It seems quite likely that history will single out Vince Gilligan’s majestic Breaking Bad as the pre-eminent narrative of the Obama era.
Breaking Bad‘s debut as an AMC show took place on January 20, 2008, precisely one year before Obama’s inauguration as president of the United States. The pilot aired to little fanfare; thanks to the Writers Guild of America strike occurring at the time, the show’s first season was a truncated one—only seven episodes—which made the feat of Bryan Cranston winning an Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series all the more impressive, a sign of things to come. By the time the show ended, on September 29, 2013, the series had become a national obsession—the saga of Walter White/Heisenberg could be found absolutely everywhere.
Despite this intense bout of national fandom, there are people out there who still haven’t seen it.
If you’re like me, every few months you find yourself having one of those “You haven’t seen Breaking Bad?” conversations. As great as it is—and it is great—it’s a tricky thing to ask someone to dedicate 62 hours to a narrative he or she likely has no actual investment in. You can hear the excuses before you finish your schtick: But I’m so busy—Raising nine children—Two jobs and night school too—I’m still catching up on ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘House of Cards’ and ‘The Walking Dead’—the bar exam is coming up…....
If this scene is familiar, then you will be grateful for a recent editing feat pulled off by Gaylor Morestin and Lucas Stoll, who somehow have taken 62 episodes of high-quality TV episodic drama and transformed it into a tight, 2 hour and 7 minute crime drama of the kind Hollywood puts out in movie theaters, just like Carlito’s Way or something. The original show took approximately 3,000 minutes to consume (!)—this one takes 127 minutes, which means that only 4% of the original footage is in the “movie” version.
On their creation, Morestin and Stoll write:
After two years of sleepless nights of endless editing, we bring you the answer to that very question. A study project that became an all-consuming passion.
It’s not a fan-film, hitting the highlights of show in a home-made homage, but rather a re-imagining of the underlying concept itself, lending itself to full feature-length treatment.
An alternative ‘Breaking Bad,’ to be viewed with fresh eyes.
Naturally, the “feature” version loses a lot of the fun scenes that depended on Gilligan’s masterful use of the slow burn—I’m thinking in particular of the season 2 scene in which Badger gets busted by an undercover DEA agent on a park bench. Still, “Breaking Bad: The Movie” does a great job of supplying the general ups and downs of the saga of Walt/Heisenberg and all the people he affects in his drive to become Albuquerque’s #1 producer of crystal meth.
One advantage of the plot compression is that the (in retrospect irrelevant-feeling) “airplane” subplot of Season 2 is entirely absent.
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
‘Breaking Bad,’ the Opera
Addicted to ‘Breaking Bad’? Here’s an EPIC four-hour interview with series creator Vince Gilligan