By Gus Ramsey
Walter White is dead.
In the next two episodes of Breaking Bad, the final two of season 4, anyone could say those words and I would believe it.
The beauty of any truly great TV show is it's ability to lift you past that place where you look upon the character as actors performing really well and to the place where you are emotionally invested with the people.
In recent years it happened for me with The West Wing, The Sopranos, LOST and now Breaking Bad.
My friend James is a Netflixer. He watches shows, like the ones I mentioned, on Netflix, cranking out dozens of episodes at a clip, hardly ever watching them in real time. Recently he was watching LOST and remarked to me, "When is this going to end? How many episodes are there?" He was enjoying the show, but he was kind of lost (pardon the pun) in the storyline.
Using the Netflix approach, it made me wonder about Breaking Bad. If you handed a person one episode at a time and they knew nothing of the show, they would swear after last night's episode that the end was near. The end for Walter, the end for Gus, the end for Hank, the end for Mike. When I consider that there are 18 more episodes to go, well, it really scrambles my brain.
The crescendo that is building on this show has been incredible. It is right on par with the final seasons of LOST and The Sopranos, which is remarkable because, as I just noted, this isn't the final season.
As Alan Sepinwall wrote today http://tinyurl.com/3g82ama, usually when a show tries to one-up itself from episode to episode, it's a bad thing. That is not the case with Breaking Bad.
When Walter was lying underneath his house last night, laughing like a hyena on meth and staring up through the hole in his crawlspace toward the heavens he will never see (in a scene that reminded me of Jack and Lock looking down into the hatch on LOST), I couldn't help but think "They might actually kill him."
The sane TV viewer part of my brain immediately said, "Duh. He's the star. They're not killing him. There's 18 more episodes to go."
The other part of my brain, the part that is blown away by the writing and producing of this show, said, "Yeah... but still.... I mean, they could kill him."
And that's the brilliance of this show. You lose yourself in the moments, no mater how sinister or sincere. It sucks you in and makes you care about people you shouldn't care about.
Walter is cut from the Tony Soprano cloth. A morally flawed man who has our empathy. Obviously Walter's road to perdition was vastly different than Tony's, but in each case, none of their transgressions have changed my feelings toward them.
Gus has emerged as one of the most intimidating people on TV. His cut-throat approach (ok, I meant to do that one) to his business is equal parts succinct and shocking. The combination results in at least one OMG moment an episode. The thought that he could actually lose the three-way mental tug of war with Walter and Hank is hard to conceive, yet possible.
Jesse has somehow emerged as a sympathetic figure. He is being used by both Walter and Gus. Walter is trying to save his own life. Gus is trying to save his business. Jesse is just trying to save himself. To measure Jesse's transformation, you need look no further than the house he lives in. At the beginning of this season, Jesse's home was a 24-hour meth-a-palooza palace. In last night's episode, it was a home, with his girlfriend and her son cozily hanging out with him. The contradiction of what his life could be, in either direction, is equal parts hopeful and sad.
So now we have two episodes left in one of the best seasons of a television show I can remember.
I'm emotionally invested in a collection of bad people doing bad things to one another. It's man's inhumanity to man in high-definition, and I am mesmerized by it.
As you can tell, my brain has spent a lot of time trying to digest all that has happened.
What I don't do is spend a lot of time trying to figure out what might happen next. It's not the way my brain works. It's too busy trying to comprehend the fact that Walter White may die.
What? It could happen.