There’s a lot to find in Lost and feel good about Breaking Bad. What makes these widely-watched series tick?
Touted to be one of the best TV shows ever, Breaking Bad has a cult following. The fanaticism and loyalty rivalled only by Lost.
Lost, in my book, is the best story ever told to man in recent times. (Disclaimer: I got a Dharma Initiative Tattoo on my arm)
Three weeks before the Breaking Bad finale, social networks were abuzz with what was hailed as the single best episode on TV (Ozymandias, Season 5, Episode 14 of Breaking Bad) and it certainly got my attention.
I already had the first four seasons of Breaking Bad, given to me by a friend, after I made him watch Lost. But only after I read that Ozymandias had scored a perfect 10 from 12,000 reviewers on IMDB, did I get excited about the show. I had even added it to my list of shows to watch someday when I came across a column by Lost creator Damon Lindeloff on how the Breaking Bad series finale gave him closure on the controversial Lost ending. So I set out to do a Breaking Bad marathon and I must admit here, that a marathon is not always the best way to judge a TV series. I would never want anyone to do a Lost marathon because each episode is so layered, deep and deserves hours of thought, analysis and dissection. Breaking Bad offered no such excitement. It was a straightforward narrative about a man’s transformation from a chemistry teacher to a dreaded drug don, after he gets diagnosed for lung cancer.
Theory: Breaking Bad is Lost turned on its head.
If Lost was about a bunch of bad people who transform into good people after a near-death experience (plane crash on a mysterious island), Breaking Bad is about a bunch of good people who transform into bad people after a near- death experience. If Lost is set in the nest of evil far away from the world we love, a nest that causes the plane crash, Breaking Bad tries to tell us that we live in the nest of evil. And our smallest of actions (even if it is inaction) can cause a plane crash. Wayfarer 515 in Breaking Bad is possibly a nod to Oceanic 815 from Lost. The last frame of Breaking Bad is decidedly identical to the last shot of Lost.
But then both shows use science to explain cause and effect.
What is the island in Lost if not a huge laboratory for all kinds of experiments on people and behaviour. But then, Lost covers a lot more ground and genres of course, with an epic cast of characters, experiments with storytelling and linearity (flashbacks, flashforwards, time-travel, sideways) and manages to surprise you episode after episode, consistently.
Which is not to say that Breaking Bad is simplistic.
Vince Gilligan’s show makes up for its emotional depth with its blatant disregard for morality. While characters in most shows flirt with grey, in Breaking Bad, they go to bed with the dark side. Irredeemably bad, like a one-way ticket beyond the point of no return. It was a refreshing change from the usual crop of moralistic shows about the triumph of good over evil or America over terrorism.
But it took three and a half seasons for it to get where it should have rightfully got at the end of season 1. It should have rightfully been only three seasons: Growth, Decay, Transformation. But then, that’s the problem with the medium. The writers of Lost too were truly lost in the middle of season 3 when they had no idea if they had to write for four seasons or eight seasons. It’s only after an end date was set, that the show really sparkled and took off! In a way no show has ever done.
While both shows deserve to be watched, they are no equals. At least not in my book.
And it boils down to how you feel about life. Are you feeling Lost and want to be found or are you tired of being boringly good and want to break Bad?