Netflix Catchup: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Weeds

We rejoined Netflix because whaddayagonnado? The Olympics are scarcely compelling.

We caught up on newly posted episodes of series we liked before we quit our last membership – at the Netflix price hikes.

Breaking Bad is still the most interesting of the shows. Ross Douthat @NY Times, one of the best commentators out there, grapples here with the moral agency of the lead characters on Breaking Bad and The Sopranos.

…watching White’s transformation is interesting; what’s interesting is that this transformation involves the fundamental core of who he supposedly is, and that this (wholly constructed) core is an extension of his own free will…(we)
root for Walter because of the decent person he used to be, and we rooted for Tony because we saw flashes (again, at least in the show’s early going) of the decent person he might become

Walter White and Tony Soprano are far from Shakespearean characters, so it is hard to root for them or see them as having the moral agency Douthat ascribes to them. The Sopranos in particular was something of a soap opera. The production and acting are superb in both series, but it is the script which finally has to take us deep into things. The bond between White and Jesse is the most interesting of the relationships, although Gus, now gone, was a fascinating character, who could have been explored further.

The problem for the writers is that the focus on the leads tends to glamorize them. David Chase was steadfast in trying to resist the impulse, but Gandolfini is such a likable actor. Like Coppola with the later Godfather movies, Chase wanted the audience to see the dirty business truly.

Mad Men was another series we caught up on. The show seems to me a narrow, condescending view of another time. That is, not just the period being examined is narrow, but so is the show’s perspective. Hauling out stereotypes of that period and then disdaining the horror of their behavior and attitudes is too easy. Here again, there is no character you root for, identify with, or care about.

Weeds is very funny and has held up.

They are all entertaining shows and so the tendency is, out of gratitude, to project onto them a substance they don’t have.