Clark: ‘Breaking Bad’ making its exit at the top of its game

pclark@modbee.comAugust 29, 2013 

TV-Breaking Bad-Norris

This publicity image released by AMC shows Dean Norris as Hank Schrader, left, and Bryan Cranston as Walter White in "Breaking Bad." The series is returning for its eight final episodes starting Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT. The long-awaited showdown places Hank in direct conflict with the villainous hero, Walter White. (AP Photo/ AMC, Frank Ockenfels)

FRANK OCKENFELS — AP

It’s always good to leave the party a little early rather than too late.

No one, after all, should stay so long that her mascara is starting to run, her hair is a tangled mess and the hosts are wondering how to tactfully shepherd her out the door.

Successful TV shows sometimes make the mistake of trying to stretch out the party one season too many (sometimes more), so that by the time they finally do sign off for good, many once-loyal viewers have long since shepherded them off their TV playlists.

But the superb AMC drama “Breaking Bad” still looks fresh in Season 5, even as the countdown to its chicken dance has begun.

And the show is going to go out so far on top that there will be a mile of dead space between it and the rest of the fare on television right now.

If the show continues to progress the way it’s going this final season, it will win every Emmy in the book. Rightfully so.

Of course, we can’t be 100 percent certain the wheels won’t come off the cart before the series finale, set to air at the end of September. But “Breaking Bad” hasn’t disappointed fans or critics to this point, so it’s a safe bet the writers will offer both shock and awe for those parting shots. (But hopefully won’t go all allegorical and interpretive, a la the final scene of the “The Sopranos.”)

Some of the actors from the show already have been quoted on Internet blog sites alluding to an ending that will take fans by surprise and suggesting that just punishments are in the works.

It’s been a slightly rocky ride for me and “Breaking Bad.” I’ve never doubted the quality – that’s been unquestionable all the way through. But I have skipped it in the past because the show exhausted the heck out of me. Some episodes just became too hard, too dark to muster the energy to watch.

But I jumped back in with both feet last season and haven’t looked back. The past several episodes of this split final season have been particularly good.

Part of my rocky ride stems – no doubt like many fans – from the fact that it’s hard to watch a show with a main character who you just do not like – read loathe – anymore.

Sure, the antihero has been all the rage for a while – see shows like “The Sopranos,” “Mad Men,” et al.

But with “Breaking Bad,” high school chemistry teacher Walter White started out as an everyman with a bad-luck streak, a guy we rooted for, even as he started cooking up his own brand of high-quality meth to pay the family’s bills and his own cancer treatment.

Heck, we rooted for him when he started killing off miscreants — I mean, it’s just TV, after all, and they had it coming, right?

Then, we squirmed, but tried to understand when he started killing off people because they got in the way, or could expose his secret. He was still a good guy at heart, wasn’t he?

Finally, though, the dude just — natch — broke bad. He broke our trust. Broke our sympathy for him. By the end of Season 4, rooting against him became the norm.

Now? It’s hard, because he’s supposedly — supposedly! — trying to turn things around for the sake of that same family he got into the messy and violent drug business for — and particularly for his wife. She’s in it up to her neck, too, now.

You kind of want to feel for the guy again. But, like his partner in crime and the (oddly) moral compass of the show, Jesse, you really don’t trust him and can’t fathom forgiving him.

And then there’s poor Hank, the brother-in-law lawman who finally found out this season that the guy he’s been chasing for so long is part of his own close family. I’ve never been a big fan of Hank. But when Walt reeled off his “confession” that pretty much framed Hank for the entire, sordid, bloody mess, it was as heart-wrenching as it was surprising.

That surprise — which aired this past Sunday — was just the latest clever twist that the writers of “Breaking Bad” have continually come up with all along. It’s those twists that keep viewers coming back, despite a hateful protagonist and a downright nasty premise.

It’s also part of the reason this show and its actors are primed to sweep all the TV awards out there.

That’s a party it needs to look its best for, right to the end.

Who’s No. 1?

Will any of us ever be able to go to a baseball game and look at those giant foam fingers the same way again?

Thanks a lot, Miley.

Everyone has offered an opinion on Miley Cyrus, the singer formerly known as the wholesome Hannah Montana and her, um, performance at the MTV Video Music Awards last weekend.

Was it over the vulgarity line for prime-time television geared to teenagers? Yes, as a parent of a 15-year-old, the world could have lived without the twerking, the gyrating, the uncomfortable foam-fingered obsession with her own lady parts.

But the oft-posed suggestion this week that Cyrus is having a child star-spawned breakdown? Color me skeptical.

For a 20-year-old, this girl is a seasoned entertainment industry veteran. And she’s clearly ready to change her image from little girl next door to music industry-relevant adult. She isn’t having an existential crisis, she’s playing the media game for every bit of attention she can get.

Every choreographed movement was another peg in her publicity belt. She knew what she was doing – and so did the producers of the show.

On the NBC morning show “Today” this week, Matt Lauer expressed exactly what I’d been thinking from the moment the whole thing blew up: Cyrus has gotten exactly what she wanted – everyone talking about it.

Reach Scene editor Pat Clark at pclark@modbee.com.

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