If you’re anything like me, you heralded the final return of TV’s greatest show as some kind of super holiday, greater than Halloween, your birthday and Christmas combined. You tried to track down blue rock candy and yellow jumpsuits for the premiere and you probably had a crudely drawn Heisenberg marking August 11 on your calendar for weeks.
Breaking Bad tells the story of Walter White, mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher cum sociopathic murderous drug lord. Faced with lung cancer treatments that threaten to bankrupt his family, Walt teams up with underachieving former student and current drug dealer Jesse Pinkman and uses his chemistry knowledge to cook and sell meth to pay for chemo and support his family after his death. (There are spoilers ahead, including Season 5B, so tread lightly).
In its early seasons, the show follows Walt and Jesse as they take one step forward and two steps back trying to sell enough of their signature blue meth to create a nest egg for Walt’s family, all while trying to keep their operation secret from his wife Skyler and DEA agent brother-in-law Hank Schraeder (other stuff happens too, but there’s just way too much to get into here).
As the show progresses and the stakes begin to get higher, the show’s tone shifts – from dark to way darker. We watch as Walt changes seamlessly from a submissive family man trying to secure his family’s financial future, to a sociopathic, pride-fueled monster who is hell-bent on maintaining his empire at almost any cost.
I admittedly came pretty late to the party and only started watching the show in January of this year. I made it to episode two a couple years ago, but the bloody bathtub torso scene did a pretty thorough job of scaring me off.
I’m glad I came back to it though, because (with the possible exception of Lost) no other TV show has been as addicting or elicited such extreme emotional responses. I’ve watched whole scenes perched on my tiptoes at the edge of my couch unable to breathe – like Hank’s showdown with the dead-eyed Salamanca brothers in “One Minute” or the final five minutes of “To’hajiilee.” And the only way to sum up my feelings on “Ozymandias” is as follows:
To mirror Viv’s concerns from her Game of Thrones entry, I’m well aware that everyone on the Internet has already written about Breaking Bad and there’s not much new ground I can break here. But I will press on regardless, because I CANNOT stop talking about this show. Give it all the Emmys. I love it more than Marie loves purple or Junior loves breakfast.
All of the acting on Breaking Bad is phenomenal. If you don’t boil with rage when Walt starts on one of his manipulative, lie-weaving tangents or if your heart didn’t break during that phone call to Skyler (you KNOW what phone call I mean) then you might just be as sociopathic as Todd. Aaron Paul is a dreamy genius, Bob Odenkirk is a hilariously convincing scumbag lawyer and even Anna Gunn has managed to win me over to Team Skyler, especially with that last episode (seriously, did I not mention that “Ozymandias” just broke my brain?)
I love its focus on the complex relationships that exist between the characters too, namely the central relationship between Jesse and “Mr. White.” Their relationship has so many layers and changes so much: from reluctant business partners, to mentor and protégé, to father and son, abuser and victim and finally to hated enemies. Walt’s initially reluctant and later spiteful decision to have Jesse killed (and his murder of Jesse emotionally by revealing the truth about Jane) is what brings their unlikely and hard-won relationship as “family” to a close, because, as we all know, family is a line Walter does not cross.
Another part of the show’s power is in its unpredictability and willingness to confound viewer’s expectations. No character’s fate has felt safe throughout the entire series and I’m surprised by how far some of the main characters have made it alive. The show also has some of the cruellest cliff-hangers that I think are humanly possible (I sent about six “HANK KNOWS” texts once I finally caught up to the show and understood the pain everyone else has been enduring since last summer).
I also appreciate how it plays with format with the wrap around teasers (Season 2’s pink teddy bear, Season 5’s flash forwards), and the amount of levity it weaves into the bleakness. He’s so hollowed-out and gutted now that you almost forget how funny dumb-ass Jesse and his friends used to be.
Alrighty, so there’s my first post. I maybe should have waited until this show ended to write this one, but I had to get “Ozymandias” out of my system. Maybe I’ll write an update on the show as a whole after September 29’s “Felina.”
But for now, regardless of where you stand on the pro or anti Walt debate, can we all just agree that Breaking Bad’s biggest villain is the American health care system??