Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

Breaking Bad
Television Review
By Jeffrey Kieviet

Making Good – Blood, Meth, & Tears

*There will be NO spoilers. I wouldn’t do that to you.

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If you’re anything like me, Monday morning you had some crazed tweaker running around your place of business yelping about “the end” of the best show on television. If you’re even more like me, then you were the crazed tweaker. People have been shouting from the mountain tops for the last five years, ever since the pilot when feeble, cancer-ridden Walter White decided to curb stomp some mofos & cook up a batch of the best crystal this side of the Mississippi (best this side of the Czech Republic probably [any side of the Czech Republic. Does the Czech Republic have sides?]). From the beginning, I was enthralled by the sheer bad-assery of the quintessential nerd. A chemistry teacher that wanted to be cool in the eyes of his students, respected by his disabled son, and loved by his wife. He was so timid, so quiet, so afraid of life, and then he found out he was mortal, that his death may be just over his shoulder, breathing down the back of his neck (sucking the life from his lungs), and he decided to take control of whatever time he had left.

What else can be said about such a well regarded & highly praised show? Truly, I do NOT want to spoil or give away any of the secrets or twists & turns of this mythological (meth-ological) masterpiece. So let’s take a look at what everyone else is talking about: who lives, who dies, who wins, who loses, was there any hope of redemption or is morality even relevant, and was there anything wrong with what many consider a perfect show? And is there a way to do that without giving names & ruining exciting plot points?

Death & Taxes (& Medical Bills)

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Bryan Cranston is what sells this show. His ability to convey such raw emotion behind both his mild demeanor & vicious facade create a character who can be wholly despicable, yet have us rooting for him at the same time. Aaron Paul created a punky meth dealer who was so intriguing, the showrunners decided to keep him around past the first season (had it not been for a midseason writer’s strike, the character would have been killed off very early on. I’m not linking any articles to this evidence because like I said, I don’t want to ruin anything for you). The rest of the cast also gives fantastic performances and they should all be singled out for their work (and who knows, maybe after you watch the show I’ll have individual posts for each character in the classic  Derek Hobson sort of way, but we’ll save that for another time).

My favorite moments of the show are when Walt(ter White [Cranston]) or Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) get to be bad ass. It may not be the right way to view the show, but a lot of the family drama I could care less about, & the humor of the show (provided early in the series by brother-in-law Hank [Dean Norris] & eventually by fan favorite Saul Goodman [Bob Odenkirk], the sleazy lawyer [Saul Goodman = ‘s all good, man!]), while an appreciated reprieve from the horror of the drug game, doesn’t hold a candle to Walt beatin’ on baddies or getting some victory sex from his pregnant wife, Skylar (Anna Gunn). Some top moments, in no particular order, and in a way that doesn’t reveal anything about the show, are:

  • After Walt makes an explosion with Science, he holds his $ in his car and lets out a base, guttural growl of bad-assitude! Actually, any time Walt makes something explode. And there are quite a few.
  • The infamous “I am the one who knocks” speech.
  • Basically everything about the pilot. There are at least 7 distinct events that caused me to yell “Yeah, bitch!” at the screen, including the aforementioned porking of his wife. Actually, anytime Walt porks. And anytime Jesse says “bitch.” They have put together compilations of every Pinkman “bitch” in the series (check youtube for local listings).
  • “Tread lightly.” This one you won’t hear for a while.
  • The first innocent death Walt allows on his watch. Actually, any death caused directly or indirectly by Walt or Jesse. This show has a pretty high body count & no one, including the main cast, is ever safe or off limits.
  • The Fly episode.
  • & my all time favorite, the moment that took this show beyond anything I expected, the end of season 3. Walt makes that phone call and everyone knows what must be done. Pound for pound, television doesn’t get better than that.

