So I belatedly finished this now. I started it once a few years ago and wasn't convinced, but a year or so ago I decided to give it another try and watched the full run over the twelve months since.
I liked it, but... it's overrated, isn't it?
Cranston is phenomenal as Walter White, which surely accounts for a lot of the plaudits. There are several scenes near the end of the whole thing when it really becomes clear what he has become and what he has lost, and there's a genuinely Shakespearean feel to it. Some other hugely powerful scenes and some very smart direction too. There are lots of small details and moments that go unnoticed but suddenly, a few episodes or even series later, become dramatically significant. In that way it's odd, as I thought it was pretty average for the first three or so series, but it developed into something much deeper and more powerful towards the end as small earlier moments and scenes gained more weight and meaning.
That said, what holds it back from greatness is that it lacks a real emotional core. Walter is the main guy but despite Cranston's brilliance he is never really a magnetic character until the end of the whole thing, when it becomes clear that what was really driving him was the desire to stand out. And by then it's too late. I think that one big issue is that the Pinkman character is too muddled. I never really found his motivations, or Walt's paternal feelings towards him, that convincing.
And speaking of relationships, Skyler is no Carmela Soprano. From the beginning she is mishandled: I think the idea is that she is going to be sympathetic, a strong woman trapped in her marriage to a criminal, and trying to do right by her kids, but for most of the time she comes across as a pain in the arse: an obstruction as Walt went about his business. Hank was a better supporting character, a believably cocky, jocky but competent and clever agent. Saul and Mike were fantastic too and I'm looking forward to getting stuck into their spinoff.
One other point that stuck out was that for a show about people making and selling crystal meth, there was no real interest in showing the consequences for the community or society around them. We got Jesse's hot methhead-with-a-heart girlfriend, we got the comedy sidekicks Badger and Skinny Pete, we got a couple of scenes of Wendy the crack whore... and that was it.
It might have been a deliberate move, to steer clear of this to avoid making Walt into too much of a villain, but I think it detracts from the show's overall impact.
Otherwise, well, the plotting was up and down with some real lulls in the third series especially, and even when things really picked up speed and tension in the last couple of series, there were things that felt like missteps, or that were too dragged out. But those last two series really were compelling while I spent much of the previous three waiting for it to get good; fortunately I had read that it was a show that rewarded this patience, so I didn't bail again.
And you know what? I think I read the final episode with its Hollywood heroics as Walt's dying fantasy of redemption. He is barely there in many scenes, hanging in the background and unnoticed by the other characters. The resolutions feel too neat. I think he died up there in that cabin.
Copehead wrote:I have met Gruff Rhys - although he claimed he wasn't and that he couldn't speak Welsh, as I spoke to him in Welsh, but it was him lying bastard.