Saturday, 28 December 2013

TV11: Dexter & Breaking Bad Come to an End




Two of the best (and worst) shows on cable TV came to an end in 2013. Referring to the ‘worst’, I have to say that I am not sad to see them go, though I worry about what might take their place. Dexter and Breaking Bad may be well-written, well-acted and compelling television, but they are not particularly edifying. Of the two, as I have stated previously, I believe Dexter, in spite of its more gruesome scenes, is ultimately the more thoughtful and moral show. Breaking Bad does offer Jesse Pinkman as a moral compass, and that definitely helps, and its writing is more intelligent, but these are not enough to overcome the big difference between the shows: how one protagonist, however horrific his actions, tries to become more fully human, while the other, however innocent at the start, steadily loses his humanity.

The final season of Breaking Bad, entertaining and well-made as it might have been, was generally predictable, though I would never have predicted the third-last episode, which was the second-most disturbing (horrific) episode of the series and deserves (indeed, requires) hours of debriefing and discussion, as do the final two episodes. 

Unlike Dexter, Breaking Bad never declines in the overall excellence of its writing. Because Dexter is more episodic than Breaking Bad, there is a greater need for intelligent creative writing in Dexter, which makes the difference in overall writing quality that much more noticeable. 

Dexter’s final season was a major improvement on season six, which was a dud, but it still didn’t match the intensity and excellence of Dexter’s first four seasons, so it was ultimately disappointing. Nevertheless, the final season of Dexter was much less predictable than the final season of Breaking Bad (thank goodness my fears for Dexter at the end of season six were unfounded) and I found the ending of Dexter more satisfying than the ending of Breaking Bad

So there you have it. Two very dark, very intense cable TV shows, each with its own unique flavour, are done. Michael C. Hall and Bryan Cranston did such a great job embodying their roles as Dexter Morgan and Walter White that it may take them a while to lose those negative images, but they are both great actors and I expect them to survive. 

A final note: No matter how intelligent and creative some screenwriters may be, they can’t seem to avoid the biggest cliche that has plagued suspense/action films/TV shows for over a century: you’ve got to kill the bad guys at the end (and revenge is an acceptable motive), because the only way to get rid of evil in our world is to kill all the people responsible. So why not just nuke the planet and get it over with? Sigh. 

2 comments:

  1. In response to "A final note," could it be that this is a reflection of our embrace of a punitive/retributive justice system rather than a restorative one? Further, might this also be the result of an adherence to the Penal Substitution Atonement Theory that dominates the majority of thinking in our institutional churches here in the west...that God's way of dealing with evil in humans was, first, to kill his Son ... so that he won't kill us ... unless, of course, we "believe"... but if we don't "believe" before we die, then we remain in our evil, and, therefore, God has no choice but to, ultimately, kill us, too...?

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  2. Thanks, Judy. No argument from me.

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