Breaking Bad Is Over

Breaking Bad is over now. One of the best shows of all time ended after five years. And I think it was time.

Breaking Bad is over now. One of the best shows of all time ended after five years. And I think it was time. It’s extremely rare to see a really good show stay good after five seasons. After that, you just play along because you have fond memories of the first few years, on the off chance that a good episode comes along and brings back the magic. Honestly, most shows peak in two or three years.

Let’s review all of the great television shows which have lasted five seasons (not counting sitcoms): The X-Files went downhill after three seasons. Before that, almost every episode was great. After that, great episodes were rare. Battlestar Galactica went downhill after the first or second season, if you ask me. Fringe, which is the only long-lasting science fiction show in recent primetime network television history, dropped off after the second season. (Revolution, currently airing, might have only had one decent season–I wasn’t enthralled by the first episode of the second season.) Lost arguably went downhill after the first season. NCIS has so many seasons I can’t even remember when it dropped off, but it had to have gotten super formulaic at or before the fifth. ST:TNG is one of the few shows that got better after the first season, but then I think it dropped off after four or five. I think DS9 and Voyager were on for more than five years, but I was bored with them even before the first season was done. 24 peaked around season three or four, possibly including five, but after that it ran out of steam. I am sure there are quite a few more 5+ season shows out there that I’ve watched, but I can’t think of any more. All of the lists I can find don’t start counting until ten seasons.

My point is that Breaking Bad had run its course. I don’t think the final season was as good as any of the previous ones, so it could only have gone down from there. It didn’t end with the bang that ended season four. There were no surprises (to me, at least); it just sort of ended. You could almost look at the final season as a very long epilogue.

Thinking about it now, I think the main thing that attracted me to the show (besides the fact that it was freakin’ hilarious) was how Walt usually solved problems with clever, intellectual solutions, often involving science and, of course, chemistry. I’m glad that style of problem-solving came through in the final episode. Walter White was really, really smart. Too smart for the mundane life of a chemistry teacher, I guess.

Star Trek: Into Darkness

I seem to recall the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek was pretty good, and there weren’t any glaring problems with it. Not so with Into Darkness.

Now and then I listen to a podcast called The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, which is basically about debunking popular myths like UFOs and ghosts and homeopathy with scientific skepticism. Sometimes they also review the science in science fiction movies, and a while back they looked at Star Trek: Into Darkness. I skipped it because I hadn’t seen it yet, and I’ve been waiting for Amazon Prime to let me rent it ever since. This week I finally got around to watching it.

Oh my. Maybe I’m misremembering, but I seem to recall the first J.J. Abrams Star Trek was pretty good, and there weren’t any glaring problems with it. (If you accept time travel and parallel universes, of course.) I mean, I’m sure there were some, because there always is, but nothing that felt like I’d been slapped in the face and called a complete moron. Unfortunately there were a lot of moments like that in Into Darkness, and the whole time I kept thinking, “Wow, those guys on the Skeptic’s Guide must have had a field day with this movie.”

The very first scene (which is unrelated to the movie plot so it’s not really a spoiler — think of it like a James Bond movie where that first action scene is just there to draw you in) had Spock being lowered into a volcano on a cable (wearing a protective mirror suit, obviously!). The cable broke and then he fell and landed on a little island of rock in the middle of a glowing hot sea of boiling lava. He then proceeded to detonate a cold fusion bomb which “froze” the glowing hot orange lava into stone just as it was erupting. Oh, yeah, and they landed the Enterprise underwater, right near the shore, too.

Welp, J.J. Abrams lost every ounce of credibility he gained from the first movie just in that one scene. He took the Star Trek franchise from the well-established territory of sort-of-plausible science straight down to the level of a cheesy comic book.

I get what he’s trying to do. He’s trying to get back to the roots of The Original Series, which was a lot more action-y than anything that came after it. That was back when Kirk led every mission, hit someone double-fisted every episode, and dueled with Gorns. (Not like the later years of Picard, etc. who debated every decision with the crew and solved every problem with diplomacy. Yawn.) But still, there was never anything in TOS that defied the basic laws of common sense. Like, you know, humans working inside volcanos.

It’s not that the science in movies has to be perfect. But can you at least maybe run your science fiction script by someone that has been to an astronomy class one time in their life? Or even someone that has read a Wikipedia article on astronomy? Maybe consider the possibility that the crayon drawing you did in second grade of a spaceship that can fly in space and also dive underwater could be an engineering challenge to build?

