Today AMC announced that Breaking Bad‘s fifth and final season will premiere on Sunday, July 15, at 9 PM. Excellent! I’ve been waiting for this stuff like a tweaker looks for his next hit of the good blue meth. I can’t wait to see Walter White continue further down his spiral of destruction while waltzing away with a few Emmys. We’re gonna get 16 more episodes and that’s it. In 16 weeks, this will be over.
Oh, no, wait. That’s not it. There will only be eight episodes. So… what happens after two months? According to AMC’s press release, the show will take an entire year off and the final eight episodes of Season 5 will air in summer 2013. What in the mother of methamphetamines is that all about? That is not a final season. That is two seasons. Two totally different things. It’s sort of like taking a sandwich, cutting it in half, eating one half at noon and the other half at 7 PM and calling both times you eat the sandwich “lunch.” No, the second one is not lunch, it is dinner. It is a totally different and separate event in the life of the consumer of that sandwich.
With the rise of cable television, video on demand, live streaming, and next-day downloads the idea of a season is constantly shifting and changing. We no longer have a set “season” that starts in September and ends in May. Even the broadcast networks fill up the summer months with a bunch of reality TV boobs either bouncing off enormous balls (Wipeout) or accusing each other of not having any (Big Brother). Tyra Banks, ever the linguistic innovator, calls each new edition of her show a “cycle” so it can’t be attached to a time or year. I get that what constitutes a season and when it airs may need to be redefined. I also know that this is not one season. They don’t even know when the second half of this season is going to start. That has to render it somehow technically ineligible to be part of the same season that has a definite start date.
The first time I remember a show breaking up a “season” over two different time periods is Sex and the City, which stretched its final installments over the course of the year, giving us 10 episodes in one chunk and six more several months later. Battlestar Galactica used to do the same thing, making it nearly impossible to know the number season that you were currently watching because Season 4 seemed like Season 7. The really infuriating thing is that in both of these instances the “half seasons” were sold in separate DVD sets. If they can’t even be packaged together, then why the hell are they still unified as a “season?” They shouldn’t be!
This whole thing is so incredibly craven. You could argue that the people making the show consider these final 16 episodes of Breaking Bad to be thematically linked, to show one big arc over the course of the series. Then why in the name Gus Fring is the network torturing us super-fans by putting an entire calendar year between the first half and the second half? Doesn’t that ruin some of the creative trajectory the show’s trying to preserve by making it one season? Either this thing is one season and you treat it like one season, or it is two seasons and treat it like two seasons. We know the frakking difference (as they would say on Battlestar), so don’t try to fool us.
Otherwise this is just a cynical marketing ploy to coax people into the watching the “final season” before they miss out. The problem is, this is not the final season, it’s just the tease before we get to the final season a year away. This is the entertainment equivalent of a store that has a “going out of business sale” sign in their front window indefinitely.
I’m super stoked for every one of these episodes and will watch them as soon as they air, but don’t call this whole thing a “final season” when it is anything but. Just call it seasons five and six. That’s fine. We’re still going to watch it just as hard.
Now that we’ve settled that don’t even get me started on a the “two-part season finale” nonsense.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan