranston playing Lex Luther in that Batman vs Superman business should help anyone move on, but if that comfort doesn't help, just watch this video.

Was Walt always a bad person? Keep the brain flowing with all these deep ponderings, and if you haven't already, spend this weekend catching up on Breaking Bad. True jealousy is reserved for those who still get to see this series with fresh eyes - those who can say this isn't goodbye, but just the beginning.

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