How a Man Breaks Bad

Jesse and Walter from Breaking Bad

Photo | Joy Turner | Creative Commons

When it comes to the best shows of television history, few shows can be named without “Breaking Bad” being included. Vince Gilligan’s crime epic has changed how television stories are told, with the idea of the anti-hero being at the forefront of Gilligan’s work.

“Breaking Bad” follows the story of Walter White (Walt), a mild mannered high school chemistry teacher who turns to drug manufacturing with a former student after a terminal illness diagnosis. As Walt descends into the criminal underworld, he undergoes a transformation into one of the most compelling villains in television history. “Breaking Bad” is phenomenal, and tackles the viewers with profound questions regarding morality and choices that remain present long after the final episode ends.

The most compelling part of “Breaking Bad,” without a doubt, is the writing. Gilligan and his phenomenal staff excellently characterize every person in a scene, perfectly encapsulating who the character is and what they believe. There are often moments where the viewer can forget the people on screen are actors, as every line of dialogue feels raw and like a genuine conversation between real people. Scenes between the two protagonists, Walter and Jesse, feel as though a real teacher and deadbeat student are bickering about their criminal enterprise.

Scenes with Walt’s family feel raw and heartbreaking, as his criminal activity causes a growing disconnect that manifests in their short and tense arguments. Even scenes between Jesse and his criminal friends feel real, as they share personal interests and stories that remind the viewer these aren’t just criminals but people too. The writing of “Breaking Bad” is of top quality, and rarely leaves the viewer feeling anything other than engagement.

“Breaking Bad” not only excels in the writing, but in its near perfect performances from the wonderful cast. Bryan Cranston (of “Malcolm in the Middle” fame) steals the show as Walt, with every horrible choice Walt makes being supported by the viewer due to Cranston’s natural charisma. Even when Walt’s decisions cause pain to everyone around him, you can’t help but hope he ends up successful due to how Cranston plays the character. Cranston isn’t the only actor to demand your focus in the show however, as Aaron Paul’s performance as Jesse will have you enthralled for the entire show. Jesse is a good person in the wrong world, being clearly in over his head amongst criminals and vagrants. Paul’s acting encapsulates this wonderfully, with each episode having Jesse grow as a person and gain favor with the audience regardless of his criminal actions.

Aside from the two starring roles, every other performance from actors such as Bob Odenkirk (Saul), Anna Gunn (Skyler) and Dean Norris (Hank) are near perfect. There are very few scenes in this show that leave more to be desired, and the few scenes that are disappointing serve a greater purpose in later episodes/seasons. Every character, line, or scene is important, and both the writing and performances highlight this.

Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” is a show that should be watched by everyone at least once. The story of Walter White is heartbreaking and thrilling, whilst also serving as a cautionary tale relating to crime and its consequences. The show tells the story of a horrible crime well, with the viewer emphasizing with the drug kingpin and rooting against the cops. It’s in this juxtaposition of morals that “Breaking Bad” shines brightest, and raises this most important question: how far will you go for the ones you love?

If you enjoy true-crime, action, drama, or are just a fan of strong television, you need to do yourself a favor and watch “Breaking Bad.” The only regret you’ll have after is that there aren’t more episodes in production.