The rest of the movie is similarly bad. Science aside, I don’t remember everyone being a caricature of their TOS character in the last movie. I mean, I don’t remember Chekov’s accent being so ludicrously thick. I don’t remember Bones saying “Dammit man” every other line. I don’t remember Scotty saying “I canna dooit” every other line. It’s like they were doing comedic impersonations of the characters. There was another red shirt joke. It was funny in the first movie (because they didn’t really hang a lantern on it) but in the second it felt like fan service. There were tons of references to Wrath of Khan which fell pretty flat. They picked the most over-used things to emulate. “The needs of the many…” “My god, the man’s talking about logic…” “Kaaahhhhhhn!” I laughed out loud at that one. That whole scene was so out-of-place it hurt. I mean, we’ve only known these characters for two movies, and now suddenly we’re supposed to care about them? Well, I don’t! So there! And they have only known each other a short time in the movie universe, and now suddenly they’re all like, “awwww you’re my best friend.” They haven’t even done their 5-year mission yet.

One more thing … people in movies these days always seem to be able to survive falls of hundreds of feet. What’s up with that?

Science Problems with Revolution

Don’t get me wrong, I like the show. But sometimes television writers are just really lazy about basic science.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the show. I’m a sucker for post-apocalyptic fiction I guess. And it has a lot of “heart.” But sometimes television writers are just really lazy about basic science. It’s why this country is like last place in math and science, I guess.

1. Pilot

  • When electricity goes off, screens don’t blink and distort. They instantly go black. I’ve been through power outages. I know these things.
  • Cars wouldn’t stop dead if the electrical system died … at worst I think they’d drift to a stop. But I feel like the engines wouldn’t just shut off, right? I mean they would keep running until they ran out of gas, then you wouldn’t be able to start them again. Anyway they certainly wouldn’t stop in perfect columns on a highway.
  • Planes definitely wouldn’t fall from the sky. They can glide. You know, aerodynamics? Come on. It’s not Y2K for God’s sake.
  • So all of civilization collapsed and rebuilt itself in the 15 years since The Blackout. Seems like a short time.
  • The voiceover said, “Not even car engines or jet turbines. Hell even batteries.” Okay that kind of implies that internal combustion doesn’t work any more? Is that what they’re trying to say? Does that mean all chemical reactions don’t work? Would a match not strike? Lighters not light? How are they building fires? Or are they saying the current just doesn’t flow out of the battery any more?
  • “Physics went insane.” This is the exact moment when the show jumped the shark. I thought to myself, “This show totally sucks and should not be watched.” But I was way too tired to stop it.
  • While the kid eats the last melting ice cream: “I want you to really remember what it tastes like.” People made ice cream before electricity, ya know.
  • Gus, from Breaking Bad! The show started looking up.
  • What is up with these crazy-looking swords/machettes with hilts that look like brass knuckles? They look terribly uncomfortable and impractical.
  • Ugh, crossbow bolts don’t throw people backwards like that. I’ve never seen anyone shot by a crossbow bolt, but I’m very sure of that. Even if physics did go insane.
  • Here’s the inciting incident of the Hero’s Journey, where our hero is thrown from her normal world and forced to go on a quest.
  • Gus has amazing facial expressions. He has another name in this show but I can’t remember it at the moment.
  • Ow, getting hit in the face with a pipe probably hurts.
  • What the hell kind of poison makes people spit up blood within seconds? Shards of glass? You’d think they would notice that.
  • I can’t help wondering how people survived asthma attacks before there was medicine for it.
  • Uncle Miles reminds me of a badass version of MacGyver.
  • This woman with the shotgun looks like Diana Ross to me.
  • Muskets?? Well at least some kind of chemical reactions still work. It sort of implies that they can still make musket balls easily but manufacturing jacketed bullets is beyond them. I assumed that car engines didn’t work because spark plugs didn’t work. (But then, spark plugs are only used to start an engine.)
  • Oh my. A shocking revalation. Very unusual for a J.J. Abrams production.
  • Oh my. Another shocking revalation!

2. Chained Heat

  • “Oh there’s a sale on heroin.” Ha.
  • Why does everyone have freshly-washed hair except the ex-Google millionaire?? And why is he wearing those gigantic black-rimmed glasses?? Total geek discrimination!!
  • I thought that accent was Australian. It never occurred to me that it was supposed to be British.
  • Why would they sleep next to a swamp? They probably would have gotten malaria. And why did they wake up at what looked like noon?
  • Why would they use human prisoners to pull a helicopter when they could use horses or mules or a hundred other draft animals which would be far more effective?
  • I think this exact same sniper guy with dark aviator shades has manned every prison tower in every movie ever.
  • When she typed “Randall is here” I immediately thought of Stephen King’s The Stand.
  • Another shocking revelation!

