Sprint through ‘Breaking Bad’ addiction ends tonight

Walter White (Bryan Cranston, left) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) bring “Breaking Bad” to a close tonight with the series finale on AMC. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC, Associated Press)

The finish line is near. I can see the blue-hued tape draped across the end of mile 62. I, along with millions of others, will reach it tonight.

What has been a five-year ultra-marathon for others has been a three-week sprint for me. Regardless of how I got there, I, like the rest of the world, will be watching AMC when one of the most-celebrated shows in television history dangles from its final cliff. After five seasons and more than 48 hours of Walter, Jesse, Skyler, Hank and the Albuquerque, N.M., landscape, it all ends.

Since its premiere in 2008 (which must feel like ages ago to those who watched weekly each season), “Breaking Bad” has gone from a cute little show with a devoted cult following to an Emmy-ruling phenomenon. For years I heard rumblings about how great “that show with the dad from ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ (Bryan Cranston)” was but intentionally avoided it. Not out of disinterest; I didn’t want to spend any more time than I already was in front of a TV and away from productivity. I was content with my DVR stable of favorites at the time and not looking to expand, not looking to get hooked.

Thanks to Netflix and our on-demand world, my plan to binge-watch episodes of Walter White (Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) meth-making follies in time for the series finale became reality. That’s what the goal always has been: to finish with everyone else.

And I was right; I’m hooked.

This addiction is much safer than the fictional blue meth Walt and Jesse are famous for peddling. The lost hours of sleep due to “just one more episode” turning into three or four more was a trade-off I’d gladly accept every time when opposed to waiting weeks and years to find out where the story goes.

I didn’t want to push my luck and expect to — astonishingly — remain relatively spoiler-free after the show left the air (which, by the way, isn’t anyone’s fault if something gets “spoiled” — it’s unrealistic to expect the world to cater to one’s viewing habits — see: 2012 Olympics coverage).

Bearing witness to the evolution — or devolution, depending on how you look at it — of Walter White through the first 61 episodes has been impossible to turn away from and a credit to the brilliance of the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan. He took a character through a journey that left him almost unrecognizable from the man he was at the beginning of the story, all while leaving the viewer morally conflicted over for whom to root.

Even if you don’t reach the finish line tonight, you must take this run through the New Mexico desert at some point through on-demand viewing; it will leave you feeling rewarded.

Jimmy Bellamy is a News Tribune multimedia editor. He can be reached by e-mail at jbellamy@duluthnews.com and Twitter @jimmybellamy.