Dear loyal viewer of television,
I have something very important to share with you, so I hope you can keep full concentration and read with open eyes and an open mind. I don’t know when you’ll get this letter. It may be days or weeks or months. It may even be years. But time is no matter. Not for a timeless subject such as this.
This year is 2013. There hasn’t been much to celebrate so far this year. Well, I’m sure there actually has been some sweet stuff going on, but it hasn’t been a great year in terms of global glorification. It’s been my best year yet, though that’s not entirely the point of this letter.
I bet you’re wondering what is the point of this letter? What is this guy droning on about?
5 years ago (2008), a show premiered on television called Breaking Bad. The show is set in Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA. It’s based around the life of a man named Walter White, a chemistry teacher who, upon finding out that he has inoperable lung cancer, decides to begin cooking meth as a way of providing for his family. Walter has a wife, Skyler, a son, Walter Jr., and later in the series, Skyler has a baby, who is named Holly.
Throughout the series, we follow Walt as he grows more deeply involved in the meth business. He meets a fair few interesting characters along the way, including Gustavo “Gus” Fring, a meth kingpin who also owns a chain of fast-food chicken restaurants called “Los Pollos Hermanos”, and Mike Ehrmantraut, a sort of clean-up guy who also happens to work with Gus. These characters, along with many others, end up showing us who Walter White really is, or really can be.
Walt is played by Bryan Cranston, an actor – no, a brilliant actor – who worked on such things as a show called Malcolm in the Middle, and a great movie called Argo. If you ever get around to seeing Malcolm in the Middle, let me just tell you that it’s a far cry from Breaking Bad, at least tonally.
In fact, there is not a single weak link in the show.
When Walt first goes into the meth business, he partners with a former chemistry student of his, Jesse Pinkman, who is played by Aaron Paul. He was relatively unknown when he started the show. Next year he’ll be in a movie called Need for Speed. It’s based on a racing car game. Play the game. Don’t see the movie. That’s all I’ll say.
Walt will probably be your most loved and relatable character through the first 3 seasons or so, but after that you will begin to love Jesse just as much as Walt. Jesse is given fantastic emotional depth throughout the last 2 or 3 seasons of the show (there are 5 seasons, just in case you didn’t know). All the people cherished in his life end up harmed by his actions. This is one of the huge things about the show. Jesse slowly learns through the pain he and his partner Walt causes, that actions really do speak volumes.
The show starts out showing you just how average a man Walt really is. His bank balance is low, his living quality is relatively low too. The only thing he seems to enjoy is spending time with his family. But then, once he gets into the meth business, he transforms. As the seasons progress he appears happier, more in control, and thus his alternate personality is born. That alternate personality has a name. The name is “Heisenberg”.
Heisenberg and Walter White are two completely different people, let me assure you.
There are plenty of fantastic moments in every season, 1 through to 5. The writing on the show will never cease to amaze you, I’m sure. You never really know what will happen next, or how the show will end, or begin for that matter. Some episodes begin with flashbacks that seemingly have no relevance to the situation, but be patient. It may take a whole season for it to be explained, but it will happen. You will get it. And you will be amazed.
When you finally finish the show, you will think back on it with such wonder and amazement at how a show this brilliant could ever come from nothing. How was this piece of magic built from the ground up? You may think about this for days. You won’t be the only one.
The final episode of the show is perfect. It wraps everything up perfectly. Everybody gets what they seemingly deserve, and even if you don’t agree that everyone gets their fair share, you will agree that the main people get what they’ve earned. It’s a perfectly written episode, simply shot, but finely acted. It’s not flashy or over the top. It’s the basics of good storytelling; a resolution that leaves us satisfied.
The main question you will ask yourself will be: what is Breaking Bad really about? Is it simply about the story of a man named Walter? Or is it deeper than that? Is it about the quest of redemption? Is it about the blurring of the line between what’s right and what’s wrong? Is it about choices? Is it about consequences? Is it about friendship, or love, or the power of the human will?
Hopefully, the answer to that question is all of the above. Because Breaking Bad isn’t about just one thing. It’s about a collection of things, piled together, to make the greatest drama series of all time.
Geoffrey Chaucer once said ‘All good things must come to an end.’
I couldn’t agree more.
Here’s to television.
* * * * *
Enjoy this review? Like it! Follow the page! Share it with your friends.
Follow me on:
Soundcloud — Audio Reviews (ElroyRosenberg)