In the early hours of next Monday morning, after 62 episodes, five seasons and one willfully sadistic “mid-season break”, Breaking Bad comes to an end and I will not be sorry to see it go. Head writer Vincent Gilligan is a pusher as ruthless as any of his fictional meth-dealing creations. He’s been exploiting our helpless addiction to narrative and now, finally, it’s time to get clean.
Like you, I used to be able to enjoy watching a few TV programmes socially, at the weekends, with friends or a partner. Now, it’s more likely to be me, alone in a dark room with a laptop, watching episode after episode, long into the night. When I’m down, I comfort myself with a story. When I’m happy, I celebrate with a story. When I’m bored – you guessed it – more stories. My name is Ellen and I’m a story-a-holic.
At first, it was enough just to hear the doof doofs at the close of an episode of EastEnders and know that there would be another episode in a few days. I could wait. Then, as instalments of my favourite shows became more accessible online, it was impossible to resist giving in to the cravings. Soon all my wages went on box sets or keeping up with my Netflix subscription, and all my time was spent binging on Homeland or The Shield or Mad Men.
The more stories I consumed, the more immune I became to weaker narrative tricks. Eventually only high-grade, imported drama could satisfy the craving and, even alongside greats like The Sopranos and The Wire, Breaking Bad soon stood out as particularly potent stuff.
The difference, as Mr White used to say to Jesse, is in the purity. The writing on those other shows was just as good as Gilligan’s, if not better, but while they involved several layers of minor and major supporting characters, many of them likable, and engaged in multiple subplots, Breaking Bad has consistently tested 97.6 per cent pure for plot. It’s just teacher-turned-meth-dealer Walter White on his inexorable descent to damnation, plus anyone unlucky enough to get in his way.
Why is a good, pure plot like this so dangerously addictive? Because it promises to deliver the sense of meaningful closure that we’re so often denied in real life. And so, this Monday, I’ll be accepting no ambiguity and no off-brand, cliff-hanger substitutes. After shredding my nerves, compromising my social relationships, and ruining Malcom in the Middle forever (Hal, how could you!) the least this final episode of Breaking Bad can do is give me what I’ve been chasing all this time: a truly satisfying ending.
Fake Britney is the real Britney
Britney Spears has signed up to a two-year Las Vegas stint for the knock-down, bargain-basement price of $15m (Celine Dion charged $33m), but it seems some “angry insiders” quoted in the New York Daily News still aren’t happy. They expect the poor girl to sing live, too. Perhaps these grumblers are mixing Britney up with Bob Dylan and confusing the 4,600-seat Planet Hollywood Casino with an intimate Greenwich Village folk club. It’s easily done. However, when I saw Britney Spears live(ish) at O2 in 2009 it wasn’t an authentic artistic connection I was after, but a fabulous festival of fake – and I got it. You could see the seam of her hair weave from seven rows back.