Ending a story: Breaking Bad and Dexter.

The cover of the first edition of The Great Ga...

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back, ceaselessly into the past.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To me the very core of a great story lies in the ending. Whether the entire story is put in an entirely different perspective like “Life  of Pi” or we are reminded of what the story is about like “The Great Gatsby“, a good story is completely pointless without a good ending.

A lot of the advice writers give is to take some time during writing to know where you are going with the story. A story is about something. Gatsby ‘s story is one about trying to rebuild the past and fixing old mistakes, something Jay is reminded of is not possible. “The Lord of the Rings” it’s not about defending the world from evil, the personal conflict lies closer to home, our hero’s conflict lies closer to home. In the end he is fighting for his home, the Shire. Returning home to that place and discover that this final bastion of good, purity and innocence has been corrupted by Saruman adds a rather poignant, but bitter note to the story. While the theatrical version of the story left this out of the story, I believe it added a sort of reminder that their fight will never end.

What I want to ramble about is the fact that two shows I adore are ending. Dexter, is an adaptation of Jeff Lindsay’s novels, but as the show has long since abandoned following those books, I think it is worth treating the show as something existing on its own.

Dexter has always been about a man hiding the truth of his horrible life from his family, his son, his coworkers. When last season ended with the shooting of Laguerta I honestly believed this season would focus on the investigation of this murder. We have here a figure that has been lucky to the point of ridiculous when it comes to his antics. His entire life has been leading back to serial killings, I’m actually surprised that cops like Baptista have not noticed. Two incredibly gifted detectives died investigating Dexter and yet, they shake that off as pure coincidence? I can forgive them shrugging at Doakes’ death, he was framed pretty well, but why are they fooled again with Laguerta?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dexter has always been about a man hiding the truth of his horrible life from his family, his son, his coworkers. When last season ended with the shooting of Laguerta I honestly believed this season would focus on the investigation of this murder. We have here a figure that has been lucky to the point of ridiculous when it comes to his antics. His entire life has been leading back to serial killings, I’m actually surprised that cops like Baptista have not noticed. Two incredibly gifted detectives died investigating Dexter and yet, they shake that off as pure coincidence? I can forgive them shrugging at Doakes’ death, he was framed pretty well, but why are they fooled again with Laguerta?

 

Instead the show went off in pointless plotlines. When Vogel showed up I had hoped she’d be the one to help catch Dexter, instead she becomes another ally and even a mother-figure. We are given an unnecessary insight into “the code” something that needed no backstory. We are given another serial killer for Dexter to hunt, Masuka gains a daughter, Dexter gains a surrogate son who, just like Jaime, the tireless babysitter’s  hot friend was solely created to be killed off.

 

What strikes me as wrong in the very end is that it isn’t about Dexter getting caught or not. I knew the final episode would be about capturing a serial killer, my hope was that this serial-killer would have been Dexter. This season had very little happening, at the end of it we are left with Dexter as a lumberjack, his secret still carefully hidden and his sister dead. The entire season focuses on things we don’t care about. I have little to no emotional connection to Vogel or Dexter’s protege Zack Hammilton, so when both are casually killed off I’m not shocked. The same thing counts for a new character called Cassie, a love-interest for Dexter and his neighbour, who is brutally killed off a few episodes after her introduction. I feel like they could have gone a lot deeper with characters if they had killed off a character we care about. I would’ve put Jaime Baptista on the hit-list, not only would it mean that, finally, Dexter has to take care of his son, it would also give Angel a motivation to catch who-ever is responsible for his sister’s death. In the end Dexter sums up a bad ending: it introduces elements we don’t care for or are right-out irrelevant, it focuses on conflicts involving characters we have no emotional connection to, and the ending provides no satisfying conclusion to the actual story of the show.  It’s sad how a show, with great actors (Jennifer Carpenter has been brilliant all season, Michael C. Hall has provided a great Dexter from Season 1 to 9) crashes and burns like this.

 

It is unfair that a show like Dexter has been contrasted with a show like Breaking Bad. Having to share a timeslot with a show hailed by many as the best show on television, is a challenge. Perhaps it is due to Breaking Bad perfectly wrapping up its five seasons that I have judged Dexter so harshly. A few days ago the show was awarded an Emmy for the first few episodes of Season 5 ending with Hank discovering the truth about Walter “Heisenberg” White.  Vince Gilligan, the genius behind this show, has always stated it is the story of Mr Chips becoming Scarface and one episode before the end, I can say he has succeeded.

 

Season 5 shoots of at full force with Hank figuring it all out, it doesn’t take it slowly and by the end of the episode we have the first confrontation between Heisenberg and Asac Schrader. No plotline remains untied as Gilligan ties up the poisoning of Brock, the fact that Hank’s treatment was paid with Drug-money and, dropped as a massive bombshell, the fact that Walt was there when Jane died.

 

It takes balls to kill off one of the most important characters halfway through your final season. The episode Ozymandias, where Hank and his pall Gomez are cruelly shot down by Neo-Nazi Jack, is the highest rated episode I have ever seen. The imdb page of the episode still rates it as a 10/10 and I have yet to see a single negative review. That episode, where Walt’s empire finally crumbles and leaves behind nothing but lone and level sands, will be remembered not only as the most engaging forty minutes in recent television history, but also as being part of one of the greatest shows in television history altogether. Breaking Bad can easily stand among greats as The Sopranos and The Wire, and in some cases, even stand above them.

 

Whatever the final episode brings, I urge anyone with a love for good stories to watch. I trust Gilligan to tie this up.  What I have learned about endings from Breaking Bad’s final season has been this:

 

You don’t need new elements. These final episodes have not introduced a single new source of conflict, it has focused only on conflicts being resolved. Look to the past, from Gretchen and Eliot’s interview to Jesse’s fury over something Walt did a few seasons ago, this show doesn’t forget the past and utilizes it to tell a great story. Most important: don’t forget where you are going. This show has always been about a man seeking significance, it is heartwarming to know that, at the end of it all, that is still the case.

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~ by Sander on September 25, 2013.

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