In 2011, after months of receiving aggressively relentless declarations of worship for the show “Breaking Bad,” I realised that there was some kind of epidemic sweeping my town. It had become difficult to hold even the idlest of chit-chat with anybody unless I could prove that I was a devoted fan; I would wince when the topic of TV arose, as I knew I would be faced with the inevitable question of whether I had seen the latest installment of the show. And God strike me down if I had the honesty to reveal that I hadn’t even viewed the first episode. My apparent ignorance warranted a barrage of response, such as “You just, like, have to see it” and “It’s totes amazeballs.” It’s as if Vince Gilligan himself, the writer and producer of the show, was managing to replace these people’s brains with the same incessant recordings of praise that would instantly siren whenever it detected a lack of Breaking Bad knowledge. They were somewhere in between zombies and robots. It’s a severe mental disorder I now dub “Breaking Mad.” I am ashamed to say that the bombardment took its toll and I buckled under the pressure.
Staring at the first season boxset, I was underwhelmed. I had been expecting something biblical. Reluctantly, I play the pilot episode.
…Oh my God. Breaking Bad. You have to see it.
Pinning ‘Breaking Bad’ to one genre is difficult, but a sickeningly simple description would be that it is a crime drama. The audience follows the story of Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher who has, thus far, lived an uneventful life in a dusty corner of America. He has to toil two jobs to gain extra cash, his students don’t listen to him, his son faces constant challenges due to disability and to top that off he is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. Life could not be any suckier. And so, in order to support his family financially, Walter unites with a former student and current junkie Jesse to cook and distribute methamphetamine, or Crystal Meth.
What struck me most from watching this show was the constant genius from the writing team. Each episode manages to artistically continue from one to the other, with cliff-hangers that will frequently make your brain explode. I imagine waiting for each is episode is like a meth addict waiting for his next fix; it is only comparable to that of the show “Lost.” But instead of the abysmal ending that made absolutely no sense, “Breaking Bad” manages to answer more questions than it poses and wraps up neatly without obvious loose-ends. The characters are tragic, funny, and can rarely be described in black-and-white terms with morality being completely contorted. By the finale of the show it is completely unclear of who is good and who is evil. Similarly, the cast that embody the characters are impeccable. If someone had told me a few years ago that Hal from “Malcolm in the Middle” would become the kingpin of a drug empire I would have aggressively laughed in their face. However, Bryan Cranston is utterly convincing as both innocent Mr White and his megalomaniacal alter-ego, Heisenberg. This is the same for Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman, from the offset it is clear that he is a good guy that finds himself in bad situations. But by far, my favourite character was the slick-and-slimy lawyer Saul Goodman played by Bob Odenkirk who manages to flit instantly between humour and straight-faced lawyer-badassery. I am currently awaiting news of the spin-off show “Just Call Saul,” it is fair to say that I am buzzing off of my ratty nut.
After watching all 5 seasons I can confirm that the robotic hordes were correct. The show needs to be watched, and it is in all fact totes amazeballs. I hope that “Breaking Bad” will be emblazoned onto popular culture significantly into the future so that the one or two people who haven’t seen it yet can understand the hype. I have never been happier to be a mindless conformist.
I rate that, I rate that a lot.