Breaking Bad versus Game of Thrones

At the balcony of my Air BnB, I’m facing what might be the only (and loudest) water feature in all of Houston proper. I’m exaggerating of course, but not much. Even a retention pond is hard to find here, never mind a natural water feature. The Buffalo Bayou, slowly flowing about a mile south from my location, is remarkable in how unremarkable it is. It’s just there, a barely moving river way down in a ditch that splits the road and floods when a tropical depression hangs around for too long. Speaking of which, there’s a giant storm brewing a few near Corpus Cristi a few hours south. We expected heavy rain this morning, but so far, so good.

Every so often, a book or movie comes along, which is so good, so artfully executed, and so profound that I can’t stop thinking about it. Last night Steve and I finished the show finale of Breaking Bad. I know I’m about seven years late on saying this, but I’ll say it anyway- it’s the best show I’ve seen on television. It’s even better than Game of Thrones.

I know that’s saying a lot, but in my humble opinion, Breaking Bad is better than Game of Thrones because of pacing and pay-off. Yes, each show has interesting worlds and characters. Each show has profound themes. Each show is riveting. But when we finished BB last night, it finally dawned on me what felt off about the GOT final season, and why all the blow-back from the fans. In GOT, we ended up with is two loosely related stories: the thing with the White Walkers and the matter with the Cersei. The show creators spent a LOT of time on the White Walkers (and consequently, so did we the audience), but in the end, this zombie issue was the B story, and secondary to the whole ‘King of the Realm, ‘Breaking the Wheel’ thing that the entire GOT story is about. It’s as though the B story with the White Walkers got away from the writers and became a story all it’s own. So we end up with two villains, Cersei and The Night King, with their own separate and completely unrelated agendas. John Snow and friends had their work cut out! And while this was all wildly entertaining and hooray for Arya and the Starks (except for John Snow who ended up back where he started), a bunch of things left us, puzzled. Among other things, was all that White Walker stuff necessary for revealing Bran as the king of the realm?

Breaking Bad, on the other hand, is an air-tight story. You cannot remove a single character or plot point without dismantling the entire thing. Every bit of dialogue delivers themes, foreshadows, and builds dramatic tension that serves the whole point of the story, which shows how Walter White goes from good guy to bad guy. Breaking Bad is character driven to the nth degree because it feels that everyone and everything that happens in the show gets touched and deeply affected by Walter White. And until the very last moment of the last episode, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen. There is no sense of wrapping things up, and yet every story-line gets paid off in the most satisfying and consistent way.

There’s also the cinematography. Check out this YouTube video (spoiler alert!) on how the creators’ use of camera angles show the effect point of view has on the audience. It’s brilliant.

With my cats