It sucked, and it was awesome.
Spoiler Alert . . The Newsroom 1.10 and Breaking Bad 5.7 (At some point I’ll learn how to do this with markdown) . . Spoiler Alert
I LOVED Breaking Bad tonight. It was the epitome of great television, riveting, personal, visceral, with just the right amount of foreshadowing.
Yes, I called it when I saw Walt grab the gun and the money, but I was still surprised by Mike’s resignation at the end. Vince Gilligan always delivers good television, and sometimes, like tonight, he just owns it.
Contrast that with The Newsroom. I was dissatisfied with last week’s show because Sorkin continued a pattern he’d used throughout the series: give you just enough of a high to keep you coming back. Stick the landing because that’s what we all like to see. I was hoping tonight would be different.
I was wrong. Sorkin played it safe, he tied everything up nicely. He broke it off amicably at the end of the school year with just enough sentimentalism that you might get back together when the next semester starts.
By contrast, Vince Gilligan shot a kid in cold blood on basic cable, and then used Jesse’s experience over three seasons to slowly build up his disconnect from Walt. It was real when Jesse walked out, and just as real when Walt hired the guy who killed the kid.
The amount of poetic awesomeness just in that act, the self-reference that went completely unremarked was the polar opposite of the way the Newsroom ended. Sorkin explained every single detail, he repeated the Don Quixote trope so many times you felt like it was The Newsroom, summer school edition.
The point of being on cable is that you can take risks. The point of being on HBO is so you can take risks and know the audience has physical buy-in; you know they’ve watched the episodes in order.
TL;DR Vince Gilligan is Walt, playing it incredibly dangerous, taking no prisoners and beating everyone else in the process. He’s Heisenberg.
Sorkin badly, badly wants to be Don Quixote, he wants to be Will, crafting a show that’s bold, thought-provoking and controversial. But instead he wrote like Jay Leno, safe and deadly afraid of losing his audience.
Sports Night was risky, too much so from a fiscal standpoint. But it was good most of the time and sometimes reached for the stars. I hate to say it, but when it comes to TV, Sorkin has lost his nerve. Fortunately his movies have still been quite epic, so I’m looking forward to his adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs.
And hey, if he’s having trouble, Breaking Bad is ending; he can always ask Vince Gilligan for some help.
P.P.S. This was written on my iPhone in a code editor. There may be errors in grammar and spelling.