April 27th, 2010

breaking bad

Breaking Bad 3-6

Breaking Bad 3-6 was the breakthrough episode of this season, and the last fifteen minutes produced such a rush of emotion that I could barely sit in my chair. I will write more about it tomorrow I hope. Just for now, here is the poem that the man who has replaced Jesse said to Walt in their secret lab, from memory looking into his face. It's by Walt Whitman.

When I heard the learned astronomer
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and
measure them
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much
applause in the lecture-room
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick
Till rising and gliding out, I wandered off by myself
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time
Looked up in perfect silence at the stars
breaking bad

Maximising the signal: More Breaking Bad

I think what every quality drama has to do nowadays is maximise the carrying capacity of the signal. They do it in different ways. New Doctor Who manages to do it in a populist and accessible way by referencing a wider canon, not just of Who but of all SF and all popular culture, so each face and trope is freighted with allusion. It's a brilliant solution to maximising the signal, and perhaps the only one which would work at 6.30 on a Saturday night on BBC1. Other series like Mad Men and The Wire are not so accessible, because you have to absorb quite a lot of content on trust before they start to deliver at full force in through your eyeballs. Breaking Bad does it by heavy freight on a small number of characters, and they are lucky that they have got two leads who are exemplary. The signal is increased via intensity rather than capacity.
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