It occurred to me while binge watching Dexter that the series is about a monster becoming more human. Then it occurred to me that Breaking Bad was about a human becoming a monster. In a sense, both series are about the main themes of the Frankenstein story – Dexter being the monster and Walter White being the misguided scientist.
There must be something about that ‘monster within all of us’ theme that is compelling. Think of how many of the bigger cultural ‘hits’ involve vampires, werewolves, superheroes, mutants and other examples of humans imbued with an extreme amount of something inhuman and it shows just how much we’re fascinated by our darker sides.
For a long time I resisted watching certain shows because I didn’t like what they were about on the surface. Dexter and Breaking Bad are both examples of that – I don’t generally like anything that involves gore, and I don’t really have any interest in the ‘meth’ culture as it were, but in the end I’m glad I got over those objections and watched both of these series.
Dexter does have a lot of gore in it, and Breaking Bad does deal with the meth culture, but that isn’t really what either of those series is about. They are about human beings and what they will do under extreme circumstances.
TV series today rarely deal with mundane people in mundane situations. Even The Beverly Hillbillies or Green Acres were ‘fish out of water’ stories that worked because they dealt with unusual characters in awkward situations.
We’ve gradually raised the bar over the years so that the stakes have to be much higher in order for us to want to stay along for the ride. Being able to write such a show so that it doesn’t cross over the line from drama and turn into comedy is a tremendous skill and the writers of these series deserve a lot of credit for nailing it.
And now I can’t stop wondering if Gilligan wasn’t secretly responsible for keeping everyone on that island for his own selfish reasons. After all, he always seemed to be around when one of their plans went wrong….