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Even if Breaking Bad ends brilliantly, he’s already told us that it won’t end well.


Stashed in: Are You Not Entertained?, New Yorker, Sopranos

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Each season, Walt has made far less justifiable choices, each one changing him, with a throb of arrogance here, a swell of egotism there.

Walt hasn’t been the only one making choices, of course; the audience has, too, particularly the choice to keep tuning in. “Breaking Bad” is an explicitly addictive series, full of cliffhangers, with a visual flair that is rare for television.

At once humane and nastily funny, it is full of indelible characters, such as Jesse, Walt’s student turned tragic dupe, and Hank, Walt’s blustery brother-in-law, who works for the D.E.A. And yet, for all the show’s pleasures, its themes can be irredeemably grim, particularly now that the crutch of our sympathy for Walt has been yanked away.

Each new episode arrives fraught with foreshadowing, with betrayal on the way — we know what has to happen, but not how. The show has shed its original skin, that of the antihero drama, in which we root for a bad boy in spite of ourselves.

Instead, it’s more like the late seasons of “The Sopranos,” the first show that dared to punish its audience for loving a monster. This makes “Breaking Bad” a radical type of television, and also a very strange kind of must-watch: a show that you dread and crave at the same time...

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