As if you needed another reason to bemoan the end of Breaking Bad (unless you haven’t seen the finale yet, in which case, what the heck are you doing here?), the show hit a record ratings high last night with 10.3 million viewers, and 6.7 million of them in the coveted 18-49 demo. Not only are these astronomically high numbers, they’re a credit to the power of binge watching. Just one season and two years ago, the Season 4 finale netted only 1.9 million viewers, but this final stretch of eight episodes premiered at 5.9 million, climbed steadily through the 6 million mark and was inching towards 7 when the finale proved a final and huge burst as fans clamored to see what would befall Walt, Jesse, and the series as a whole. And unlike Dexter, which concluded last week to similar record numbers but a dissimilar amount of revulsion and disgust (a lumberjack? Really?), fans are pleased about the way things ended, and reviews have been more or less unanimously positive.
This finale was unquestionably the television event of the evening, something that just a few years ago would have been thought impossible, especially on a night that also featured the return of another Emmy-winning Best Drama (Homeland), the kickoff to the network season, and Sunday Night Football. While other dramas did respectable numbers, nothing came close to shattering expectations the way Breaking Bad did. When asked about the ratings boost, creator Vince Gilligan was obviously pleased, but rather than wishing he could cling to Walter White for a little longer, he says, “it makes me think, through quite a bit of good luck being involved, we really did pick the right moment to exit the stage.” AMC is likely less excited, now forced to hang their whole network on the soon-to-be-gone Mad Men and their only true hit, The Walking Dead. I wonder if they are spending as much time worrying/obsessing over the spinoff Better Call Saul as the rest of us. Is it too much to hope that instead of a prequel series it’ll actually revolve around an Omaha Cinnabon?