I wanted to make an incredibly stupid joke that incorporated “Breaking Bad” into the title of this post, but no matter what I did, I couldn’t forgive myself if I did — the title just wouldn’t have made sense with the content of the post.

I haven’t watched Breaking Bad. I wasn’t even curious about it until I heard that it ended. I’m sure it’s great, but I don’t have time to watch it. What I’d like to say about Breaking Bad is brief and spoiler-free, and totally hearsay.

I read on a news site that Breaking Bad was a totally character-driven show. I dig it. The news site claimed that the ending was decidedly less-so, and the author explained their reasons why they thought so. I did a little digging on Wikipedia to gain some context, and then started thinking about it.

The original article suggested two basic extremes between which character-driven series tend to end — well, when the results aren’t “cancellation.”

On one end you have the “character ending,” which tends to be dramatic and totally makes sense because it’s what the characters would do, but generally leaves tons of unanswered questions and unresolved plots. It’s like life.

On the other end you have the “narrative ending,” which attempts to resolve as many loose ends as possible and can be massively climactic, but can seem to come out of left field because “life” doesn’t neatly resolve itself like, ever.

I imagine most series fall somewhere between the two extremes. But my point…

Right, my point. I came up with a system for creating narrative structures, see? And I’ve been using it to create campaign arcs, using it to design and format adventures for roleplaying — and I’ve been testing it out in my home game.

And I’ve been meeting with horrible failure. It’s like, I have this hypothesis, and it keeps failing in the experimentation process. I change things up, reformulate my hypothesis, try it again, and still meet with failure.

So I started looking for examples of stories that don’t fit the hypothesis and see what makes them different, try to make sense of whatever it is they do that I don’t. The example that came to me first was Neon Genesis Evangelion.

Evangelion is legendary for not making sense, so I looked back at it and tried to figure out how it worked. Why the silly thing was so… I don’t know, elusive? It got me thinking about soap operas too because, that’s really what it is.

And I think I got it. Evangelion has a standard shounen plot. An enemy appears to challenge the hero. A parade of incrementally-stronger enemies appear until the end of the show. And everything else is drama. Drama, drama, drama.

I think that’s the “plot” that I left out of my equation. A plot that is quite literally as simple as one, two, three, four, five, six…