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Breaking Bad: An epic for our time?

*Reassurance: Does not contain spoilers*


Best description of the last episode of Breaking Bad: “Tense, witty, violent, oddly tender.”


So last night I saw the conclusion of Breaking Bad, a major pop culture event and the end of a television series that has excitedly been called “the best of all time”.

I must admit I’ve been completely caught up in the ballyhoo and have been eagerly awaiting last night’s “Felina” (anagram of “Finale”). I’m not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but what I will say is that it was a good strong ending for the series; as precisely calculated as one of Walter White’s formulas would be, and I don’t think anyone who has followed the series since the beginning will be disappointed.

As steeped in blood as he was towards the end, I couldn’t bring myself to outright condemn Walter White, even as his friends and family were. And even when the creators of the series themselves were shaking their heads at his misdeeds, I’d become so attached to him that I found myself justifying his actions, although I knew them to be wrong.

How could a fictional character make me feel so morally conflicted? How do we, as a society, become so invested in the lives of these characters?

I wonder if it’s because we still possess a primitive longing for ancient times when we first gathered around camp fires and then later in town squares to hear travellers from afar bringing tales of heroism and hubris.

Some of these stories still survive to the present day, like The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Iliad and The Odyssey.

The wonder of our age is that we will be able to preserve not only Breaking Bad in its original format, but the numerous individual reactions to it on social media and the internet from ordinary people, for posterity. Future generations will be able to more readily decipher the moral codes and norms of our time through these invaluable historical sources, historians accessing vast social-media archives, experts teaching classes on how to properly analyse and gather historical information from the antique internet.

And forget the present-day hype, the true test of Breaking Bad’s greatness will be whether it survives this journey through time. Will the classics students of the future remember his name?

*If you’re a Breaking Bad fan, please do let me know in the comments whether you think television is producing the new epic novels of our time? I’d also like to know if you found yourself, against your better judgment, sympathising with the character of Walter White?