“Like The Sopranos, Mad Men, and other cable series that have defined the new golden age of TV drama, Breaking Bad distinguished itself with a large, grand arc of moral complexity and a protagonist inside of whom a man and a monster were at war… We didn’t stick with Walter White and Don Draper and Tony Soprano because they were guys who in real life we wouldn’t want to spend five minutes with; we were in it for their struggle.”
-- Mark Harris, Entertainment Weekly.
Is he right? Do we stick with these guys because we’re involved in their struggle? Are we hoping that the man defeats the monster? Or do we just get vicarious thrills out of watching the monster? (now that I think about it, when was the last time the man defeated the monster?)
One of my Facebook friends asked this the other day, “Am I a knuckle-dragging savage if I think that Breaking Bad just tells a story, not weaves commentaries on present-day America? Or are all these weighty social issues what make it a great show?”
I think we’re all pretty quick to say that it just has to be a good story. In fact, I think most of us will say anything that tries to be more than a good story is likely going to fail at being a story. But maybe in trying to avoid “weighty social issues,” we do as much of a disservice to the story as if we spend too much time on those issues.
Maybe I’m thinking about this stuff because as I drove back and forth to Albany on the I-90 a few weeks ago I passed a lot of small towns in upstate New York and I couldn’t help but wonder; is that Bedford Falls or is it Potterville?
Because what would It’s a Wonderful Life be if the monster won?