While I’ve patiently been waiting for one of my myriad job applications to pan out, I’ve had lots of down time so far this summer, and I have spent it wisely by starting, and nearly catching up on AMC’s Breaking Bad.
The show, a saga (that’s right, like Twilight!) about a high school chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook to support his family after a cancer diagnosis, is currently the best thing on television, and Bryan Cranston–that’s right, Hal from Malcolm in the Middle—deserves the Emmys, and any other awards, he’s won for the lead role of Walter White, and the rest of the cast does a tremendous job of rounding out their characters, as well.
While the acting is incredibly rich and one of the show’s biggest strengths, it’s the carefully plotted story that really draws me in. Each episode–hell, each scene–is an integral part of the greater tale, one which gives an on-the-ground take on the war on drugs, from the manufacturers like Walt and his former student and partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul), to the distribution rings (run by Giancarlo Esposito’s Gustavo Frings), to the D.E.A. agents like Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), trying to take drugs off the streets. The way Walt and Jesse build an empire through the use of good chemistry and sheer dumb luck is fascinating and makes you wonder if this is how things really are in the drug trade, and if these people actually have suffering wives and children because of what they choose to do. I hope not, because there’s some pretty crazy and terrible stuff going on in this show.
Walt’s quest to, at first, provide his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and son, Walter, Jr. (RJ Mitte), with money for when he dies seems to be misguidedly noble, but as the show progresses and the audience catches on that Walt realizes he’s good at this and he’s no longer doing it just for his family is when it gets very interesting. From turning down the offers of financial help from a former lab partner to not telling his mother about his disease, we see Walt’s a very stubborn and flawed man, and his story is an allegory about the downfalls of pride.
The visual way in which the story is told is also captivating. The show’s gritty look is heightened by its desert location (it takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico) and the use of hand-held cameras, giving some scenes an almost documentary feel. Also of note is the opening teaser (that’s the first scene before the credits) of every episode is very cinematic, sometimes oblique and odd, like the teddy bear sequences throughout season two, or very entertaining, thanks to the drug bust of dealer Badger.
As the series is not yet complete, there is no way to tell if Walt will work through his issues before either succumbing to cancer or getting caught in his web of lies and crime, but whatever the eventual resolution to the story is, it will probably be a ride unlike any other on TV.