Straight out. I’m going to say that Breaking Bad was one of the best television series I have had the opportunity to see. And this was not because of all the awards it garnered at the Emmys throughout its six year run. I think it was brilliant because of the depth to the story and the portrayal of flawed characters in a reality that was so closely rooted to our own that it resonates with each viewer at some point or the other.
Walter White is a brilliant chemist stuck teaching high school Chemistry, working part time as a cashier at a carwash just to make ends meet.He endures abuse day in and day out from his boss and deals with general lack of respect for his brilliance to provide for his family — his pregnant wife Skyler, his 15 year old son, who suffers from cerebral palsy. As if his life is not miserable enough, he finds out one day that he is suffering from lung cancer and that without treatment, he is left with only a few months to live. With their finances in dire straits, he comes up with a plot to leave money to support his family after his death. He goes on a ride along with his DEA brother in law Hank and connects with Jesse Pinkman, a former student and small time meth cook, who becomes his partner in producing the purest quality meth product that becomes the subject of a growing network of distribution. Breaking Bad is five seasons worth of Walter and Jesse’s evolution from small time ‘cooks’ to big time criminal masterminds.
When I first started watching Breaking Bad, I immediately became fascinated by the characters. Walter White and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) were polar opposites and as partners, it was interesting to see how they lived with their differences to make their small time operation work. On paper, Walter White was the lead character of the series, but from the get go, Jesse Pinkman stole the show for me. Aaron Paul’s consistency in his performance and his ability to endear his character to the audience was top notch. Throughout the show’s five seasons, he was able to draw deep and morph himself into different versions of his character — a meth junkie/street dealer, a sensitive young man shunned by his family, a softie who loves kids, a loyal partner, just a good guy forced into doing bad things. For a relative newcomer, this guy was awesome. I was sold on Team Jesse all the way. He was so good that his character should have been killed at the end of the first season, but instead, he became integral to the story and lasted until the final episode of the last season. Bryan Cranston, on the other hand, also deserved all of the accolades for his portrayal of Walter White. Imagine this guy transforming himself as the doofus dad from Malcolm in the Middle to this tormented soul, this desperate father, and his evolution to become Heisenberg, the ruthless head of the biggest drug empire spanning New Mexico, to Mexico and even the Czech Republic.
As far as supporting characters go, my favorites were Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Hank Shrader (Dean Norris). I loved how Dean Norris transformed his character from an overzealous overbearing DEA agent/brother in law to Walter White to an intense, serious and intelligent law enforcement officer playing a cat and mouse game with Heisenberg. I originally saw Dean Norris as Jim Rennie in Stephen King’s series Under the Dome and character wise, Jim does not hold a candle to the character of Hank Shrader. Dude is a total badass. Jonathan Banks on the other hand, as the skilled security professional Mike Ehrmentraut, was pure gold. I liked his efficiency and preciseness but what I loved best about him was his concern for Jesse Pinkman and his love for his granddaughter Kaylee, risking everything to provide a future for his little angel.
Kudos to series creator Vince Gilligan for coming out with characters and a story that is identifiable to the viewers. It seemed like the show always gave dimensions to its characters and it speaks of the creator’s and the writers’ respect for the story to always present various sides to each storyline. I think that the show’s biggest success is actually the consistency in the plot and the gradual evolution of the series and its ability to involve audiences emotionally from the onset. I liked that the series took its time to establish the characters and flesh out their backstories, thereby explaining their motivations. I was a big fan of how they all made sense. I loved the cinematography and the stylishness of the presentation. I got curious each with each opening montage and waited until the last minute of the show for it to make sense. The series was well thought out. From Walter as a down on his luck family man, Jesse as a deadbeat meth head, always trying to stay one step ahead of the law– the intelligence in which it was all crafted and executed made for great, thought provoking television. The chemistry aspect and the way Walter was able to Mcgyver his way out of tough spots because of his scientific skills made the show doubly interesting. Although the bombs and corpse disposal may have sent a wrong message to criminals, learning about the abilities of the elements is always cool.
All in all, AMC was able to hit it out of the park with Breaking Bad. From Episode 1 until the finale, the show made for a compelling television drama that I am sure that I will watch over and over again. I felt bereft after seeing the last episode and wanted the show to never end. But on the other hand, I salute the team for not being greedy and sacrificing the quality of the show by extending it even if the story should have come to a close. The way it ended was perfect. Everything came full circle. Great job to AMC for producing this show. With Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, I think AMC is slowly establishing itself as a contender against HBO in terms of original programming quality.