I have been slowly watching Breaking Bad in between reading and writing. I say slowly, but it’s one of those shows where somehow it’s interesting enough to watch, but not quite interesting enough to merit my full attention. I watch it either at 2x speed, or 1.5x while doing something else similarly unchallenging. I have been trying to figure out just why that should be so.
Structurally, it is similar to other crime-family dramas, deriving I suppose from The Sopranos, although the characters and scenarios here are not particularly similar. You have the unfolding criminal enterprises, and the stresses those create for the domestic life of the characters. This relies on the two components of the drama existing in tension. I would suggest as an ideal that either should be interesting enough to stand by itself; of course, neither actually can.
I tired of The Sopranos because it began to recycle itself and come full circle. It was trapped in a pattern. I didn’t like any of the characters enough to endlessly circle the drain with them and the criminal side of the equation didn’t quite hold my attention.
Breaking Bad has a solid basic grasp of this structure. The idea of an ordinary guy getting progressively pulled into the mire of the drug underworld is a solid basic starting point. The show works well when it’s using that premise, where it’s forcing the characters to choose between bad alternatives. It also appears to be carefully constructed and carefully plotted: there are many call-backs, plenty of foreshadowing.
I think perhaps the problem is in its story density. There are some tight episodes, but some episodes feel like they’re marking time, and it feels like perhaps they are too happy to let their characters go around any given issue a few too many times.
I also find the two lead characters a bit less interesting than almost any of the supporting cast. They are slightly too prone to dramatic reversals of action and opinion as needed by the story. Now, some revisiting of issues and changes of tack show character growth – but I feel this happens to the two leads a bit too often. However, I like the some of the supporting characters enough that they’re almost enough of a draw. I especially like the in-laws and their criminal lawyer.
That’s a bit inconclusive. Nothing compelling against it. It’s a good show, and it has entertained me. I feel somehow though that I should like it more than I do, enough to not basically skip whole episodes, enough to remember all the characters’ names and enough to watch it at ordinary speed.