Sunday evening saw the return of the best show youâve never seen: Breaking Bad. Across the Atlantic, the AMC drama enjoys cult status and critical acclaim (17 awards, including six Emmys) due to its engaging storylines, impeccable acting and fantastic photography â the visuals in Breaking Bad regularly exceed those found in cinema. But one of the main attractions of this show is its development. This is one of the few things on TV that gets better, episode by episode, season by season. The only series which comes close in this respect is House, but even Hugh Laurie & Co’s excellent character development cannot compare to this evolution…
Okay, we get the picture â itâs good. But whatâs it about?
Walter White is a family man with a brilliant mind working a job far below his calibre thanks to his people-pleasing past. Heâs a high school chemistry teacher and heâs happy, that is, until he gets diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Walt quickly realises his family will be in serious financial trouble after his passing and hatches a plan â heâll become a drug dealer. But not just any drug dealer, heâll make the purest meth known to man. After haphazardly teaming up with one of his former students – local small-time âcookâ? Jesse Pinkman – he accidentally becomes one of most notorious drug dealers in all the Southern States; unbeknownst to his loving family.
Who are these wonderfully enigmatic characters you speak of?
Walter White aka Heisenberg
Played by Bryan Cranston (the dad from Malcolm in the Middle). As you might expect given his circumstances, of all the characters in this show this mild-mannered teacher-turned-ruthless meth peddler goes through the biggest transformation and by seasons two and three his public persona has changed entirely. Heâs no longer Walt White, people-pleaser, heâs domineering drug dealer, Heisenberg, with a shaved head and thousand-yard stare to match. However, he never loses sight of his motivations and always acts like Walt around his family.
Local dealer and small-time âcookâ? Jesse (Aaron Paul) is a mess, a twenty-something no-hoper whoâs hooked on meth, among other things. When he meets Walt (who he still calls Mr White, from his school days) his life turns around, Walt believes in Jesse and over the course of the show his character evolves from a loveable misfit into a man with vision and purpose. Jesse often falls back into his old ways, but Walt is always there to pick him back up again. As much of a mess as Jesse is, heâs no-doubt the viewersâ favourite with his skater slang adding some much needed comic relief.
Waltâs pregnant wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) is extremely intelligent, by the second season sheâs untangled Waltâs web of lies and discovered the reasons for his multiple mobile phones and unexplained disappearances. As much as she cares for Walt and the sanctity of their family life, she begins divorce proceedings (although later admits she never filed the papers). However, she later comes round to the idea of Waltâs âcookingâ?, after discovering that spouses cannot be forced to testify against one another and ends up advising him on better ways to launder his money.
Waltâs brother-in-law Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) is the quintessential DEA officer, born bad-ass, any emotional weakness is non-existent, just like his neck. Not only this, but heâs damn good at what he does (kicking ass and taking names), so as you can imagine, Hank is something of a thorn in Waltâs side â actually, heâs more like an eight-foot spear. But Hank is not all powerful, as the show progresses Hankâs unimaginably stressful job begins to take its toll on his psyche and after witnessing some particularly harrowing events when heâs assigned to a Mexican task force, Hankâs hard-man exterior begins to crumble.
Walt and Jesseâs shyster lawyer, Saul (Bob Odenkirk) provides much of the seriesâ humour. Saul is every inch the silver-tongued charmer â he gains his two best clients (Walt and Jesse) after they drive him out to the desert with the intention of shooting him dead. His catchphrase is âbetter call Saulâ? thanks to his low-budget cable TV ads and heâs known by all the local delinquents as the man who can get you off anything… just call Saul. Check out his website..
Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) is the head-honcho, the cartel leader, a true professional and he doesnât work with amateurs. He launders his money through his fast food company âLos Pollos Hermanosâ?, which features prominently in many of the seriesâ scenes. Externally he is an upstanding member of society, even Hankâs DEA detail look upon him with admiration, however â thereâs always a however with Breaking Badâs characters â he is a seriously dangerous man, his reach in both Mexico and the US is unparalleled, oh, and as if Walt doesnât have enough problems, by season threeâs end Gus wants Walt dead – and everyone knows it.
Breaking Bad is, at its heart, a fantastically dark comedy, every episode has humour hidden in the carnage, and although its premise may sound slightly, nay, unbelievably gloomy, more often than not itâs extremely uplifting. I really cannot recommend it enough. UK broadcasters have failed woefully to give Breaking Bad the air time it deserves, but fear not, because the first two seasons are now available on DVD, with season three coming soon and it can only be a matter of time until one of our major broadcasters realises what theyâve been missing… when they do youâll be way ahead of the curve.