I know, I know, a review of ‘Breaking Bad’ seems a little late, but I needed time to digest and reflect (translation: I’m not doing it now because I’m lazy or extremely busy). A few weeks ago, AMC presented the final episode of the epic “good guy, gone bad (or rouge)” story we have come to know as ‘Breaking Bad’. When is the last time a television show evoked so much conversation, emotion, and unabashed enthusiasm? I have spent more time listening to pundits give their opinions and analysis about this particular show than I have watching all of the new offerings networks have been putting out. Now that it has been a while, and I feel like I have had enough time to give an informed, unbiased opinion about one of the best dramas ever.
Breaking Bad follows protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher who lives in New Mexico with his wife (Anna Gunn) and teenage son (RJ Mitte) who has cerebral palsy. White is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given a prognosis of two years left to live. With a new sense of fearlessness based on his medical prognosis, and a desire to secure his family’s financial security, White chooses to enter a dangerous world of drugs and crime and ascends to power in this world. The series explores how a fatal diagnosis such as White’s releases a typical man from the daily concerns and constraints of normal society and follows his transformation from mild family man to a kingpin of the drug trade. – AMC.com
First of all, this is a brilliant premise, right? Who would be better to make crystal meth than someone well versed in chemistry? Add the cancer storyline, mix in a DEA brother-in-law, a new baby, a whiny ex-student/sidekick, and one of the scariest TV villains of all-time, Gus Fring, and you have television magic (by the way, both Walter White and Fring made my Top 10 TV Villains We Root For list for anyone who’s interested)! The characters were what made this show. Like ‘The Wire’, ‘The Office’, or even ‘Seinfeld’ this show has several characters that fans fell in love with, and none of them have to be the main people.
Who doesn’t like the lawyer Saul? He’s just the right kind of icky, that makes people want to see what he’s gonna do next (stay tuned by the way, he has a prequel show called ‘Better Call Saul’ coming soon). We all have seemed to forget about the first major “bad guy” of this show Tuco, who was a certified psychopath that terrorized Walt and Jesse until he met his demise. What about Jesse’s friends, Combo, Skinny Pete, and Badger. Has there ever been a better-managed, more cohesive drug gang (total joke of course)?
I even like Skyler’s character arc throughout this series. It’s not easy being married to the undercover drug kingpin of the Southwest, but she pulled it off to perfection. I hated how sanctimonious she seemed to be at first, but I liked how things played out. The truth is, whatever wrong Walt was doing didn’t negate the fact that she still loved him. To me, that rings true in a lot of relationships. Fans like to be judgmental and think that life is always black and white, but things rarely are that way. This woman had two children with Walter and seemed to be supportive for a while, especially after her short tryst with her boss Ted. I didn’t like how she tried to Kill Walt then somehow he was the bad guy in that altercation… but we’ll discuss that later.
Skyler’s sister Marie was pretty interesting too. I remember seeing her with her husband Hank and thinking “she’s with him?” I am glad that at the very least the writers addressed their age difference, but in all honesty their relationship seemed to work. Marie was an undercover theif, and her husband was a super cop… It was a match made in heaven. Honestly, Marie reminded me of a preacher’s kid. In my lifetime, the minister’s children were either really good, or really bad… mostly the latter. I always believed that Marie was stealing from department stores purely for the attention. That’s a deep examination into the psyche of a fictional character. She’s probably just a kleptomaniac who can’t help stuffing a nice watch in her purse if she feels like she can get away with it.
What can I say about her husband Henry R. “Hank” Schrader. He’s a true badass. I love how he was able to handle Tuco’s cousins Leonel and Marco Salamanca without actually having his gun to protect himself. He was actually a good detective but couldn’t detect Walt’s role in the same meth trade he was constantly investigating. He didn’t respect Walt. He thought he was weak… that was Hank’s ultimate downfall. As a law enforcement officer (again, a good one) you would think that he knew better than to underestimate anyone. His death was sad, but a necessary evil to complete this saga.
The funniest character in my opinion was Jesse. I remember watching Aaron Paul play creepy Scott Quittman (I call him creepy because his character was considerably older than his love interest, who just so happens to be a favorite of mine, Amanda Seyfried) on ‘Big Love’ for a few years before he got the role of Jesse (probably will end up being the role of his lifetime). It just seems surreal now, because no matter what role he takes, I will just see Jesse, and think to myself “What’s Up… BITCH!” I loved the characters on this show.
The only problem I had with Jesse was this overall moral dilemma he seemed to face. I don’t understand why he felt Walt was such a bad person when he’s done just as much or worse. He vilifies Walt for being a “murderer” and someone who “hurts people,” but didn’t Jesse do the same thing? Wasn’t he a drug dealer long before he and Walt decided to team up? Didn’t he kill Gayle?
**Part 2 deals with the Walter White character, the season finale, and the show’s place in history**