Graeme is back again for a late to the party review of the AMC hit, Breaking Bad. Not only does he review the show but discusses just exactly how Bryan Cranston’s character Walter White breaks bad.
While a little late to the party I’m sure, Power Cords has allowed me to take a stab at television’s most watched, Breaking Bad and I am honored as it is, along with many others on the planet, possibly my most favored of shows. Yes, there will be a recap of the first episode of the new season but my hope is that our readership will appreciate the in-depth analysis and review of this most-watched series. This unique insight is what we at Power Cords like to bring to our audience.
What it is: Walter White is a mild-mannered high school physics teacher and is played by Bryan Cranston. White is portrayed much akin to Cranston’s former role as Hal from Malcolm in the Middle with less bumbling idiot and more cancer. Yes, Walter White gets cancer and is under crippling debt with his wife, Skyler White, due with a second child soon and his son afflicted with cerebral palsy. What’s a man in his position to do? Make crystal meth of course. We learn Walter is in fact quite a capable scientist, developing Nobel Prize winning work in his former years and after a time, falling from grace. Now stuck with his circumstances, he uses his knowledge of chemistry to manufacture the purest methamphetamine the world has ever seen. He does so with the help of a former student-turned-drug dealer Jesse Pinkman, and the two have hilarious misadventures whilst cooking crystal meth.
Why I dig it: Except there is nothing hilarious about it. Breaking Bad is dark and twisted and Bryan Cranston does a phenomenal portrayal of the character, Walter White. With several awards for his performance it is easy to claim so and I believe Bryan Cranston is possibly the best actor you’ll find on T.V. today. That alone should get you hooked but luckily for the addict in all of us the show has so much more to offer.
As the title may suggest, Breaking Bad can be boiled down to what exactly constitutes ‘bad’. Any freshman who’s had a philosophy class will go Nietzschean on you and dole out slogans on what an abstract concept the word ‘bad’ is but with Breaking Bad you can observe this happening in real time. Walter is inherently a good person, regardless of how you believe a human becomes good; we meet him as a nice, downtrodden old man with a big heart and even bigger love for his family. Walter has been given a raw deal in life, and again, however you believe a person comes to have these circumstances effect their lives, they stand as burdens on a man who wants nothing but good for his family. This introduction of the character lends our hearts to pity him, with the cancer diagnosis really tugging at our heartstrings. Then we watch him transform. The transformation is gradual, and along the way he does many terrible things; murder, drug trafficking, etc. but the beginning of the series shows us that he does these things for his families well being. This calls into question what it is to be ‘bad’; is it a man’s intentions, actions, or thoughts that make him ‘bad’? The answer is convoluted and the unfolding of the series beautifully illustrates this moral question.
What we see in the first few seasons is Walter breaking into the drug business. As I am sure most of us could easily guess, the drug business is not at all a nice one. So here we have our good man, Walter White, getting mixed in with the wretched, horrible world of drug trafficking. We see Walter become involved with a series of evil people too caught up in the business. They are violent, sociopathic, and lend themselves to arrogance. Much of the terrible things Walter does within the series is purely reactionary, a detail I feel most miss out on. [SPOILER ALERT] Walter kills Krazy-8 because 8 threatens to kill him and his family. All the dealers and suppliers Walter encounters fall to Walter after threatening him and his family [END OF SPOILERS].
Walter has one mission: make as much money as he can with what time he has left but a myriad of obstacles get in his way. These are mostly people trying to screw him over, murder him, steal, etc. and he will not tolerate it. Hell, the whole reason Walter enters the drug business is a reaction to his life’s circumstances. Perhaps it can be argued that outer forces drive people to become ‘bad’, as it is clearly the case of Walter White. Make no mistake, Walter breaks bad, real bad. Terrorism, arson, pre-meditated murder, all these things Walter commits in the name of his business and what we can see now, with the beginning of the fifth season, is that Walter is no longer the good man we were introduced to. Slowly up until now we’ve seen flashes of a cold, calculating man but now he is nothing but, hollowed out by the atrocities he has committed, jaded by the destruction he has wrought. It was his intention to never kill or hurt or anything otherwise but he has seen what happens to people, what extremes people force him to that has caused him to become remorseless.
Inherently what Walter has done is unforgivable. The manufacture of drugs is something no sane person would condone and yet we love to watch. Much the same occurs when we watch Dexter, as our protagonist carves his way through humanity and yet we can’t help but adore them. Ultimately this is what attracts us to the show, and has catapulted its themes and message into our conscience.