Over the past week or week and a half, I’ve done something I never thought I could have: watched an entire show on Netflix. Many, many hours being watched in the space between homework and sleep (sometimes the three overlapped). But I did it.
I am all caught up in Breaking Bad.
I started last Thursday. Erin is a huge fan, my brother is a huge fan, and so naturally I knew I would be a huge fan. I am, and I am so glad I got into it before the series finale, which is tonight.
So for those of you who don’t know what it is, let me describe it.
For one thing, it’s like nothing I’ve ever watched. It’s about a high school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico who is diagnosed with cancer. Fearing he will have no money to leave to his family when he passes, he begins manufacturing methamphetamine and getting irrevocably involved with serious and dangerous criminals. The series mostly deals with his struggle to keep the details of his second life from his family, and simultaneously meet the right quotas and serve the right people.
What I like most about the show is that it’s clever. It has some of the biggest “holy shit” moments I’ve ever seen. It’s dirty, messy, and gritty. And above anything, it just seems real. It feels like the kinds of crazy and unexpected outcomes are what would occur in real life; nothing goes as planned, Walter (the main character) or his other partners always get hurt, and someone always suffers.
The show’s characters really shine as well. The cast went from relatively unknown men and women to celebrities in a matter of a couple of seasons. Walter White is played by Bryan Cranston, best known for his role in the decade-old sitcom “Malcolm in the Middle.” Anna Gunn is his wife, Skyler White, and his young street partner Jesse Pinkman is portrayed by Aaron Paul. These three actors are mostly the show’s focal point, and they are all fantastic; but the surrounding cast is awesome as well, particularly the villains that Walter is pitted against, and others like Walt’s brother-in-law Hank, the Drug Enforcement Administration Agent.
What most fans like to speculate on is the moral ambiguity seen in Walt and others. As the series progresses and the characters wade deeper into crime, it is difficult to tell what their true motives and beliefs are anymore. Walt always restates that his reasoning in doing anything anymore is for his family, but playing that card so often muddles its effect and makes it seem like he’s only trying to excuse himself from any blame. It is evident later on that Walt receives some sort of sick thrill from producing and dealing drugs. The kind of power he exercises over people is arbitrary and sickening in some cases, and it truly turns some fans off. Fans want so badly to root for him, but it is made impossible sometimes.
His partner Jesse is a bit less offputting. What is interesting about Jesse is that he is technically the definition of a hoodlum, and yet I always find myself rooting for him. The reason is because he is shown to have more heart and humanity than Walt has. Walt tends to use Jesse and manipulate him sometimes, while Jesse ends up losing interest in the money and clout that Walt strives for. Jesse tries establishing relationships with women and finding some modicum of normalcy, but is always torn away by the drug business. And while he is an addict and has many low points in the series, as a fan I only want him to renounce all of his misdeeds and remove himself from the show’s negative influences.
Those two main characters properly introduced, I will now go on to say that (I will not spoil a thing for you guys!) they get into some serious trouble together. That is, to me, the appeal of the show. Fans sometimes define Breaking Bad as
“that show that leaves you lying in a fetal position at the end of every episode”
And it’s true. Astoundingly difficult-to-deal-with curveballs are thrown at the viewers all the time, assuming they understand what’s happening. The main characters are always facing down a problem, whether they know it or not. As soon as they let their guard down, something happens to bring them back to the forefront. Walt is always in danger, and understandably so is his family. Walt is the target of gang crimes, kingpins’ hitmen, and the DEA alike. The latter means that he is in conflict with his own brother-in-law.
So why watch this show? If it hasn’t been made apparent yet, I’ll restate it: there’s never been anything like it. I remember watching the premiere in 2008 and being completely enthralled (although I didn’t quite have the stamina back then to keep up with it). If shows in the future take pointers from this show, we can expect cleverly-written, well-acted, and insanely gripping masterpieces soon to come. And with the finale occurring tonight, I’m sure that I’ll be in the fetal position, wondering what to do now that it’s all over.
For those of you who haven’t seen a lick of this show (and now want to), happy watching; for those of you who are all caught up and will be watching the finale tonight–happy watching.
aestheism, not atheism.