Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Notes from a "Breaking Bad" Laggard

Thanks to one son and two grandsons, I was whizzing through seasons of “Breaking Bad” on Netflix as millions savored the finale last weekend and now carry on a philosophical debate over its power and meaning.

Partial ignorance may not be bliss, but still under the spell of multiple episodes, I venture to join the discussion.

Is Walter White more than a logical successor to Tony Soprano and Don Draper, anti-heroes who fascinated us with an unexpressed dark side of our own natures from a safe distance?  

Yes, maybe but, as White progresses from doomed good to demonic, our sympathies move with him by increments from compassion for his original plight to condoning behavior we deplore. His first intentional killing is justified by the victim having a concealed shard of plate with which to attack him, but from then on, we are off to the bloody races.

Just as White is freed from constraint by sure knowledge of his own mortality, viewers are liberated to make the journey with him while, for relief along the way, being invited to scoff at brilliantly satirical scenes of PTA meetings, baby showers and boring family dinners—-the dull flotsam and jetsam of dailyness that fills most lives.

At advanced age, I am fascinated by how new generations in real life are lulled into feeling immortal and acting with a selfishness that justifies cruelty while scoffing at empathy as sentimental weakness. Being in the know, like Walter White, trumps all other values.

The political world reminds us daily of that. How badly do we need the fantasy release from all of it of feeling all-powerful and enjoying evil while reassuring ourselves it’s only entertainment after all?

Even before cancer struck, Walter White was not going to live forever. Neither will the politicians in today’s headlines. Nor any of us.

“Breaking Bad” was great commercial art, larded with ads all the way, but as I continue to enjoy it without them on Netflix, part of me is saddened while fascinated.

But true fans need fear not. It may be gone but “Homeland” is back just in time to mesmerize us with more of the worst of humanity.

Will we ever see as well-done a series as either on the subject of “Breaking Good?”

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