(This article contains no finale-spoilers, but if you’ve not  seen any of the series, you’d be wise stop reading here.)

“Breaking Bad is the single worst idea for a TV show I’ve ever heard”.

– Michael Lynton, CEO, Sony Pictures Entertainment

Those were the thoughts shared at Sony’s executive level after creator and show-runner Vince Gilligan threw them the pitch back in 2005.

The initial rejection was a worrisome blow for Gilligan.   Since working as writer, producer, and director for the X-Files, which concluded in 2002, it had been three years and countless pitched ideas since Gilligan had landed a worthwhile gig. Prior to his meeting with Sony, the soft-spoken, gentle, unassuming Vince Gilligan briefly considered converting an RV into his own portable meth lab.

“Should we put a meth lab in the back of an R.V. and cook meth and drive around the southwest?”

– Vince Gilligan, speaking to Vanity Fair

Though spoken off-the-cuff while commiserating with a friend and colleague, the remark–whether frank or facetious (or a bit of both)–stuck with Gilligan.  A seed had been planted, and Breaking Bad was beginning to take root.  Choosing to play out his meth-lab musings as a television fantasy earned him all of the reward with none of the inherent legal and safety hazards inherent to the endeavour.

Today, the series has grown into an entertainment monolith which has shattered the boundaries of television drama, delivered sixty-two artfully written episodes, raised the bar of cinematic mastery, and showcased some of the finest acting talent in the world.  Today, Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton’s “worst idea I’ve ever heard” is now being called one of television’s all-time greatest accomplishments.

Business Insider went so far as to substantiate these accolades with hard data, assembling a series of comparative charts that look more like a page from last week’s IPCC Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change; a document which has so far divided audiences rather than unifying them, despite being just as painstakingly detailed in the gloomy picture it paints.

Ego, FracturedIn it’s five seasons, Breaking Bad chronicles the spiralling transformation of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a high-school science teacher whose unrealized chemistry genius has left him an invisible, timid, wet noodle of a man whom many love, but few truly respect.

Already alkalized by the bitter taste of his own mediocrity, Walter’s potential and personality underwent an explosive exothermic reaction upon contact with the caustic underworld of black market meth.  The uncontrollable reaction yielded an inimical mastermind and methamphetamine kingpin who called himself “Heisenberg,” crushing those that loved him beneath the weight of his lust for respect.

“Say my name.”

– Heisenberg

The show has generated gigantic waves in the entertainment world, its wake of success proportionate to the wake of destruction left behind “Heisenberg” himself.

Predicted to attract eight million viewers, Breaking Bad’s concluding episode “Felina” (an anagram for Finale) attracted an astounding 10.3 million viewers, smashing not only expectations, but also the record set by another major finale just seven days prior.

Blue Meth

Gilligan’s Gem

As the show’s concluding frames ascended viewers from its dark and twisted world, a chorus of praise poured out from fans and critics alike, drowning out any trace of dissenting opinion.  As fans wiped away their tears, creator Vince Gilligan added a gleaming blue jewel to his crown.

Though fictional, the “blue meth” cooked—no, crafted—by “Heisenberg” has gained popularity in the real world as well. Police have seized street methamphetamine tinted various shades blue, suggesting meth cooks are applying unnecessary pigments in an attempt to capitalize on Vince Gilligan’s imaginary figments. Though street methamphetamine remains dangerously impure, the attempted imitation of a purely fictional product is a profound—albeit somewhat disturbing—testament to the show’s powerfully impacting quality.

Tonight’s reaction shows just how meteoric Breaking Bad really was in its impact.  Here’s just a snippet of what’s being said by professional critics and Twitter users:


“It was true to the five seasons that preceded it, true to Walter White’s obsessions and pride, and true to what ’Breaking Bad’ is at heart: a Western.”

Time Magazine TV Critic James Poniewozik

“From the first frame to the last on a series that absolutely belongs in the conversation of the best ever, Vince Gilligan knew what he was doing..”

Variety Columnist Brian Lowry

“A great way to end a phenomenal series. What a great run!#BreakingBad #GoodbyeBreakingBad”

Miguel Lopez (@ThatMiguelLopez) September 30, 2013 (Twitter)

“What an amazing show Breaking Bad was. Don’t know if anything can match that.”

Cory Parsons (@Cory_Parsons) September 30, 2013 (Twitter)

Unmatchable indeed. Such an all-embracing reaction from critics and audiences alike is virtually unheard of in the field of entertainment.  Surely this is the height of Vince Gilligan’s career.  Surely it’s all down-hill from here.  A spin-off series, which is already in the works, has a near-impossible uphill climb ahead of it.  Right?

It could be said that Walter White’s brilliance in the field of chemistry is what escalated him to the heights from which he fell in the show’s final seasons. Can the same be said of Vince Gilligan’s brilliance in the field of television? Has the success of Breaking Bad raised expectations so high that Gilligan himself can only fall short of them?

Many would have thought so with 2002’s conclusion of X-Files,  and they’d have been proven wrong by the thunderous successes of Sunday’s transcendent and appropriately climactic series-ender. For fans of either series, few can wait to see what Vince Gilligan, arguably now a kingpin himself, comes up with next.

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