TV Review: AMC's Breaking Bad, Season 1

Change the equation.

Breaking Bad is a 2008-2013 crime series created by Vince Gilligan. It ran for five seasons and sixty-two on AMC. All five seasons are currently streaming on Netflix. It stars Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. The season was nominated for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, winning the latter. The show spawned a spin-off prequel show, Better Call Saul, and a sequel movie, El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie.


"Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?" -Walter White

Plot


Diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, high school chemistry teacher Walter White decides to begin cooking methamphetamine as a way to gain money to provide for his family after he is gone. He teams up with his former student and meth-head Jesse Pinkman, beginning a path of crime and destruction.


Walter White and Bryan Cranston / Making a Ridiculous Concept Work / High Tension and Thrills / Tone and Progressively Darker Narrative / Cancer Plot / Skyler White / Finale Not Really Ending the Season's Storyline


Positive Aspects


WALTER WHITE AND BRYAN CRANSTON

Easily the best thing about the first season of Breaking Bad is it's central character: Walter White. This man almost feels like an early prototype of Joaquin Phoenix's Joker. Walt starts off as an innocent, mild-mannered, and somewhat depressed person that is way too overqualified to be a high school science teacher. Right off the bat, we feel sympathy for him. But as the season progresses and he does more things, he becomes less and less sympathetic and more evil. I still think that he is a legitimately good person by the end of the season, but I'm about a quarter through the second season, and he's beginning to become more of a villain.


Along those lines, Bryan Cranston is just fabulous. He can play all these different dimensions of Walter White. The awkward science teacher. The depressed husband. The sick, poor person that seems fed up with life. And the glimpses we get of "Heisenberg" are scary. Mainly because of Cranston's outstanding portrayal of this character.


MAKING A RIDICULOUS CONCEPT WORK

Breaking Bad is an undeniably strange concept. High school chem teacher gets cancer and becomes drug kingpin and meth cook. If you summarized Breaking Bad in one sentence to any sane person, they'd be repulsed. That does not sound like a show you'd want to watch. But there's so much attention to detail and so much intrigue into this life of Walter White. The screenplays of each episode work hand-in-hand. There is no wasted scenes. Every single line, action, character trait, conversation, and scene matters. Whether it's Jesse putting chili powder in the meth or Walter's conversation with Krazy-8, everything has huge implications. That is one of my favorite aspects of the show.


HIGH TENSIONS AND THRILLS

While it doesn't always choose thrills over drama, when there is a thrilling scene, it is insanely intense. And it gets intense quickly. Breaking Bad does the opposite of what most thrillers do. Instead of slowly building tension and having a big climactic payoff, Breaking Bad will make your heart start to race faster then you can say "meth". The tone can change so quickly, so you are always on the edge of your seat during this show. Always.


TONE AND PROGRESSIVELY DARKER NARRATIVE

The show also gets darker as it goes on. It starts off very bleak because Walt is such a hopeless character. While Walt becomes a much more watchable and likable character, the show gets darker. Jesse and Skyler's lives spiral out of control. There are some gnarly deaths and some brutal blows to the audience. While you don't want Walt to go down this path, you know that he is becoming more likable as the show goes on because he's becoming more evil. As everybody becomes sadder (except Walt) and drug dealers come after Walt and Jesse, the show gets better.


Negative Aspects


CANCER PLOT

While I understand that Walter White having cancer is a critical plot beat and is necessary to the story of Breaking Bad, I didn't really like it when the story would focus on that. My least favorite episode of the season was Cancer Man, the fourth episode, which gave Walt's lung cancer the spotlight. The cancer plot line surrounds Skyler, Hank, Marie, and Walter, Jr.. Those four characters are relatively insufferable. Maybe not Walt, Jr. as much, but the rest of those characters are so unlikable. And that's why I didn't like it when the show would focus in on Walt's illness.


SKYLER WHITE

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the cancer plot, but I could not stand Skyler. She is a necessary and actually somewhat interesting character, and I want to see what happens when she inevitably figures out that Walt is a meth cook. But she is so annoying. She always gets in Walt's way. She is always mopey and whiny. They paint her as this horrible obstacle in Walt's way...and they expect us to think of her as a protagonist. Now, obviously, I'm not saying she's a villain, but she certainly seems to be a more negative force against Walt than a positive force. And she is hard to watch because of how irritating she is.


FINALE NOT REALLY BEING A FINALE

The finale of the season is a legitimately good and thrilling final episode in the season. The only problem is that it doesn't actually wrap up the season. This isn't really a negative. It's more of a mixed aspect. I just like it when the finale of the season ties up all the loose ends of all the revolving plot lines. There can be some threads left hanging and some cliffhangers, but this finale, called A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal, didn't really tie anything up at all. It functioned as a good, fun episode of Breaking Bad, but it wasn't a climactic finale. The seasons should've been stretched out to two more episodes and ended with what now ends up being Season 2 Episode 2, Grilled.


Final Score


While it may still have growing pains, Breaking Bad delivers a dark character study in the first season that shows promise with a very intriguing take on a no so intriguing concept.


I will go Savory. Age range is 14+.


SWEET N' SOUR SCALE

Sweet (Great) Savory (Good)

Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)


"Breaking Bad"


Fun Factor: 7.5/10

Acting: 8.5/10

Story: 8/10

Characters: 8.5/10

Quality: 8.5/10


Created by Vince Gilligan


Rated TV-MA for language, violence, drug and alcohol use, sexual content, disturbing themes and images


Episode runtime: 48 minutes


Bryan Cranston as Walter White

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman

Anna Gunn as Skyler White

Dean Norris as Hank Schrader

RJ Mitte as Walter White, Jr.

Betsy Brandt as Marie Schrader

Raymond Cruz as Tuco Salamanca

Max Arciniega as Krazy-8

Matt L. Jones as Badger

Charles Baker as Skinny Pete