“Yeah science!” With those simple words I knew I was in for something special. After years of people telling me I had to check out this strange TV drama, I finally booted up the ol’ Netflix account and watched the first episode of Breaking Bad. I know that I’m a little late to the party on this one but I just had to start this blog by writing on my current love affair with Walt and Jesse. But since I am late to the party and missed the main course, instead of commenting on the overall strength of the show I want to approach it from a slightly different angle. I could talk about all the twists and turns of the plot or the strong acting, and I must say that both elements are top notch. But instead of I want to talk about “earning” the moment.
But first a digression..
As an English PhD I have taken a few courses over the year in creative writing, the most recently being a course in play-writing. Over the course of the semester my professor kept telling me that my character’s dramatic moments were not earned. I would write a long speech or a highly intense exchange between two characters, but when looking back over each moment they never felt right, never felt natural. The reason being is that these moments were not “earned.” The character had not done enough or been through enough for the audience to buy into these highly dramatic moments. In essence, I jumped the gun and sprinted to the “good parts,” the explosive moments that I couldn’t wait to write, but in the process skipped all of the equally important but not as exciting character building moments. You know those moments, the small, quiet exchanges that give the audience a peek into the character’s psyche, what makes them unique and believable. These small moments are essential, a prerequisite if you will, for earning those larger, chaotic and exciting moments that every writer looks forward to penning.
End of digression…
Vince Gilligan and his writers in Breaking Bad are masters of earning those explosive moments the show is known for. Lets look at an example (SPOILERS AHEAD, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED)!
In season 1 the buildup to Walt’s explosive encounter with Tuco, the drug dealer who agrees to buy Walt’s stock, is carefully executed over the course of the episode. Most shows, hell, most movies would quickly jump to Walt walking into Tuco’s office and demanding his payment before blowing up the place. Who wouldn’t want to rush to that scene. But Gilligan and his crew carefully orchestrate the buildup to that incredible moment.The buildup begins with Walt telling Jesse that “No matter what happens, no more bloodshed. No violence.” The group intervention that occurs in Walt’s house which led to Walt consenting to conduct business with Tuco, Walt’s ongoing capitulation chemotherapy, and Tuco’s violent assault on Jesse all contribute to Walt finally deciding to violently confront Tuco at the episodes conclusion, a complete turnaround from his perspective at the beginning of the episode. It is those small moments, many of them built over the course of many episodes, that allows the audience to buy into the idea of Walt basically dropping a grenade in Tuco’s base of operations and walking out with tens of thousands of dollars in cash.
And this is just one of numerous examples of Gilligan and his crew earning every moment in his brilliant show. This is why I believe that Breaking Bad is one of the best shows on television and it is also why I give the show, at least the first two seasons I have seen, a Must Watch.