Shows You Should Watch This Summer Part III: Breaking Badby Nam Le on Jul, 14 2012
The best way to describe AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is to call it what it is – a drama about a cancer-ridden high school chemistry teacher who begins selling meth.
I know, it sounded crazy to me too; for a long time, the show’s unbelievable premise kept me from ever giving it a chance. And in putting off watching it for so long, I have to admit…I made a huge mistake. [Consider this column my mea culpa to showrunner Vince Gilligan.]
Yes, I made a huge mistake. I passed up watching the most brilliant piece of television still airing; a show whose twists and turns are so intense that I have to often pause episodes to let my heart calm down.
But with the show’s fifth [and final] season premiering Sunday, there’s really no better time to get on the bandwagon, no better time to begin discovering the show’s greatness. In fact, the whole “meth-selling teacher” concept that left me skeptical? That all quickly fades into the background after just a few episodes. By the end of the first season, Breaking Bad has most of its viewers intensely addicted for reasons that have nothing to do with the plot at all.
The real thrill comes from the show’s well-crafted, nuanced, and engrossing characters – particularly Bryan Cranston’s and Aaron Paul’s. Enough cannot be said about Cranston’s work as Walter White, who motives and actions evolve dramatically over four outstanding seasons. Whether through his careful, calculated expressions or the sheer emotional range that he covers throughout the series, Cranston is just incredibly captivating and masterful. Though many people – myself included – had a hard time seeing him as anything more than the dad from Malcolm in the Middle, three consecutive Emmys for “Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series” should attest to his greatness in this role, perhaps the best on television right now.
Paul, on the other hand, boasts less accolades – only one “Best Supporting Actor” win to go alongside two more nominations – but plays an equally important (and arguably more relatable) character: lab partner Jesse Pinkman. When on screen together, the two possess an incredible chemistry that leaves viewers riveted, particularly as their work relationship becomes complicated.
Even with these two dramatic backbones, the show is not dependent on Paul and Cranston’s brilliance alone, adding many other memorable figures to the equation: Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) among some. The resulting mix is a cast whose lives we become intensely invested in as we trace the fallout from the Walt’s decisions throughout the series. Combine this with carefully chosen symbolism [seriously, pay attention to everything] and perfect pacing, and what you have is a sheer adrenaline rush of a series overall.
I’ve never been on drugs, but I imagine they’d probably be something like Breaking Bad, where each dose (well, episode, in this case) leaves you wanting, craving more.
Unlike most shows, there is no varying quality from season to season here – Breaking Bad is one of the very few that gets better as it goes on, with its last being the best by far. With Sunday beginning Walt’s final act – and building off some very significant developments from last season’s finale – there is no reason to expect these next 16 episodes won’t be as enthralling and unpredictable as the 46 that came before it.
Get hooked. You won’t regret it.
For the rest of this series, click here –
II – The Newsroom