Eight reasons Breaking Bad is the best show ever
The final eight episodes of Breaking Bad will begin Sunday. Over the course of five seasons, the series has established itself not just as one of the best shows now on TV, but as one of the best ever -- maybe the best ever. On the eve of this final stretch, we decided to look back over the series as a whole and identify some of what made it so great (which also provided a good excuse to rewatch it all...). Before you sit down to catch the start of the final half-season (say, with a bunch of fellow fans at a Breaking Bad watch party at Sidewinder), take a minute to reflect on these eight reasons the show is such a brilliant tour de force. (Spoiler warning: There are more than a few plot details that you'll want to avoid if you aren't caught up on the entire show, so proceed at your own risk.)
Albuquerque, New Mexico
With its mix of wide-open vistas and sketchy industrial parks, Albuquerque and the surrounding desert have become as much a part of the show as blue meth and Walt's hubris. Beautiful and bleak by turns, just like the show set there, Albuquerque has revealed itself to be the ideal setting over the course of five seasons. Of course, a lot of the credit for that goes to cinematographer Michael Slovis, who's managed to capture all of the area's majesty and squalor and translate it to the screen. You don't have to notice the surroundings to enjoy the show, but once you do it becomes abundantly clear that they contribute significantly to its greatness.
Breaking Bad makes more frequent use of montage than anything this side of an '80s comedy film. Whether it's cooking meth or slinging it, or even prison murders, the show has used montages to help control the pace and flow of episodes, allowing them to both show minute detail and big swathes of time in the same episode. Plus, most of them were set to fantastic music. If the montage sees a renaissance in the next few years, you'll be able to thank Breaking Bad for sparking it.
It can be hard to remember from time to time, what with all the murdering and meth slinging and tension-fraught drama, but Breaking Bad can be a damn funny show. It's throttled things back from the black comedy-laced first season, which frequently seemed to mine its situations for the darkest possible humor, but the show still manages to hit just enough humorous notes to keep things from getting too bleak. From the inspired casting of Bob Odenkirk as the sleazebag lawyer Saul to little visual gags like the infamous pizza on the roof, Breaking Bad offers more laughs than any show about the making and unmaking of a murderous meth kingpin has any right to.
They call this "starting with a bang"
Beginnings and endings
If you start strong and finish strong, it frequently hardly matters what the hell you do in between. Not that Breaking Bad's mid-season episodes are ever less than stellar, but it's mastered the art of strong season premieres and finales. It's hard to go wrong with seasons that are bracketed by episodes like the pilot and "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal," much less "Box Cutter" and "Face Off." It would be an exaggeration to say that all of the show's best episodes are its season openers and closers, but they are all among the best. Of course, the creators still have to stick the landing, but seeing the work they've done so far wrapping up individual seasons, it's not hard to believe they will.