As the series cranks up the tension and suspense towards what will no doubt be a compelling ending, I can’t help joining in the speculation — which of course feels to me less like speculation than intuition. I’m quite confident in my ability to predict what we’re going to see at the beginning of the next episode, when the outcome of the desert shootout will be revealed. If you want, I can tell you the moment I identify as the tipping point for Walter White — the moment after which we shouldn’t have been able to root for him any more — and I can offer a pretty plausible account of the widespread hostility towards Skyler, along with my own views about whether she is or is not the Lady Macbeth of Albuquerque. I have a pretty solid theory about the whole Star Trek scene from earlier this season, in both its original version and its animated copy. I could make for you a compelling Breaking Bad color wheel. Come on, fellow fanatics, let’s talk.

Oh, one more thing: It doesn’t matter that I’ve never seen the show, does it?

Seriously, I haven’t seen a minute of it. I haven’t even watched YouTube clips. However, I’ve read countless tweets and blog posts, starting about three years ago, so I’ve been following the show in something like real time. It’s been fun and instructive. I read James Meek’s superb essay on seasons 1–4, and this thoughtful reflection by A. O. Scott. And this one by Scott Meslow. And a bunch of stuff on Grantland, like this. Really good writing, for the most part.

And yet none of it has made me want to watch the show. I’ve never even considered watching it. Maybe if someone made a two-hour condensation of the whole series up to the last season, the way ABC did for Lost, I would … Nah. Who am I kidding? I don’t have the time, or, rather, I’d prefer to spend the time I have in other ways, probably by reading books.

The big, sprawling multi-season dramatic series that have received the greatest commendation in recent years — from The Sopranos to The Wire to Deadwood to Mad Men to Breaking Bad — have never seemed to me to be worth the enormous investment of time they require. The one that I followed the most closely, The Wire, is really fantastic — but I have to say, if a genie emerged from the lamp and told me that I could have all the hours spent watching The Wire back, and my memories of the show completely erased, as long as I used that time to read books, I would certainly take that deal.

That’s most emphatically not because I think written narrative intrinsically superior to filmed narrative. I don’t. It’s just that reading is the thing I do. Watching TV and movies, not so much. I’m far more likely to read about a TV show than to watch one; Breaking Bad is just the most recent illustration of than tendency. So sue me.

Oh, and in the end, Skyler is going to be the pivot on which the whole denouement turns. I could give you the details, but really, you should prefer to be surprised.


  1. This is precisely how I feel about reading sports writing and watching actual sports.

    I think there may be a distinction worth making, though, between our preferences for different media and a preference for different types of information–reading about something rather than reading (or watching) through it. That is, I've enjoyed poking around the Gravity's Rainbow wiki without having picked up the book–still reading, but for a different reason than someone else would read the book itself.

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