From the L.A. Times, on Breaking Bad‘s final episode:
The question is whether you bought for an instant that Walter “deserved” that ending. “Deserved” is a funny word, because it reads the viewer’s expectations into the work of art, when it’s much more important to try and suss out just what Vince Gilligan and his writers were up to, then determine how well they stuck to their guns.
The words are theirs, the emphasis mine. It boils down to this: we’re being told that, rather than allowing an audience to have an opinion and/or feelings on character, theme and story, it’s better for them to simply attempt to reverse-engineer the intentions of the creator of said elements.
It’s a sentiment so dumb as to make me really bloody angry.
This is a common thread that comes across in a lot of entertainment writing: paying attention not to your own feelings about something but to the analysis that comes from multiple viewings of a show or movie and comparing your notes with those of a thousand other viewers through reviews, blogs and essays.
Now look, I’m not saying that I’m against over-analysis of TV & movies; that’s demonstrably untrue. All I’m saying is that it’s kind of fucked-up that our first instinct when having just watched something is to neglect how the story made us feel and what it said to us…which is really the point of stories, no?
I don’t have to figure out what kind of story I was being told because I WAS JUST TOLD IT. And I don’t need to “suss out” what the storytellers were trying to accomplish because I’M FEELING IT RIGHT NOW. How dare anyone tell you that your feelings don’t matter. And could there be a more pointless quest than to figure out if someone meant to do something the way they did if you got a kick out of it anyway?
The primary purpose of entertainers is to entertain. If they do more than that? Super. I sincerely believe the team behind Breaking Bad accomplished more than just a kick-ass TV show and I enjoy plumbing the depths of critical analysis as much as anyone, but at least give me a minute to reflect on what I’ve just seen and wash the tear stains out of my hoodie, would you?