Say My Name… “Heisenberg”

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A lot of people who were talking about the series finale discussed the morality of the show or the possible redemption of Walter White. A lot of people also hate, and I mean several pages of blog posts HATE, Skylar White, his wife, because she wasn’t the most conducive to Walt’s illegal activities. Anna Gunn even wrote an article about how her character (and many other female counterparts to “bad men” on television) receives so much flack when it’s her husband who is in the wrong. But here’s the thing: I tuned in to this show to watch a man cook meth & kill people. If I want to watch family problems erupt in a slew of false promises and misplaced rage, I’ll go to Thanksgiving dinner.

Morality? When did he become irredeemable? The first time he cooks meth? The first time he kills someone? The first time he kills someone in cold blood? The first time he lets an innocent die? The first time he kills several people at once? The first time he makes other people kill for him?

HE COOKS METH! That’s the point of the show. He does everything for his family, he does everything for himself, he does everything because he’s an American Bad Ass. Redemption? Does he win… that is the question that should be asked. Regardless of the answer, it isn’t about crossing over the line, stepping into the moral grey area, good vs evil, severing ties with his humanity. It’s about blowing stuff up and rockin’ a sweet stache. !@#$! bitches, make money. And he does plenty of both (the bitches in this situation being his enemies, not his wife. “Bitches” in the Pinkman form of the word).

I’m sure Harvard will begin a Morality of Breaking Bad 101 where they discuss the implications of every episode and every decision that Walt makes, but unless the answer is: because it’s bad ass: it’s irrelevant.

Many have made comparisons to Scarface (Walt & Jr are even seen watching the film in one episode), & I’d love to see a side by side comparison of Tony Montana & Heisenberg, but while Scarface runs the course of 3 hours (a long-ass movie) and covers nearly a decade, Breaking Bad runs nearly 60 hours and covers around 2 years. The TV show is closer to a western than a mob/gangster flick. And Tony was never really an innocent, he had that scar since he was a young man. “Innocent” may be the wrong term, it implies that illusive morality, so let’s say “pussy.” Walt started as a pussy and grew into the cock of the walk. The only thing Breaking Bad was missing was an 80s soundtrack.

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6 comments

  1. Derek Hobson Reply

    This review ends a little abruptly, but I understand it must be challenging to not give away spoilers.
    Otherwise though, this was pun-tastic–loved meth-odical–but I still don’t think I’ll watch it.
    He does sound entertaining though, like a more active JigSaw.

    • J.K. Reply

      I’ve got the uncut & uncensored Pilot on DVD, we’ll watch it sometime & if you’re not jazzed, you can leave it alone. Honestly I was hoping to do Shark Horse this week but I haven’t had any time, I’m on the verge of trying to find nap-time at work so I can stay awake for tech for Woman in Black, late nights & early mornings. So I figured I could put together a little something something more as an intrigue to the show than an actual review, to review I would need to talk about everyone who died. Everyone! Maybe a season by season play as the finale sinks in over time.

      • Derek Hobson Reply

        Sounds ambitious, I like it!
        Yeah, believe me your enthusiasm is infectious, I’m just not wowed by the premise.

  2. Pierce Nahigyan Reply

    I’ve been meaning to watch this show forever. Now that it’s over my deadline’s pretty much erased. I’ve got this and The Wire and the last 3 seasons of Mad Men to catch up on and that’s pretty much all the TV I’ve got on my plate. After finishing season 2 of Carnivale I’m terrified of getting into another show I like before it’s in a DVD box set. I’m still in recovery from the end of Kings.

    • J.K. Reply

      AGH, YEAH, CARNIVALE! I’M IN YOUR BOAT, I DON’T WAN TO START A SHOW UNLESS I KNOW THEY WERE ABLE TO END IT. THE AV CLUB FINALLY DID AN INTERVIEW WITH DANIEL KNOPF (SP?) AND HE REVEALED THE BASIC IDEAS OF WHAT WOULD HAVE HAPPENED IN FUTURE SEASONS. IF THAT SHOW HAD MOVED JUST A LITTLE QUICKER I THINK IT COULD HAVE SURVIVED TO SEASON 3. AND THE WIRE IS DEFINITELY ON MY WATCH LIST NOW THAT I’M DONE WITH BREAKING BAD.

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