How Breaking Bad broke free of the clockwork-universe problem

The A.V. Club’s Todd VanDerWerff, writing a great companion piece to the Grantland article I linked to earlier this week:

In a way, this is the show simply taking the greatest weakness of clockwork plotting—a tendency to make everything all about one thing and the emptiness of character and theme that can provoke—and turning it into a strength through sheer relentlessness. With rare exceptions…every element of this story is about what happens after Walter makes his choice in the pilot. This isn’t a new thing to say about the show, by any means, but it’s often hard to appreciate just how thoroughly this kept the series from the kinds of goofiness that other clockwork-serialized shows have collapsed into.