This week, with not much inspiration to be had from latest releases, I decided to take my list to the TV realm. With Breaking Bad starting the first half of its final season I thought it would be great to talk a little bit about the show.
For those of you not watching, shame on you, it’s about Walter White – a high school chemistry teacher – who discovers that he has cancer and only two years to live. In an act of desperation, some may say, he decides to become partners with his former student, Jesse Pinkman, and cook and sell methamphetamine to help support his family after his eventual passing.
So here’s what I think makes this show more than the regular pulp fiction you get every summer:
While this show is technically about Walter White and his progression down this new career path, I find it unltimately more interesting whenever Walter has to revert to his somewhat alter ego refered to as Heisenberg. From the first couple episodes of the show where we see how Skylar, Walt’s wife, notices Walt’s changes in demeanor and she would ask, “Is that you Walt?” we know that this isn’t the normally deflated high school teacher who recites the same lecture about bonds and such every semester, this is Heisenberg, the man who won’t take any shit from anyone and is out to save himself and his family from ruin.
The progression of the character of Heisenberg and how his values and morals have skewed from season one where he still was shocked by Tuco’s beating his cohorts brains in to the now where he has been involved, either directly or indirectly, with a number of murders and much worse crimes against humanity all for the name of the dollar is what keeps this show great.
4. The Chemistry
I personally enjoy when a show celebrates intellect. There are so many shows which revel in the fact that our protagonists know nothing and are aimlessly being pointed in the right direction by pure circumstance. While this show does have a bit of finger pointing by the world that Walter and Jesse are throwing themselves into it is obvious that they would never have progressed if it weren’t for their particular set of skills.
While the show hasn’t used this element for a while, it was made very aware for the first three seasons at least that science and chemistry is what helped Walt, and better yet Heisenberg, stay alive and facilitate the success of a lot of his plans.
3. The side characters we love (Mike, Saul, etc.)
While protagonists and antagonists are all good and fun with a show like this what truly shifts it from enjoyable to fantastic is how our minor characters impress us. From scene one to now there hasn’t been a moment where characters like Badger, Hank, Mike and Saul (to name a few) haven’t kept us on our toes. The comedy, as well as the added complexity that it can at times make for our antagonists and protagonists, is just wonderful.
I will admit that my favourite of the bunch has to be Mike, the “handyman” who can get anything done and at the end of the day has a bit of a righteous moral core that not many others do. His influence and interaction with the likes of Jesse and Walt continue to make him a favourite of mine, as well as the fact that his particular skill set – which sets him apart from the rest – proves his worth to have around in this universe. “No half measures!”
2. The Evolution of the Villain
When the show started in season one we had the crazy, off-the-handle, drug dealers and mid-level distributors (like Tuco) who kept getting in the way of Walt and Jesse progressing. However as the show has moved on we’ve seen some more sophisticated antagonists who make the likes of Walt more and more dangerous and in danger at the same time. With the use of Gustavo Frings, a local business owner and figure in the community, we get a more pragmatic obstacle for our heroes to have to figure a way around. It slowly shows that no matter how high class and civil we get when threatened we all turn to our natural survival instincts – from Gustavo to Walt.
1. Jesse “Bitch” Pinkman
I don’t know how much the world agrees with this theory, but a show’s #2 is always what makes a show. He’s the one who has a lot more leg-work to do in order to create a true arc for the show. Jesse, while supposed to have been killed off at the end of the first season, survived by mere fan adoration (and I thank the writers for doing so). He’s had everything, including the kitchen sink, in terms of emotions thrown his way over the span of this show so far and therefore had the most growth and development. Through his interaction with Walt and all the things that’s happened to him as consequence of that association he’s been able to move from low level dealer to producer to now probably the most resourceful character of the show.
While Bryan Cranston as well as Aaron Paul have (and deservedly so) won Emmys for their performances in this show, I feel if only one could’ve won I would’ve given it to Aaron Paul.