by K.M. Zahrt
We see a door. The door is closed and back-lit. Light is coming through the slats and through the gap at the bottom. It’s a white door next to a common dresser. Opposite the dresser is another door, open, partially exposing a common, empty hallway. We hear chatter and laughter. A party must be going on outside, but it’s a long way from our door. We approach the closed door, slow and steady.
This is one of the elements that makes AMC’s Breaking Bad such a great show. It is amazing how much emotion that door alone can stir up in the viewer–suspense, anxiety, even fear. It’s because we know the backstory. Sure, we know who is behind the door, and we know what has just happened to him; but we know more than that. We know that everything that has happened to him over the past two years has led to this moment. All of that baggage is there, in that moment. We feel it, all of it, along with him, as we prepare for him to respond.
Sometimes this element works backwards in the show. Sometimes we see an object: a scorched bear floating in a pool or a bullet riddled vehicle bouncing wildly. Whether we know the backstory or we can only imagine how the story will unfold, it works the same. Somehow these moments are equally intense.
Each character’s history compounds, and we see that history in their eyes and hear it in their voices when they reach critical moments along the way, all of which are fully embodied in these objects–a door, a bear, a car. Combined, it all instills a depth of emotion in us, the viewer–a depth rarely, if ever, achieved in other television shows.
Recently, a friend started watching Breaking Bad for the first time. I was envious. I desperately wished I could go back and experience this show for the first time, once again. And last night, the first of the last eight episodes of Breaking Bad aired. It was tempting to think, “There are only eight episodes left.” But last night, after Season 5 Episode, 9 “Blood Money,” all I could think was, “There are seven more chances to watch a Breaking Bad episode for the first time.” What an opportunity.