Complex TV

p. 314-315: BREAKING BAD

The majority of official storytelling extensions seem designed to fulfill the goals of “What Is” transmedia, and the measuring stick that critics and fans use to assess those paratexts typically defines success through canonical coordination and narrative integration. However, an opposite mode of transmedia points to different narrative goals and markers of success: the “What If?” extension as suggested by Breaking Bad’s Team S.C.I.E.N.C.E. This approach to transmedia poses hypothetical possibilities rather than canonical certainties, inviting viewers to imagine alternative stories and approaches to storytelling that are distinctly not to be treated as potential canon. The goal for “What If?” transmedia is to launch off the mothership into parallel dimensions, foregrounding tone, mood, character, or style more than continuity with canonical plots and storyworlds. We are never meant to believe that Jesse really created a comic and animated series fictionalizing his friends as a superhero team, but we are presented with the possibility that he could have and invited to imagine “What if he did?” This style of hypothetical narrative paratext highlights the fictionality of all narrative, as there is nothing more “real” in the characterization of Walter White as accidental drug dealer than Jesse’s reinterpretation of him as Doctor Chemistry, fighting off zombies “for the right to be awesome,” as both are equally artificial works of fiction, albeit with one clearly marked as subsidiary to the other. Just as we embrace serial narrative for its creation of compelling storyworlds in which we can immerse ourselves, “What If?” transmedia multiplies the possibilities of those fictions into the realm of hypothetical variations and transmutations.

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