Breaking Bad's final season has hit Netflix recently with the same bone crushing intensity that we have come to know and love from the show. Social media has gone mental with every weekly showing, Twitter has been rife with comments and predictions and even a meth lab Lego set has recently been released, paying tribute to the great meth cooks Heisenberg and Pinkman. So where is Breaking Bad ranking amongst TV's finest? The likes of The Wire and The Sopranos are held in such high regard by their fans, is it possible that Breaking Bad is on the verge of overtaking these two modern day classics as the best show ever?
Breaking Bad has a plot that's full of depth, not only does it force feed you empathy in the early seasons but it slowly turns you against the very same man you were rooting for from the off. The student teacher relationship between Walt and Jessie Pinkman has arced perfectly so far and then you have the unparalleled transformation of a leading man that director Vince Gilligan has aptly titled 'Mr Chips to Scarface'.
The Sopranos is obviously a gangster drama at heart but it also has that psychological element that makes you question why or how the characters are they way they are. The mobster lifestyle has always intrigued film goers but The Sopranos converted this genre from the big screens to our TV's both beautifully and brutally.
The Wire has the most grittily realistic plot line, set in Baltimore/Bodymore it shows you the POV of both drug dealer and police alike, as well as other sectors that are caught up in the ongoing drug trade that engulfs the city such as education and politics.
Plot lines are subjective and its all about preferences, most people would be able to relate to the plot line of Breaking Bad more so than the drug trade plot of The Wire or the gangster element of The Sopranos but this doesn't mean they are inferior. For me The Wire has a ongoing and complicated plot line that amazes you with its depth, but Breaking Bad and The Sopranos operate at a faster pace that is perhaps more fun on an episode to episode basis.
Breaking Bad's unbearably intensive build up to action scenes are what makes the hands on head moments of the show so memorable. The 'Salamanca bomb' and Walt's last minute attempt to save Jessie by running down two drug dealers are two action scenes in particular that had fans standing on their sofas making noises they rarely make, not to mention the recent shootout between Todd's uncle and Hank Schrader The Wire's action scenes are completely different to anything else on TV, only The Wire could have built up an arc for a character and then just had them shot in the street as if to say 'So what, this is Baltimore, it happens, get on with the show'. Omar Little's death for example is one cold way of killing off a much loved character. The Sopranos is probably on a par or just above Breaking Bad here and so it should be, being a gangster show. You can easily lose count of the amount of calculated killings of enemies and snitches not to mention the numerous beatings.
All three shows very funny in their own way. The Wire uses real life anecdotes for its characters and even the smallest of comic reliefs are somewhat hilarious due to the rest of the shows severity. Any scene where Mcnulty is drunk in a bar makes me chuckle throughout and Clay Davis manages to somehow tastefully smuggle in a sitcom-esk catchphrase that has no place in the show. The Sopranos holds its own in the humour stakes, the 'Pine-barrens' episode deserves its place up there as one of TV's funniest and utlises two of the shows funniest characters in Chris and Paulie.
Any program with a character like Saul Goodman however is likely to steal the show in terms of humour. He's one of the most quotable TV characters for some time and to go with this you have Hank, Jessie and even Walt who pitch in with incredibly funny scenes.
The main character
Tony Soprano is one of the most brutal and conflicted characters to have graced our screens, except I think what The Sopranos did well was try to convince us there was something else to Tony when there never actually was. He was always an immature and shallow brute who lived a double life and he started the show very similar to how he ended it, The don looking over his shoulder, waiting for the end to come. If you had to pick a leading character in The Wire it would perhaps be Mcnulty but the truth is The Wire never had a real leading man, it would have been wrong to have one. The Wire's Baltimore was one continuous organism, once one Omar had died he would be replaced by another man with similar ambitions, there will always be drug dealers, crooked cops and people trying to do good in a place that doesn't allow it.
Never before has such an ambitious character arc such as Walter White's been attempted. From timid underachieving high school chemistry teacher to serial killing, meth dealing badass under the superhuman alias Heisenberg. When you re-watch the first series again its almost impossible to imagine this character how he is currently and every fan has their point where they think he went totally off the rails. If there were any fans out there still rooting for Walt their faith in him has surely disappeared following last night's shocking episode.
The end to The Sopranos is up there with the most talked about moments of any TV series, love or hate the 'fade to black' it's still talked about. The final episode entitled 'Made in America' is perhaps somewhat overshadowed by the final scene as it's a very fine episode in itself. The Wire's final season is thought of as more unrealistic than the others but it did show the extent that some of the 'real' police were pushed to in order to try and gain some leverage in a city of chaos. The season ending montage is one of my favourites as it shows that there isn't really an end in Baltimore, the cities problems are just too great.
With only two episodes left of Breaking Bad its fair to say that it's teetering on the edge of greatness. The final season has offered something fresh, Walter White has been playing cat and mouse with a host of characters from the start and things are finally culminating with scenes that have to be watched through shielding fingers. The most recent episode in Ozymandias has seen Walt fully cement himself as the devil but then there's the flash forward to come. Now it seems possible that Walt hasn't armed himself with a ridiculously big gun and a capsule of Ricin for self defence, perhaps he is on the attack, with the motive of retrieving Jessie and making amends in a season finale that could go down in a blaze of glory as well as TV history.