The first decade of the 21st century has experienced an explosion of quality on the television landscape. Creators are now able to craft stories that are gripping, mesmerizing, and fully able to capture the attention of viewers throughout multiple seasons. Acting ensembles also play a major role in bringing the vision of those creators to life on the golden screen. In addition, and perhaps most crucial, the standard of the writing has risen to a point that has made those television shows true pieces of art, both aesthetically and intellectually. And there is possibly no other show that has been able to combine all of those aspects in as perfect a way as Breaking Bad has; it is simply an incredible show that draws viewers into its unique world from the very first scene. Led by one of television’s strongest group of actors as well as being conceived in the mind of a creative genius, it is certainly a show destined to be a future television classic.
Breaking Bad is an AMC TV show that is created by Vince Gilligan. The show features one of television’s most impressive casts which includes: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, and Bob Odenkirk. The television show revolves around a chemistry genius who, as a result of being diagnosed with lung cancer, quits his job as a high school teacher to cook and sell the world’s purest form of crystal meth along with the help of an ex-student. Breaking Bad is now on its fifth and final season, with the series finale scheduled to air on the 29th of this month.
As Breaking Bad’s main and most crucial character, Bryan Cranston is quite magnificent as the chemistry-teacher-turned-drug-cook Walter White. Cranston puts his Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006) days firmly behind him and fully transforms himself into Walter White. Walt is a brilliant man who fully understands all facets of chemistry and suddenly decides to start producing and distributing the cleanest form of meth. We watch as Cranston’s Walt morphs into an erratic, bitter, and angry man who becomes impatient with those around him, especially his ‘associates’. However, his incredible loyalty and love for his family provides him with a moral center, for which he would do anything. In fact, it is this journey through which viewers witness a drastically-changing Walter White with each passing season that makes Cranston’s performance so hypnotic and thrilling.
Aaron Paul takes up the role of Jesse Pinkman, the former student who joins Walter White in his newly-established drug business. This is clearly the breakthrough performance of Paul’s career to date and he certainly delivers stunning and exceptional work. Jesse is a young man with a lost soul looking for love and attention, two things that he lacks and desperately searches for in his life. However, Pinkman tries to make up for that gap with his street smarts, making him an important partner to Walt. It is Jesse who is relied upon, thanks to his people skills and social intelligence, to further enhance the growing customer base of their ‘business’. What makes me really impressed with Aaron Paul is the level of care and attention he gives in his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman, creating one of television’s most absorbing and heartbreaking characters ever.
Playing the role of Skyler White, Walt’s wife, is the superb Anna Gunn. This is the first time I am exposed to Gunn’s acting and she is definitely one of the best female actresses of her generation. As the dedicated wife, Skyler soon realizes the nature of her husband’s ‘business’, a revelation that changes her life forever in more ways than one. Skyler is a confident, strong, and self-reliant woman who is able to handle herself in any given situation and we see Gunn fully engaged with her character. The result? Skyler White is without question one of television’s most memorable female characters.
There is also the character of Hank Schrader, Walter and Skyler’s brother-in-law, who is brought to life by the talented actor Dean Norris. Hank is a man with high morals who enjoys a very close relationship with the Whites and sees them as true family members. Despite his tough outward persona, Hank goes through many rough and unexpected changes viewers do not see coming. Norris’s work here is really good as he is able to provide a strong performance that has the audience supporting and cheering for him, despite some questionable actions. This makes Hank Schrader one of Breaking Bad’s many fascinating characters.
A special mention should also be given to the series’ best guest actor, Giancarlo Esposito, who portrays the cold, cruel, and calculating villain Gustavo ‘Gus’ Fring. Gus seems at first glance to be a normal and peaceful man but what lies beneath is a terrifying and ruthless individual who controls a substantial crime ring. His clash and interaction with Walter White ranks amongst the best television duels I have ever seen. It is also the seamlessness with which Esposito is able to inhabit his character that strikes me as his most admirable quality. He really is Gustavo Fring and the viewer is intimidated by every action and speech this character makes. When combined, these aspects make for a fantastic and mesmerizing guest appearance by Giancarlo Esposito. A fine, fine actor.
Another facet of Breaking Bad that makes it such a well-done television show is the incredible crew of directors and writers. With creator Vince Gilligan as their leader, the team goes about developing truly magnificent story-lines for all the main characters and telling them in a way that keeps viewers on the edge of their seats, not knowing where the scenes will lead them to. They also are brave enough to create self-contained episodes such as season three’s tenth episode “Fly”, which revolves around a fly that is bothering Walt and Jesse to no end. That speaks volumes about the crew’s willingness to try and experiment with the television formula, and it is a gamble that pays off in spades.
There is also the wonderful and gorgeous imagery of Breaking Bad that is truly notable. Thanks to cinematographer Michael Solvis, the show has many scenes that are truly striking and rank amongst the most beautiful shots ever taken for a television show. His camera captures the desert of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the show’s events take place, in a way that is intimate, majestic, and breathtaking. Solvis’s lighting and color selections for the interior scenes are equally as good, bringing the characters into focus within a vibrant environment. Michael Solvis’s work in Breaking Bad is so good that I doubt that many other shows can rival the marvelous job he manages to accomplish. He is probably the most talented cinematographer working in the television industry these days.
And I also cannot forget to mention the amazing music used in the show. The main theme for Breaking Bad is composed by Dave Porter and is a tune that offers an excellent glimpse of the craziness and chaos that is to follow. Not only is the main theme brilliant, but the songs and tunes used throughout the television show are also expertly selected as they mesh perfectly with the scenes, creating as a whole a compelling and vibrant soundtrack.
By the end of September, Breaking Bad ended its ground-breaking run after five magnificent seasons that have showcased some of the best directing, writing, acting, and cinematography one has ever witnessed on television. It goes without saying that it is a show that will be sorely missed but it is good to see it end on a high with what I see as a quite satisfying conclusion to Walt and Jesse’s wild adventure. But regardless of how one feels about the series finale, Breaking Bad has already done a lot of things that deservedly makes it a future television classic.
MATM Season 1 Rating: **** out of ****
MATM Season 2 Rating: **** out of ****
MATM Season 3 Rating: **** out of ****
MATM Season 4 Rating: **** out of ****
MATM Season 5 Rating: **** out of ****
- Bryan Cranston (as Walter White)
- Aaron Paul (as Jesse Pinkman)
- Anna Gunn (as Skyler White)
- Dean Norris (as Hank Schrader)
- Betsy Brandt (as Marie Schrader)
- RJ Mitte (as Walter White, Jr.)
- Bob Odenkirk (as Saul Goodman)
Crime / Drama / Thriller