Things You Weren’t Supposed To See #23

It’s been a week for writing things and then starting over from scratch, for multiple reasons, and multiple projects — the sheer volume of material written that’ll never see the light of day this week is both staggering and ultimately depressing, considering the time wasted that it represents. Here’s the opening to a TIME piece that ended up being entirely re-written and re-positioned.


It’s been a very strange experience to watch the online anticipation to the final episode of Breaking Bad grow over the last few weeks as an outsider. At times, I’ve felt like a cultural anthropologist, studying fandom — and Breaking Bad has a very large, very active fandom judging by the online activity surrounding the show over the last few weeks; fandom isn’t just for nerd stuff, you know — as it’s become ever more obsessed and obsessive about each episode as we get closer to the end, and I’ve grown obsessed with the obsession being exposed.

I should rewind for a second and confess, with some small level of humiliation, that I’m not just slightly behind on Breaking Bad, I’m actually years behind — the perils of coming to the series significantly later than most, and still playing catch-up on Netflix. But that level of disconnect — not total, so I have some idea of what’s being discussed and who the main players are (for the most part), but enough that I don’t feel like I’m being told immediate spoilers for where I am in proceedings — feels strangely comfortable for the voyeuristic position that I’ve taken in regards to the mix of anticipation, fear and expectation about what the end will finally turn out to be.

A lot of what I’m seeing online is particularly familiar, as someone who was this plugged-in and excited about the finales of other recent shows on a popularity/obsessive level with Breaking Bad — I was one of those poor deluded fools who tried to convince themselves that the final episode of Battlestar Galactica was brave and meaningful, and not misguided and a narrative mess! — especially when it comes to the strongly-held belief that of course the final episode will be great and that there’s no chance whatsoever that it could disappoint longtime viewers at all.

That particular reassurance — one that seems to be as self-directed as it is outwardly directed, at times — is one that grows particularly brittle in times like this (I write this just days before Breaking Bad‘s finale); there’s an internal battle in fans’ minds between “Well, it’s been this good for so long, how could it make a misstep?” and “It’s been this good for so long, if it makes a misstep now, it’ll ruin everything retroactively” that manifests itself in this need to believe that following the show for all this time won’t end up being something that ends in disappointment.