Breaking Bad has often exploited this reversal from meaningless to most meaningful, whether for an incidental ironic laugh or for the sake of overarching awe, and always both at once to some greater or lesser extent, but such devices, when over-used, will turn around again. Rather than being converted by the naturalism of scene, dialogue, character, and logic into an image of “fate,” the next incredible plot plot, or one or a few too many, can subvert them under the sign of “fake” – a danger all but the most naive viewers understand instinctively. The over-accumulation of improbabilities risks falsification of the whole, threatening to turn the self-sufficient fictive world into a mere artifact, a collapsed assemblage of meaningless gestures. Put simply, too much contrivance refers us to TV writers on deadlines, not to anything that could possibly matter more.
The very title of the show announces a morality tale, an investigation of “good” and “bad,” with an implicit come-on to enjoy the thrill of “breaking” the rules, before finally being delivered up to the proper message- at which point rather than “breaking to or into the bad,” the show will, one presumes with some confidence, finish “breaking the bad”: Hallelujah! The key challenge for the writers has always been, perhaps until now or next Sunday, preserving the thrill but ensuring the wholesome delivery in a way the morally depraved can accept, for their own good, despite themselves. Medieval morality tales almost certainly worked the same way, but Gilligan and company (probably?) cannot rely on horned demons dragging Walt down to painted flames of Hell – or on a chorus of the dead appealing for his salvation.
He didn’t and couldn’t anticipate the consequences of his actions, which is the main theme of the show, that seemingly rational or “scientific” solutions to immediate problems turn into their opposites due to the complex interwovenness of real life or society: i.e., Crime Doesn’t Pay. Even when it seems to pay, it turns you into an unhappy monster, or someone who has “earned” millions of dollars for his family but is unable to put it to use for them in any way. He can’t even find a way to get a fraction of it to them. They don’t even want it.
Looking forward to Breaking Bad Season 5, I realize that one main reason to be a bigger fan of BB than of the well-regarded House is if, like me, you know you’re a loser – which means “in the wrong from the perspective of a wrong world.”