3. No Quarter

  • The opening sequence of this show is pretty lame. “We’re hoping someone will come and light the way.” Really?
  • Stu Redman! Frannie! Another reference to Stephen King’s The Stand.
  • It’s easier to “scavenge antiques” (muskets) than to find “smokeless powder, copper jacket” bullets. We have more muskets than moden firearms laying around? Sniper rifles are more rare than muskets? Okay, sure. That makes perfect sense.
  • Okay. Let’s talk. Nobody working for Google is going to know what an 8-bit register looks like. An 8-bit register would be a total antique to anyone working at Google today. Only somebody that’s like 50 years old or more (today, not counting the 15 years after the blackout) would have even a chance to be able to pick up an 8-bit register chip and recognize it. And we all know that Google doesn’t hire people more than like 22 years old. And also, an 8-bit register is going to look like a huge microchip, not a little circuit board. AND! Why build a whole cabinet-sized computer from spare 8-bit registers when you could just pick up a freakin’ Rasberry Pi which is a whole freakin’ computer in a package the size of a pack of gum?
  • I am not a trained sniper, but I have a feeling that shooting people in the sternum is not the best way to kill someone in a single shot.
  • Danny’s disgruntled guard is the best actor in this episode.
  • Why don’t people in television know how to tie people up? I mean, loose-hanging rope around the chest and upper arms is probably not going to work very well.

4. The Plague Dogs

  • These people seem to be able to walk a long way in a short time.
  • So these dogs are running away from fresh food to chase after people?
  • If electricity doesn’t work, why is there still lightning??
  • This kid is apparently the only tornado-sniffing expert in the post-apocalptic world.
  • These people sure do recover from injuries fast.
  • The sailor with the big funny ears said: There are “no more steam boats.” But wait … in the very next episode we’re going to see a steam train. He also said all the ships were “destroyed in the wars.” What wars??
  • What a minute. These two groups are only a day apart on foot. But one of them is in the middle of a tornado, and the other one is in bright sunshine?
  • Come on Danny. Did you even watch Breaking Bad? Gus cannot be trusted!
  • Couldn’t she have just, like, tilted her head to the side? Instead of trying to rock the chair back and forth? I’m not a contortionist, but I can move my head at least a foot sideways.
  • Aw dammit. Stupid emotional scenes. I’m trying to make fun of this show! There can’t be touching moments in it.

5. Soul Train

  • Gus holds his fists funny when he fights.
  • Awwww, sad puppy dog eyes.
  • Okay, so apparently steam engines still work. Because there’s a steam engine train. So why haven’t we seen a lot of steam engine technology before now? Why didn’t the major governments immediately revert to steam engine technology?
  • What the hell kind of name is “Bass”? Not like the guitar, but like the fish?
  • Where did Monroe get that “M” pin that he wears on his collar? So they can make “M” pins but not bullets?
  • “Fuses are unreliable.” Again, implying that chemical reactions are messed up? And yet, somehow throwing logs into a fire is a sure-fire way to set off a bomb. Not even a fifth-grade science teacher for a consultant on this show, is there?
  • And how/why did they put “M” signs all over the buildings?
  • Finally, sad puppy dog eyes girl grows a spine.
  • Oh snap! Another shocking revelation!
  • Ah ha! Twelve of them! Just like the Apostles. And the lost colonies of Battlestar Galactica.

6. Sex and Drugs

  • Horse and carriage with rubber tires! Not a flaw in the show, I just thought it was funny-looking. Actually one of the first things that actually makes logical sense. Of course they’d put rubber tires on a carriage. What, are they going to build wooden wheels?
  • Oh, I see they are doing the Lost strategy of giving each character a backstory in each successive episode.
  • Okay, I see, so only regular cars stopped dead at the time of the blackout. But giant tractor trailers that need to serve a plot purpose keep rolling along like a ton of bricks.
  • Oh, he pulled a Lando!
  • “Is she Latin?” Um, shouldn’t that have been “Latina?”
  • Hrm, well, sad puppy dog eyes girl is going a little too far into sociopathic territory.
  • I think I can see where this is going…
  • Come on dude. Someone smart enough to work at Google can learn to hunt.
  • Aw dude. You’re better than this!
  • Nooooooo!
  • Not sure what to make of that. Was it a brilliant plan or just dumb luck? I’m thinking the latter, which is unfortunate.

