Breaking Bad Review: The Crystal Method

BREAKING BAD: Wednesday 5th January, FX, 10pm ALERT ME

If you didn’t see it the first time round, you’re getting another chance as Breaking Bad returns to FX this evening. It opens with Walt, a middle-aged man wearing nothing but his pants and a gasmask speeding a Winnebago along a dusty path as sirens blare in the background. He crashes the vehicle, jumps out, videotapes a quick message to his family, pulls a gun out of his underwear and steps out into the road to face the music. In other words, it’s a bit like a dream I had the other night.

It’s an intriguing introduction and one that is at odds with Walt’s lifestyle only three weeks before. He’s a milquetoast chemistry teacher who gets no respect in the classroom and works an extra job at a carwash in order to provide for his pregnant wife and son who has cerebral palsy. At his 50th birthday, his police officer brother-in-law Hank takes pleasure in emasculating him in front of his family and boasts about the huge amounts of money he recovered from a nearby drug bust and suggests that Walt comes along on a ride-along one day to get some excitement back into his life.

When Walt discovers he has inoperable lung cancer and has about two years to live, he decides to seize life with both hands and takes Hank up on his offer. What he doesn’t expect is to see Pinkman, a former student of his running away from the scene of the crime and after tracking him down, demands to be cut in on the action offering to provide “a chemically pure and stable product which will perform as advertisedâ€?

It’s a remarkable departure for Bryan Cranston (Malcolm’s dad from Malcolm In The Middle) – with his moustache and glasses he could easily be mistaken for Gary Oldman in The Dark Knight. But while his character in Malcolm was played mainly for laughs, here he’s give then chance to mix his skills as a comic actor with palpable sense of desperation and a greater depth. Here is a man who’s been brought alive by death, one who realises that now his days are numbered, he’d better make each one count.

That’s not to say it glorifies meth dealing. It’s depicted as violent, brutal and not without consequences and while it certainly empowers Walt, it also leads him to make plenty of bad decisions. Exactly why he’s driving a battered RV away from blaring sirens is revealed by the end of the episode and the reasons are less than wholesome.

Breaking Bad is exciting, engaging and it’s got all the hallmarks of a series that’s almost as addictive as the meth it features with the added bonus that your teeth won’t fall out if you watch it.