BETTER CALL SAUL, THE X-FILES, AND THE END OF MY CHILDHOOD
It’s been a while since I wrote an essay on this site that has nothing to do with a film analysis (way back when I published my notes on “Dawson’s Creek” many years ago). Recently, life has been taking shape in a new, unexpected, and challenging way: a little over a month from now and I will be moving out of my childhood home in Virginia and into an apartment in Austell, Georgia (just twenty minutes west of Atlanta).
This is big, folks. In fact, it’s monumental.
Back in spring 2020, I was on a fast track to take on the film industry within the dreamscape of Los Angeles. I participated in a study abroad program for my final semester of college and would have made the transition to living in L.A. full time come that summer…
Apparently, God had other plans.
With the sudden arrival of Covid-19, the Lord plucked me out of my Hollywood track and dropped me back into my house in nowhere-country Virginia. Instead of a small, dingy apartment overseeing a city teeming with film, I was re-gifted a room with purple walls that were thin enough to hear the screams of my many siblings. My dreams of becoming a writer-director were halted, and I was subsequently given two more years with my family, whom I long thought I was saying goodbye to after college wrapped.
It was an exhausting, confusing, yet eye-opening and rewarding season of life. One that, in hindsight, I am appreciative of. For without God’s intervention in what I thought was my path, I would have never grown more in my faith, worked on some wonderful projects, or reconnect with a crush who is now my girlfriend. Ultimately, these last two years have granted me more wisdom and spiritual/mental growth than the rest of my lifetime put together… and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I write that.
I am not the same man I was when I returned home in March 2020, and that is for the best. Yet, even though I needed this space/time to work on myself, it is also this same place (Virginia) that is stripping me of my aspirations, desires, and the flame that kept me creative. In some cases, I needed to reliquish these things as a means to hand them over to God. But all the while, I grew comfortable in my cozy room with shelves of blu-rays and snow globes; eventually, my mind became indifferent and lost vitality in the things I once pursued.
What I found is that – in continuing my stay at home – I have one foot still in my childhood, which in turn is holding me back from not only maturing, but also stepping into the next chapter of my life.
It’s something I had known for a while, though have not been active in pushing against. At least, not in the way I was supposed to. Through God’s wisdom, it became known to me as to why He placed me here, and where I should ultimately be going.
Georgia is just around the bend. A new chapter in life awaits, where I pursue this same industry but with more spiritual wisdom and priority than I had before. Yet, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit to missing the chapter I was flipping from…
I’m sure the title of this post raised an eyebrow. Maybe piqued some interest. As you all may have figured, I enjoy watching film. It’s a window into a new world with characters to admire and empathize with. It’s also a means of escapism and comfort; a way to laugh, cry, and fall in love. TV series also capture this, yet to a greater degree. We can follow characters for many years instead of a few hours. They can become close friends, and in some ways we can grow as they do. So, when one finishes a show after dedicating so much time to it, an emptiness can be felt.
I don’t binge television. I stretch it out as far as it can go. This was engrained in my mind when I was in middle school and my mom would only allow me one episode a day of any show I watched (at the time, I had discovered “Lost” and binged the entire first season in a few days; this was enough to warrant a restriction). As I got older – and became a legal adult – I kept this rule and hardly ever held a binge session of any show. In doing so, I became more attached to the storyline and characters. It was more of a journey than a mere blip of time, giving more reason to rejoice in the high moments and cry in the lows. Especially when the series eventually came to an end…
These last two months saw the end of my time watching “Better Call Saul” and “The X-Files.” Two completely different series, both of which I started seven years ago.
Yep. Seven years ago.
Back in 2015. When I was a junior in high school.
Not only did I complete two series that spanned over a long course of time (“Better Call Saul” being six seasons, “The X-Files” being eleven plus two movies), but I also wrapped up the last television shows I began when I was still a kid.
Besides the house I currently reside in for the next remaining weeks, these shows were the bridge into a time long past. A connection to a version of me that has vanished, yet is still remembered. Each of their endings brought different reactions, though what their conclusion symbolized was the same. I dreaded saying goodbye to these characters I’ve watched across many seasons over several years; but more importantly, I was saddened to say goodbye to my childhood, as my ties to my younger self are becoming fewer and fewer.
As I look back on these shows, I’m reminded of where I was in life during the course of their run…
BETTER CALL SAUL
I started this series because I loved “Breaking Bad” (as did everyone). Because it aired around 10 p.m. on a school night, I hardly saw it live. During its first few seasons, I would record it and watch it the day after when I got home from school (laying on the floor of my parents’ bedroom with Cheese-Itz and peanut butter in hand). When I went to college, I would only see it when I was home for the holidays, and by season four, it was tough to keep up; mainly because they would take forever to release the seasons (whether that be to getting the episodes “just right” or the global pandemic). I perservered however, and stuck to the show from beginning to end.
The writing is stellar and the performances are unmatched. This series is far more stylized than “Breaking Bad,” with cinematography that generates sheer eye-candy. Earlier seasons were a bit dry and more of a slow-burn, but as years passed it ramped up to extraordinary heights. The character arc of James McGill (aka Saul Goodman) is a humorous tragedy that culminates into redemption. It’s a satisfying study on a crook lawyer whose ultimate gain was something he lost along the way: his soul.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “didn’t this show end a couple of years back?” Yes it did. But, I watch many shows, whether new or old. And with a series as expansive as “The X-Files,” it takes a bit to finish.
Unlike “Better Call Saul,” this show wasn’t as perfect. Having run its initial course during the 90’s/early 2000’s, many people didn’t have the means to rewatch episodes; you either saw it the night it aired, or didn’t see it at all. So, the main story line and mysteries within became convoluted at some point, often contradicting itself and leaving you to continue watching solely for the characters of Mulder and Scully. Who were/are great.
The first five seasons of this show are phenomenal. I love the chemistry between the leads (a believer and a skeptic) and the monster-of-the-week formula lent to some incredible, memorable episodes. It was a sincere treat; one that transcended the time it was made (got to love that 90’s aesthetic for most of the early seasons). As time went on though, I became a bit disinterested and even frustrated as essential questions were either given several different answers or forgotten. The characters outgrew their nature, only to reset by the revamped seasons (ten and eleven), which were more of a miss than a hit when it came to their episodes.
The finale of this show didn’t satisfy me as much as “Saul.” To me, the show lost its spark long before it signed off (twice), and the most recent series finale provided little to no closure. Not the swan song I had hoped for, but I knew what I was getting into… being that there was so much to wrap up in only forty-five minutes of air time.
What these series offered me was a master class in storytelling. The screenwriting and execution of the two left an impression on my evolving mind to strive for better, even as I went through the ropes of film school. And who could forget the imagination brought on by these narratives? My high school self was certainly inspired, as he utilized quite a few elements of both these shows when creating his own home videos.
I’m appreciative of the journey these programs offered. Much like how a location or smell can take oneself back to a time long ago, these stories provide a small window into a younger version of myself. One who dreamed big, was easily impressed, and had no limitations when it came to the craft of filmmaking. I seek this same zest and drive as I prepare to embark on my next adventure; one filled with endless possibilities and backed by an awesome God who is greater than all.
Like all television series, I can always rewatch episodes. And like all seasons of life, I can always reflect on moments past. But there will never be a reaction as close as the first, nor will there ever be a feeling quite like the one that was felt in the moment it took place.
And that’s okay:
It gives us more reason learn from the past, aspire for a better future, and squeeze every moment out of life in the present.
Time to flip the page, and start up this next season.