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The supply is running low and you
know there won t be more. Breaking
Bad stands to leave its fans reeling.
For five seasons of wickedness this
AMC drama has set viewers face-to-
face with the repellant but irresistible
Walter White and the dark world he
embraced as he spiralled into evil.
With the end imminent (Sunday at 9
pm EDT), who can say what fate
awaits this teacher-turned-drug-lord
for the havoc he has wreaked on
everyone around him.
This is more than the end of a TV
series. It s a cultural moment, arriving
as the show has logged record ratings,
bagged a best-drama Emmy and even
scored this week s cover of The New
Up through the penultimate
episode, Breaking Bad has been as
potent and pure as the "blue sky"
crystal meth Walter cooked with such
skill. Judging from that consistency
in storytelling and in performances
by such stars as Bryan Cranston (Wal-
ter White), Aaron Paul (his sidekick
Jesse Pinkman), Anna Gunn (who just
won an Emmy as Walt s wife) and
Betsy Brandt, the end will likely pack
But one thing is dead sure: It will
Breaking Bad has often been
described as addictive, and if that s
so, the look of the show is its own
habit-forming drug. Michael Slovis,
the series four-times-Emmy-nom-
inated director of photography, has
been cooking up that look since the
series sophomore season.
"I go for the emotion in the scene,
not to overtake it, but to help it along,"
said Slovis over a recent lunch in Man-
hattan. "With Breaking Bad, I recog-
nised very early that I had a story and
performances that could stand up to
a bold look."
The action is centered in Albu-
querque, NM, which invites sprawling
desert shots and tidy manicured
neighbourhoods; washes of light and
jagged sun-drenched expanses.
The look of the show makes the
most of its setting, and also the tech-
nology by which viewers see it: In an
age of digital video, with the smallest
detail and the sharpest resolution vis-
ible to the audience, Walter s battered
mobile meth lab could be clearly dis-
cerned as a speck against a vista of
deserts and mountains. A doll s dis-
embodied eyeball bobbing in a swim-
ming pool had chilling vividness.
And don t forget the show s visual
signature: Breaking Bad was never
afraid of the dark.
Slovis recalls how, his first week as
DP, he was shooting in Jesse s base-
"Jesse and Walter are down there
cooking meth, and I turn off all the
lights and turn the back lights on.
There s smoke and shafts of light
coming through the basement door
and I go, This is what I came to do! "
"We have some interesting extremes
in lighting, thanks to Michael and his
fearlessness," said Breaking Bad creator
Vince Gilligan from Los Angeles. He
invoked the fancy artistic term for
this, "chiaroscuro," which means the
use of strong contrasts between light
"Breaking Bad has become known
for beautiful bold lighting," he said,
"and Michael became an indispensable
part of the Breaking Bad equation."
The imagery of Breaking Bad is sec-
ond-nature to its viewers, whether or
not they are conscious of Slovis work.
So when they swoon at the beauty of
the desert outside Albuquerque, they
may not know the complexion of this
badlands was created in his camera.
You would have a hard time finding
many stylistic links between Breaking
Bad and some of Slovis other credits,
which include CSI (for which he won
an Emmy), Fringe, AMC s short-lived
noir thriller Rubicon, and lighter fare
including Running Wilde and Royal
Pains. (Nor his additional credits as
a director, which range from four
episodes of Breaking Bad to Chicago
Fire and 30 Rock.)
Instead, he said he strives to let
each project suggest its own look.
Now 58, Slovis is soft-voiced and
lanky, with a head whose baldness
rivals Walt White s in Heisenberg
Now the end of Breaking Bad is nigh.
But through Sunday s final fade-out,
Slovis influence will remain, capturing
the "Bad" times you can t turn your
eyes from. He s a series star who s out
of sight, yet controlling what you see.
Breaking Bad is ending
run still looking good
This file photo taken last Sunday shows the cast of Breaking Bad, from left, Bob
Odenkirk, Betsy Brandt, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris and Bryan Cranston, right,
congratulating creator Vince Gilligan, second right, after he accepted the award for
outstanding drama series at the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards in CA. AP PHOTO
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