On January 20th 2008, AMC’s Breaking Bad premiered. A show in which a high school chemistry teacher finds out he has cancer and ends up producing crystal meth in order to be able to leave money for his family to live with after he passes. The show can easily be described but there is no easy way to express the genius of the show. From the first episode, Breaking Bad establishes a relatable atmosphere that almost seems as if one is joining the cast for a ride and not just watching something unfold in front of you. The protagonist of the show is a man who is working at an average paying job to support his family, This one line not only describes the show but also millions of people in the United States because it is an extremely common situation. For nearly 6 years I heard about Breaking Bad and never cared to watch it because I couldn’t be less interested about a show in which drugs are one of the main subjects but after watching it earlier this year, I realized that the show is much more than just about drugs. Breaking Bad is full of twists, well-developed characters, and actors that take their roles seriously and thus makes this the greatest television series that has ever been produced.
Breaking Bad lasted five seasons, what I consider the gold spot since it is enough seasons to develop characters and tell a good story in detail but not long enough to have the need for lots of fill-in episodes and arcs that take away from the goal of the protagonist. The amount of seasons that a show lasts for does not have anything to do with how good the show is, a great example of this is How I Met Your Mother. HIMYM lasted 9 seasons but it was originally supposed to end a number of seasons prior to that. Show creators usually base the number of seasons on how popular the show is and how much money they can squeeze out of the show. Vince Gilligan, the one credited with the creation of Breaking Bad, started the show with the idea that “television is historically good at keeping its characters in a self-imposed stasis so that shows can go on for years or even decades,”(Newsweek, Andrew Romano). This mindset is what makes Breaking Bad so different from other television series, the main character isn’t static and changes based on the decision he makes. Vince Gilligan created Walter White (the main character) as a family man like any other who also pays the bills, lives in the suburbs, and works at a low paying job. When the main character is diagnosed with cancer, it creates an emotional connection with the audience since it serves as a reminder that Walter White could be any other person or even the viewer himself. Peter Gould, the producer of the show, acknowledges that Breaking Bad is “definitely a dark show, but it’s not dark for the sake of trying to shock”(THR, Aaron). This is very important because if the show was anymore darker, it would cause more of a divide between the audience and the world of the show since it would no longer be as relatable.
One of the aspects of Breaking Bad that made me come to the conclusion that it is indeed the best television series ever produced is the shows character development. The show sets up a whole world full of characters that are dynamic and are affected by the decisions of everyone around them. If we look past the crystal meth aspect of the show we are greeted with a show about a man who wants to provide for his family but ends up becoming addicted to his hobby and wanting more money to be able to leave for his family. Walter White is introduced as a humble man whom people don’t really care for nor respect, but there are many hidden aspects about the show that allows for the audience to interpret things however he/she chooses. One of the biggest arguments throughout the show is whether or not Walter White was always a sociopath or if he became one due to cancer and the line of work he ended up getting into. Scott Meslow from The Atlantic mentions that “cancer was merely the catalyst for Walter’s transformation; all the elements that have since turned him into a monster were already in place”. This is my theory as well since sociopaths don’t emerge overnight, they are usually lurking within society just usually as the average joe or an outcast. Amidst everything, Walter White still loves and cares for his family but it’s just in his own twisted way. Walter White portrays the dilemma of what a man’s role in society is. Should a man be average or should he go beyond the call of duty to try and provide for his family? It’s obvious that Walter White goes too far but the question still stands. Cancer is the catalyst that allows him to let his emotions control his actions and gets him into tough situations but behind everything is Walt’s want for money to make himself feel better. Walter White is able to do all the things he does because he has nothing to lose since he was ready to die from cancer.
The acting in the Breaking Bad series is what ties everything up and adds the finishing touches. Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White and Aaron Paul’s portrayal of Jesse Pinkman are what drives the show and create an atmosphere that captivated millions. Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White is what captivated me the most throughout the whole series. In the first season, Walter is focused on his family’s financial status after his departure, this creates a very relatable tone that families can relate to and make Walt the good guy. By the last season Walt becomes obsessed with accumulating as much money as he can and arguably becomes the villain, he is no longer the same person as the Walt from season one because all of the changes he has made have affected him and caused him to change. Walter White isn’t the only character that transforms by the end. At the beginning of the show, Jesse’s character is a drug junkie who looks dangerous yet all of the murders he commits have a serious effect on his well being while Walt is not heavily affected after killing people. I find these changes to be somewhat of a revelation on how some of the kindest/quietest people are sometimes the most dangerous. Dean Norris portrays the role of Hank Schrader, Walter Whites brother in law, who serves as an example that people’s perceptions of others can create blind spots. Hank Schrader’s ultimate goal is to catch “Heisenberg” (Walter White) which he fails to find because he was hiding in plain sight and people thought of Walter White as someone who would be incapable of even hurting a fly. RJ Mitte plays Walter Walt Jr. on the show and does an amazing job of playing an innocent bystander who always tries to see the best in his father and it helps keep the show balanced with Walter continued emotional tie to his son who he does love. The whole series manages to balance all types of emotions and it creates an emotional rollercoaster that the viewer gets to be a part of and grow with. Vince Gilligan, the shows creator, mentions that “the individual fan needs to ask themselves if they rooted for Walt the whole time, or did they lose sympathy the whole way, and how do they feel about him now that it’s over”(amctv). The Vince Gilligan’s mindset is in the right place, he wanted the characters of the show to change over time but created enough twists and connections that different viewers have different thoughts on the characters actions and what they have become in the end.
A show that can captivate an audience and keep them at the edge of their seat season after season is a show that deserves the title of the greatest television series aired to date. Breaking Bad managed to outdo itself season after season and somehow managed to end with a bang. Most shows fail to live up to their expectations after the first few seasons but Breaking Bad didn’t let me, nor any of the people I know, down once it finished. The series managed to get viewers such as myself to feel bad for the main characters and root for them but also hate them at times. The characters in Breaking Bad dramatically change throughout the show which allows the audience to feel as if they are changing with the characters. The acting in the show was spot-on which allowed for everything that was going on to feel real as if the audience could just go to New Mexico and find the characters lives unfolding. Ultimately, Breaking Bad is a masterpiece that unfolds over five seasons and is, without a doubt, the best television series to date.
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