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Nothing Personal, But I'm Not Reading Your 'Breaking Bad' Analysis

Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston as Jesse and Walt on AMC's <em>Breaking Bad</em>, which will have its finale in a few weeks.
Frank Ockenfels
Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston as Jesse and Walt on AMC's Breaking Bad, which will have its finale in a few weeks.

The closer we get to the end of Breaking Bad, the less I want to read about it.

I'm not calling for a moratorium on Breaking Bad content from now until the finale (and not only because of ... you know, futility.) From now until then, I expect an avalanche of recaps, interviews, think pieces, retrospectives, speculations and so forth. That's exactly as it should be with any show coming to a close, let alone a show as great as this one.

And I'm not even sick of the coverage that's taken place and the coverage to come. On the contrary, being tangentially aware of the sheer quantity of critical engagement is stoking my excitement about the last few episodes. I wouldn't want Breaking Bad talk to dry up.

I just don't want to participate in it myself.

The window for me to engage in discussions about this show is currently closed. It won't open until the credits on the finale roll (and probably a few hours or even a day or two after). I want to let the show do its work. If there's a code, I don't want to crack it. If there's a method, I want it to play out on screen, on Sunday nights, the way it's intended. Anything else — anything, for instance, like the current Entertainment Weekly, with the filthied, bloodied faces of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul shouting at me from the cover — is just going to jank up the momentum that the story's built up as it hurtles towards its conclusion.

I am swimming against the tide, of course, trying to shut down the criticism-consuming part of my mind at this stage of Breaking Bad's run. That Entertainment Weekly cover story is especially tantalizing. This is the rare show that's infiltrated not only every entertainment outlet you can find, but most of the news outlets as well. But as we inch closer and closer to Vince Gilligan's (and Walter White's) endgame, I'm finding that it only gets in the way of my enjoyment to indulge in my usual habit of inhaling as much as I can as fast as I can about any show interesting enough to justify it.

Part of the reason for that I'm not trying to get ahead of Gilligan. It's hard to talk about each new episode in any capacity without, on some level, attempting to figure out how it fits in with the conclusion toward which we're now barreling at high velocity. And since the show seems pretty well locked down, we're forced to speculate.

Speculation isn't the same as spoilers, of course. But even so, there reaches a point where the distinction is academic. Take, for example, this Wired piece about how Breaking Bad could end. (Disclosure: I have not read it, because ... well, if I had, that'd make me a liar.) If it's anything like the similarly themed Vulture post from a year ago (which I did read back then but have not looked at since), it attempts to catalogue, in broad terms, every possible way Breaking Bad could end.

Since it's not informed by actual intel, it's only educated guesswork, so it's not as though it's actually giving anything away. But running down all the possibilities, even without fixing on one in particular, brings them all into the conversation. Someone's bound to hit the nail on the head, giving the ending, when it comes, less of an impact than one I haven't already considered.

Worse, if the ending happens to be one of the less satisfying theories, or if Gilligan somehow comes up with something that nobody saw coming, then I run the risk of being disappointed by a conclusion that's not as good as someone else's fanfiction.

So how do I think Breaking Bad going to end? I don't need to think about how it's going to end. It's ending. All I need to do is let it end and watch, without getting in my own way.

I don't need to goose my own interest; I'm already fully invested. I'm at the point where, if this were a book, I'd be eagerly plowing through to the final page without getting a snack, checking e-mail, going to the bathroom, talking to other people or, God forbid, going to Wikipedia to compare my own take with others that I might not have considered.

There'll be time enough for that later. For now, it's just me and Breaking Bad. I'll jump back into the conversation on September 30.

Marc Hirsh is a writer in Somerville, Mass., and wishes to make it clear that he's doing other stuff right now as well, not just living in a darkened bunker waiting for the next episode.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Marc Hirsh lives in the Boston area, where he indulges in the magic trinity of improv comedy, competitive adult four square and music journalism. He has won trophies for one of these, but refuses to say which.

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