AMC has proven over the last three or four years that they have the most provocative shows on television. They have controlled the Emmy wins in the drama category, letting the Big Four know that they can hold their own on the battlefield too. This is all due to their two big shows, Mad Men and Breaking Bad, the latter of which is currently my favorite show on television. Breaking Bad stars Bryan Cranston of Malcolm in the Middle fame and Aaron Paul, as Walter White and Jesse Pinkman, respectively. Bryan Cranston has won three straight Emmys (all three years the show has aired) for Best Actor in a Drama, while Aaron Paul finally won the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Emmy this past year.
The series follows Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher, who in the first episode of the show is diagnosed with lung cancer. Once his initial shock has passed, Walter realizes that he needs to provide for his family when he is gone. While at his 50th birthday party, Walter’s DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank (played by the wonderful Dean Norris), turns on the news in time for everyone to witness him bust a meth lab. Walt sees the amount of money involved and proceeds to go on a ride along with Hank. While Hank is busting another meth lab, Walt waits in the car and witnesses one of the drug dealers escaping. They make eye contact and Walt recognizes Jesse Pinkman, a former student, as the escaping dealer. He later goes to Jesse’s house, where they begin a partnership which becomes the focus of the series.
There is not a weak link to be found in any part of this series. Never have I been so stunned by a television series as when I first watched Breaking Bad. The writing, directing, editing, music, acting… I could go on and on. Vince Gilligan, the creator and frequent writer and director, had such a unique vision for this series, and it is exemplified throughout the show. The writing creates a sense of tension which is escalated by the superb acting that each cast member brings to the table. Bryan Cranston does not just portray Walter White; he is Walter White. It’s stunning to see such performances from Malcolm’s father. At its core, this is truly a story about a man’s battle with cancer, and you see Bryan portray a sad indifference about his situation. He makes such a turn as a character that you almost wouldn’t recognize Walter in the first episode as the same Walter in later seasons. He becomes so complacent with his condition that he takes risks he normally wouldn’t and constantly shows us at every turn, that he is truly at peace and ready to die.
The supporting characters have just as much acting chops as Bryan Cranston, too. Aaron Paul gives an incredible presentation as a meth dealing drug addict. He makes you think he has nothing to live for and nothing to care about and then at times will show you that he really still is a little boy at heart. Anna Gunn plays Walt’s pregnant wife, Skyler, showing us a concerned spouse, already mourning her husband before he is gone. As her suspicion builds as to what Walt could be up to during the endless amount of hours he spends away from his family, she begins to care less about her husband’s condition and more about why he isn’t spending his last days with his family. Dean Norris plays Hank, the DEA agent brother-in-law, who Walt spends a lot of time avoiding due to his newfound drug selling. Hank plays a great supporting character, hunting down a drug lord, who unbeknownst to him is in fact his brother-in-law, Walt. He becomes an even better character in the second season when he gets a real story arc of his own. RJ Mitte plays Walt’s son, Walter Jr., a teenager who is afflicted with cerebral palsy. He is the most distraught about his father’s condition and has some great emotional scenes, especially during the arc where Walt is deciding whether or not he wants to go through treatment. Last but not least is Marie, Hank’s wife and Skyler’s sister, played by Betsy Brandt. She is easily the most transparent of all the characters, mostly merely playing supportive wife and/or sister.
In conclusion, watch this show. If you have ever watched anything on television, you will like it. Hell, if you have never seen a television in your life, you will still fall in love with this show. The character development that results from Walt’s cancer diagnosis is equally matched by the plot twists thrown at you each episode. This is a show to best all other shows and it is truly the greatest television show I have ever watched.
Final Grade: A+