Fake It ‘Til You Make It: Breaking Bad
If you haven’t been watching “Breaking Bad” keep reading, but know that I am judging you. But we don’t have time for that now. The series finale is this week . You probably got invited to a premiere party a few months ago and didn’t go. You said to yourself “I’ll catch up and then go to a finale party”….but you ran out of time! And you want to go to this one, you really do. All your friends are going to be there and there will be theme food and you LOVE theme food!
But why go to a party for a show you don’t watch? Why watch the finale episode of what is arguably one of the best series of television of all time ever if you’ve never seen an episode? I knew a girl who never saw an episode of “Lost”, she watched the finale and while the rest of the guests at the finale party were left with questions, feeling angry and bereaved, she figured it out and knew what was happening and said “Oh, that was good.” Everyone at the party hated her. So if that happens for some reason, keep your mouth shut.
So there is something to be said for going into something like this blindly. You can make crazy predictions to get the conversation going. You can ask questions and actually want the answers. When someone who loves the show asks a fellow viewer what they think about it, what they are really saying is “Let me see if you know as much as me about the show or if I am smarter than you”. But when you actually know nothing, you will let the person talk for days and they will LOVE that.
And then just let them go.
You don’t have time to watch 61 hours of the show between now and Sunday. Or do you? I mean, if you hole up with some Red Bulls right now you could be caught up. And if you’re feeling up to it stop reading now! But I think the likelihood of that happening is slim. Although I do think you should watch the show at some point, even though you will know how it ends. The show is well-written, well shot, well acted and just freaking bad ass. Many television critics would shame me for giving you this guide and shame you for using it. Yes, you should have been watching this all along, but like Walter White, we’ve got to play with hand we were dealt and make the best (or in Walt’s case, the worst) out of it.
Now, if you aren’t planning on watching the finale and DO want to watch the show at some point, turn back, SPOILERS ahead!
The show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, described “Breaking Bad” as watching “Mr. Chips turn into Scarface” and over the last five seasons that’s exactly what’s happened. A mild mannered, weak high school chemistry teacher, Walter White, turned into a diabolical drug kingpin through a series of choices that he made. At every turn the audience can see where Walter could have made a better choice and in turn possibly saved himself and those around him from their futures, which will be sealed this Sunday.
There are 3 ways you can prepare.
#1 Here is a video – Breaking Bad in 9 minutes
It will catch you up all the way to the last half of this season, so you will need to watch the last 5 episodes at some point this weekend. AMC is airing a marathon leading up to the finale, so I would say most of Sunday will be Season 5. I, personally, would not recommend watching them all at once. They have been so incredibly intense and upsetting that it might be hard to take, like the time I watched the entire first season of “The Walking Dead” in one sitting. I sat in the corner in the fetal position for about an hour and then cleared my head with an episode of “How I Met Your Mother”.
#2 If you have a little more time on your hands, check out these 12 episodes from throughout the series. They’ll give you enough background to understand the finale but mainly, they’re some of the best of the series. These will prepare you plot wise for what is going to go down on Sunday night and get you a little more emotionally keyed up. You can find most of them on streaming on Netflix. For the season 5 episodes, you may have to ask a favor of a friend who ‘s DVR’d them and will swear to keep your faking a secret.
#3 Mainly because I’m curious as to what would happen, watch ONLY the pilot episode. Then watch the last episode on Sunday. I’m asking that someone out there who has never seen this show do this primarily as an experiment. In terms of your mission to fake it for a “Breaking Bad” party, I think some fans might find your thoughts interesting. Plus, people that are passionate fans of a TV show love it when others have JUST started watching and they say things like “You are so lucky!”. Anyway, if you go this route know that it’s a risk and you gotta report back to me.
Okay, if you are literally reading this on your way to the viewing party. Let’s meet all those who have broken bad.
Walter White:Played by Bryan Cranston. At some points our protagonist and at others our antagonist, Walter White’s descent into darkness is the center of this story. A former high school biology teacher who is diagnosed with cancer, he turns to cooking meth as a quick way to make some money to pay the bills and leave for his family. The money comes so easy, that the meth cooking continues and so does his fall from grace.
Jesse Pinkman: Played by Aaron Paul. Believe it or not Jesse is the moral compass of “Breaking Bad”. A pot head with a soft spot for kids, Jesse is easily manipulated by Walter. As a result he’s gone from regular street punk to truly messed up addict. He’s done unspeakable things and witnessed even more. If Walter is the “bad” in “Breaking Bad”, Jesse is the“breaking”…or broken.
Skyler White: Played by Anna Gunn. Skyler is Walter’s wife. She’s kept in the dark for the first two seasons, but figures out what Walter has been up to by the beginning of the third. She is appalled by Walt’s activities and tries to leave him a couple of times. Eventually she takes over the money side of the meth biz as she is an accountant, and an accomplished money launderer. She and Walter’s marriage could be described as rocky at best. A lot of BB fans hate her because for the majority of the series, she pushes back with Walt and those that see Walt as the protagonist, really hate that about her. Anna Gunn wrote a great “New York Times” op-ed about the phenomenon of Skyler hating that is worth a read and a great conversation starter.
