If you’re a man, you’re spending this weekend reading about and watching clips, streaming reruns and having conversations about the TV show “Breaking Bad.” Even if you are not a man, surely you have seen us, hunched over our laptops and iPads, awkwardly craned in obtuse angles, with eyes on our screens, scooping food into our mouths in a manner such as to avoid dripping crumbs or salsa onto our devices and/or bed sheets. Like Walter White (the sociopathic, everyman antihero of the TV Show) we will not be denied this. This is the Breaking Bad weekend that we will remember years hence, in the form of TV shows and authorless Internet articles titled The Top 25 TV Villains and Best TV Shows of All Time clip shows on VH1.
To celebrate this historic occasion, I have bought a bottle of Pinch (the kind Walt swigged in the penultimate episode) and I’m encouraging my son (20, a man, but something of a teetotaler) to take shots with me tonight during the show’s finale. He’s dressing in a hazmat suit. I’ve shaved my head and I’ll be carrying around a mock-up IV drip while my cat has been painted a shade of radiant Heisenberg blue. If you’re a man, you get it.
It’s worth noting that I don’t do shit for football or baseball teams, I don’t belong to any professional organizations, don’t go to church and I’ve never been a card-carrying member of a political party. Breaking Bad is all I have.
What will happen?
Part of Breaking Bad’s appeal is that it’s a shared cultural moment at a time when we’re so fragmented, so pulled in divergent directions, that it’s the one thing we can all safely worry about together: What will happen to Walter White?
An intimidating, confusing health care law is being implemented, the Tea Party is threatening to let the government shut down and default, the NSA may be reading my e-mails, Lake Okeechobee could overflow any day and in the meantime its waters are killing the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, oh yeah, and people are shooting the hell out of each other everywhere you look. So Breaking Bad, as harrowing as it is, is only a fiction, a diversion, an entertainment made for its time.
During a recent conversation, a man-friend of mine asked me what I thought might happen. I told him it was futile and counterproductive to guess.
“They have a staff of the most brilliant writers in television sitting there for weeks on end, creating this puzzle. Why am I going to sit here and conjecture for a few minutes on what these writers have made their life’s work to create. Let it just flow over you and enjoy the ride.”
He chastised me for missing the point of a cultural moment like this. “Part of the fun is everyone trying to guess.”
I disagreed. Until I found out there was money to be made if I could guess whether or not Walter White will die tomorrow night.
Esquire Weekly did its Breaking Bad thing, an entire issue devoted to the show. As part of their coverage, there were pictures of women in their underwear of course, but there was also an article about BetOnline and its taking odds on the question, (odds are high he’ll die).
What will happen.
I’m not a betting man. I’m not comfortable spreading money around. Just yesterday, I was standing in line at Subway calculating if it made more sense to buy the 6-inch at $3.75 or to splurge for the five-dollar footlong. But this weekend, I’m celebrating Walter White. I’m putting down $50 (the maximum bet allowed) on Walt staying alive. Real men put it on the line. There are no half-measures. All or nothing, baby.
Walter White has already been punished for his crimes. He spent a year in Siberia, New Hampshire, alone with his thoughts and cancer and DVDs of the worst movie you’ve ever seen Dustin Hoffman in. It was torture — sure a small price to pay for the thousands of lives he’s wrecked, the murders he has committed, in the name of his family and ego — but it’s punishment nonetheless. (If you believe Stephen Marche’s take on the show, we all live with the blemish of being subjects of the marketplace, whether it be crystal meth or tomatoes picked in Immokalee — so who the hell are we to sit around in judgment.) At any rate, Walter has sat out his sentence and now, it’s time for his comeuppance, his final play. In the final episode, these things will happen:
– Walt will rub his bald head.
– Jessie will cry.
– Todd will kill that uptight symbol of corporate hypocrisy, Lydia, then violate the corpse.
– Todd, that symbol of the dead-eyed, unflinching American consumer, will be killed by Jessie, who will tea-bag him. (Google it, it’s what gamers do when they kill people on screen.)
– Walt will use an M-60 to kill the neo-Nazi dirtbags.
– Walt and Jessie will reconciliate. They’ll “cook” something together — maybe Meth, maybe those jalepeño/onion burgers you can buy in packs of four at Costco. They’ll share a few laughs. Jessie will get a sack of cash and he’ll use it to buy stock Virgin Galactic. A flash-forward scene shows him and Sir Richard Branson high fiving just as they lift –off into outer space.
– Walt will remotely detonate a nuclear weapon in the city center as a diversion, while a splinter branch of Yakuza ninjas kidnap his wife and kids and whisk them away to a secret resort in Guadalajara where Walt (who was in cahoots with the ninjas all this time) will join them in a tearful, final scene. They will group-hug. Walt Junior will make a wisecrack, “Hey Dad, you’re breaking my ribs, bad.” They all laugh. Freeze frame, roll credits.
… So there you have it. Go place your bets and may you and yours enjoy the rest of your Breaking Bad weekend.