7. The Children’s Crusade

  • The Lord of the Flies episode, apparently.
  • They’re like the A-Team.
  • I think that’s the kid from Under The Dome.
  • Well, at least The Militia supports gender equality!
  • I’m not sure why they went to the trouble to make themselves uniforms. They must have a pretty good tailoring industry going on at least.
  • I know this is totally stupid but I really wish it was fashionable to wear a sword. :) I guess it would be impractical to get into a car, though.
  • Oh wow that’s inconvenient. But it’s a very convenient distraction.
  • Wow, go Google dude! See, I told you smart people can become violent sociopathic killers!
  • A weapon that inhibits electricity would be more dangerous than any kind of bomb. Just sayin’.
  • That’s Randall! And he was in Stephen King’s Storm of the Century! It all comes back to Stephen King with this show.

8. Ties That Bind

  • Hey wait, a few episodes ago they said fuses were unreliable…
  • Ohhhh, she’s coming back. Don’t be so sad.
  • Oh snap! A shocking revelation!
  • Damn people walk fast in this show.
  • Ugh dude take that rifle with you!
  • On second thought, probably a good idea to leave the rifle if you’re going to jump into a raging river.
  • I swear I’ve seen Charlie in another show but according to IMDB I haven’t.
  • Aw man. Uber bad guys!

9. Kashmir

  • The one with that cool Led Zepplin song, right?
  • Hrm, they’re playing the wrong Led Zepplin song.
  • “This pendant powers up anything within its range.” “It’s like a wireless battery.” No, it’s nothing like a wireless battery! It’s like a wireless MAGICAL AMULET THAT DEFIES THE LAWS OF NATURE AND COMMON SENSE. “It has very limited range; only 9 or 10 feet.” Okay so she moves away from the CD player and it stops. Then she moves it back in range, and the CD player starts again … at the same place in the song. I realize CD players are rare now and maybe kids aren’t as familiar with them, but surely everyone knows that when you cut the power to a CD player, it doesn’t just resume where you left off! Even if it had been an iPhone playing an MP3, it wouldn’t have resumed at the same place. If it had been a record player it might have worked, with the appropriate spin-up warbling. Or a cassette tape player. Or an 8-track tape player.
  • I’m not even going to comment on the whole “pendant” concept. I mean. It’s just. I can’t even. Her explanation of the pendant “powering up anything within its range” is obviously wrong anyway. Obviously, something is actively inhibiting electricity over the whole world, because electricity is a natural phenomenon. I can only assume that the uber bad guys from the previous episode are inhibiting the world’s electricity with orbiting satellites of some kind. So these little pendants must be inhibiting the inhibitors somehow. Which means … oh man, I don’t even want to go down that rabbit hole of what that means. Okay I will. I guess they’re trying to say that radio waves or microwaves or something is inhibiting electricity, and the pendants put out waves which cancel the other waves. That makes perfect sense, right? TO A SCIENTIFICLY ILLITERATE PERSON. And/or the average American school graduate. Oh snap, I just burned the American school system.
  • Not enough oxygen in the tunnels. Um. I’m not sure about that. I am not very well-versed on oxygen depravation, but I feel like if they were so low on oxygen that the torches weren’t burning and they were hallucinating, that they would not be physically able to walk around. Also, I mean, they might want to consider putting out some of the torches if they’re burning up the oxygen. Also, the tunnel like just collapsed, and it’s a pretty big space, so I feel like the oxygen wouldn’t run out that fast.
  • Explosions in that enclosed space would probably make them all deaf. :)
  • Oh wow, they finally played the cool Led Zepplin song!

10. Nobody’s Fault But Mine

  • Another Led Zepplin reference in the episode title. I just realized that Episode 3 “No Quarter” was also a Led Zepplin song.
  • Again using the fuses that are supposed to be unreliable…
  • So the Google guy can’t get matches to work, but somehow flint works? That seems pretty random.
  • Dual-wielding swords looks badass and all, but it’s not very practical. Also, everyone knows that real sword fights only last like 2 seconds, right? Erol Flynn-like duels never actually happened. Even fencing duels are rather fast. Have you seen the pros?

11. The Stand

  • Stephen King reference in the episode title.
  • I can’t help but wonder why everyone’s pendant works all the time except the one that Aaron carried around which only turned itself on sporadically at the most inopportune times.
  • “Audio cannon.” I’ve heard of audio weapons before but I seriously doubt you could put one in a handheld weapon the size of a pistol that would do anything more than annoy people.
  • Aw dammit. Another touching moment.
  • Feels like this episode is the end of a story arc. Like they only expected to make 11 episodes.
  • Randall Flynn … obviously meant to be a variation of Randall Flagg! (A Stephen King reference.)
  • Dubya tee eff is that?!?