Hank Schrader: Played by Dean Norris. Walter’s brother-in-law. Hank is a DEA agent who is really plugged into the Albuquerque drug scene. He knows about Heisenberg, Walter’s alias, and throughout the series is always one step behind Walt in figuring it out. Until he finally puts it all together. The result is the last 5 episodes of the series and it is riveting, gut wrenching television.
Marie Schrader: Played by Betsy Brandt. Hank’s wife and Skyler’s sister. Marie is blissfully unaware of the difficulties in her sister’s life and later, her husband’s. Early in the series, we see Marie struggling with a shoplifting addiction. She’s very protective of Walt’s kids. And she loves purple. No one ever addresses this directly and it makes me crazy, but everything around Marie is purple. WHY?!
Walter White Jr.: Played by R.J. Mitte. Walter’s clueless teenage son. Jesus, I always feel bad for this kid. Through the majority of the series, you see Walt Jr. eat lots of breakfast, always take his father’s side, be a teenager, and change his name to “Flynn”. He seems to be totally oblivious to everything that is happening and I guess that is how teenagers are, so mired in their own lives that they can’t see anything else. But now that he knows the truth, and also saw his mom and dad have a knife fight I think Walt Jr/Flynn. is a little wiser for the wear.
Saul Goodman: Played by Bob Odenkirk. Saul is Walt and Jesse’s slimy lawyer. He is the show’s much needed comic relief a lot of the time. He’s one of those lawyers that is always on billboards and TV with his catchphrase “Better Call Saul!” He gets the guys out of trouble and earlier on was the one hiding and laundering the money before Skyler. Saul Goodman is getting a spinoff series that will be his life before Walter White aptly named “Better Call Saul”.
Gus Fring (FrAYn): Played by Giancarlo Esposito. Gus employed Jesse and Walt to cook for him from the end of Season 2 through 3 and 4. He owned a fast food chicken chain as his cover business and was the biggest meth distributor in the southwest until Walt killed him via old man suicide bomb at the end of Season 4. It was gristly.
Mike Ehrmantraut: Played by Jonathon Banks. Mike was Gus’s right hand man until his gnarly death. He became a father figure to Jesse and disliked Walt. Once Gus was dead, he went into business with Jesse and Walt, but because of some, ahem, disagreements, Walt ended up shooting him and lying to Jesse about it.
Todd Alquist: Played by Jesse Plemmons aka “Landry” from “Friday Night Lights”. I can never remember this guy’s real name, so I call him Landry…but it’s Todd although calling him Landry is acceptable in some circles. Todd works with Jesse and Walter to cook at the beginning of season 5 and right away he is eager to learn the biz. We see right away the kind of crazy we are dealing with when he shoots and kills an innocent kid who just happens to cross their path and witness something he shouldn’t. He is currently torturing and enslaving our Jesse Pinkman. But he’s still Landry…so I’m torn. He’s got a Nazi uncle that does some killing for Walt at the beginning of Season 5. Walt employs him again to kill Jesse (oh yea) but it goes so incredibly, mind-f**kingly wrong.
Here are a few drug terms that you might know if you watched “The Wire” and a few quotes from the show that you could repeat or at least understand when they’re referenced.
Meth: It’s methamphetamine. It is a purely chemical drug made from stuff that you find in cold medicines. Meth is why you have to show I.D. when you by Sudafed.
Dead drop: The process of using a secret location to pass something between two people without them actually meeting. 90 percent of the time its drugs for money.
Flip: To turn against former “colleagues” usually as part of an agreement with authorities for leniency.
“Bitch”: What Jesse Pinkman says after everything when he’s excited. My favorite is “Science, bitch!”
“I am the danger”: This is part of a tremendous speech Walt gives Skyler when she questions whether the family is in danger. It is such a bad ass speech that Samuel L. Jackson does a version.
“Say my name”: Not just because it recalls a certain Destiny’s Child song, but it is the baddest assed thing Walt says. Standing in front of a group of thugs, he declares that not only is he the man who killed Gus Fring, he also is the great and powerful Oz…err…Heisenberg.
“Just because you shot Jesse James, doesn’t make you Jesse James”: Mike says this to Walt after he kills Gus Fring. I’m not sure how many people will reference this, but it’s a great line that illustrates what a cool mofo Mike Ehrmantraut is.
“Tread lightly”: This is Walt to Hank when Hank finally confronts him about being Heisenberg. We’ve heard Walt threaten someone before, but the way this line is delivered is so chilling and so powerful it garnered its own hashtag on Twitter. You could say that if someone accidentally steps on your foot. Hilarious!
If you’ve seen “The Wire” just argue with people that it is better than “Breaking Bad” and that will distract from the fact that you have not seen the show. If you haven’t seen “The Wire” OR “Breaking Bad”, shame on you, and here are a few lines to cover up the fact that you might have bad taste in television.
“There is a part of me that hopes Jesse and Walt team up and kill Todd” (This is my actual hope and desire)
“Will Marie wear purple to Hank’s funeral ?”
“Landry is a full on sociopath, what would Coach Taylor say?!” (Bonus for FNL references)
“I can’t help but think that things would have been better if Mike was still alive.”
FOR MORE INFO
Guys, if you want to know more, watch the show. “Breaking Bad” will probably go down in history as the greatest drama of all time. But if you are a real fan boy, check out these sites and articles.