Over the last couple of quiet months in TV land, and in my current state of unemployment, I’ve been taking the opportunity to get caught up with a few shows that I had always intended to watch but passed me by for one reason or another. One show that had always been highly recommended to me was ‘Breaking Bad‘.
It certainly seems to be the leader of this pack of this little TV catch up run. For those not in the know; ‘Breaking Bad’ tells the story of Walter White, unassuming high school chemistry teacher who’s life is turned upside down when he is diagnosed with lung cancer. Fearing for the financial future of his family after his passing Walt begins to use his considerable talents as a chemist to begin cooking meth and hooks up with ex-student Jesse, a local small time dealer, to sell his product. It’s not too long before Walt and Jesse’s entrepreneurial business begins to attract attention from their families, law enforcement, and organised crime cartels resulting in many dark adventures as they try to earn as much dollar as possible without catching a bullet.
The show has been going for a few years now and is just starting up it’s fifth season in the States. I had four seasons sat in wait to be watched and devoured them all in just under a fortnight (They are short seasons – thirteen eps a season, except season one, which clocked in at seven) nailing three or four episodes a night when I really should have been sleeping. I’ve enjoyed shows over the last few years but there have been very few that have captivated and engrossed me like ‘Breaking Bad’.
Bryan Cranston is an utter revelation. I always liked him in ‘Malcolm in the Middle’ but this dude is versatile because this is an entirely different beast. His performance is nothing short of outstanding. In fact the entire cast is entirely convincing and at the top of their game. It really is a first rate ensemble with all the dynamic and chemistry working right from the outset. I found Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, and Giancarlo Esposito especialling captivating and extremely watchable as we see their character’s progress and develop through the seasons.
At it’s core the narrative is a classic “two world’s collide” story; with some incredible darkly comic situations born from the juxtaposition of the comfortable suburban world of Walt’s family to the dark underbelly of Alberquerque’s gangland and drug culture as Walter begins to more and more straddle both existences.
More so – it’s also a tale about the American Dream – Capitalism. Most of the events that unfold through the seasons are driven by one key motivating factor for many of the characters; profit. The core question at the centre of the show is this; to what lengths will they go for profit and to protect the mechanisms they use to make that profit? The show’s key theme is about the seductive power of money and how the pursuit of this profit can corrupt a person at their very core. Walter is a fascinating character to watch as we see the effects of this new world of illegal fortune making he now inhabits taking a hold of him. At first he is a sympathetic anti-hero where the audience can feel the ends justify the means, but as later events unfold it drives us to question our sympathy/empathy and wonder if we too have become seduced by Walter’s new world and are rooting for the wrong guy (being deliberately vague to remain spoiler free!).
There are some excellent twists and turns that engrossed me throughout and gave the show a good pace. Interestngly, there is a beautiful irony to the fact that a number of the twists and turns are highly predictable. At some point I knew there was going to be certain moral decisions that Walt, and other key characters like Jesse and Skyler, will have to make as various inevitable events unfold. This inevitability/predictability does not detract from enjoyment of the show but in fact adds to it; what is so engaging about the show is watching Walter’s journey through such events – how will he handle it? What decisions will he make? What sacrifices are to be made? What will be the consequences of those actions? What will this mean morally for Walter White? As a fish out of water in this new world Walter often makes intriguing decisions that just compelled me to keep watching to see how he handles what’s coming next.
It is wonderfully powerful stuff and is so well executed in the writing, direction and acting in the show The conclusion to the fourth season had been building for some time and gave me some the most satisfying culmination of various plot threads I could have asked for and I can’t wait to see how other story elements, as well as the consequences of the fourth season’s finale, unfold and conclude. It’s going to be epic…