(The following review could not be written without some Necessary Bowling Words. If such words offendeth thee, please grabbeth thy Sharpie on a Keyring, and scribble over said Offensive Language as it appeareth on your screen.)
It’s Breaking Bad Week.
For those of you whose hearts don’t race a bit or find yourselves suddenly needing to yell, “Yeah! Science, bitch!”, I’m here to explain why this is Such A Big Freaking Deal, just in time for you to pull several all-nighters with your Netflix account so you can be caught up in time for the August 11 start of The Bitter Blue End.
Breaking Bad is a show about a loser chemistry teacher: Walter White. Walter has cancer. Walter drives The World’s Ugliest Mode of Transportation. Walter is desperate to provide some security for his family after he’s gone. Walter’s initial good intentions ignite a series of events that transform him from Regular Loser Public School Teacher into Heisenberg: simply The Scariest Bad-Ass Drug Lord You’ve Ever Even Heard Of.
Walter thinks this is an Improvement.
What makes this show brilliant is the writing, and the commitment of the actors to bring the characters so realistically to life. Byran Cranston, who plays Walter, displays this commitment so clearly in the premiere episode, when Walter must appear pants-less and crazy in his JCPenney button-down and tighy-whities holding a gun. When the show’s director Vince Gilligan came up to him and asked him if he wanted to wear something different, because the look is just so awful, so absolutely bad. From the GQ article linked above (which y’all should all read):
“Would you be more comfortable in sweatpants? Or boxers?”
He said, “Yeah, I’d be more comfortable. What’s your point?”
“So you’re okay with the tighty-whities?”
“Well, what’s the most pathetic thing I could be wearing here?” Cranston asked.
And he said, ‘Well, what else do we need to talk about?”
“I genuinely could not care less how I look,” Cranston says now.
The rest of the cast is equally devoted to rendering their character as honestly as possible. Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman is my favorite character: he’s the unlikely moral compass of the show, and Aaron plays him brilliantly.
Breaking Bad illustrates what a tangled moral complexity life can become, how our good intentions can morph into evil so smoothly, how our sins eat away at us, and how everyone is carrying some heavy ache. Walter White’s story shows how sin and redemption can occupy the same space at the same time, how love and hate can often live in the same house, how fear clouds our judgment and makes us weak without us ever realizing it. Breaking Bad is alarmingly human, and therefore often offensive, dark, and unintentionally beautiful. The show is bloody and vile and profane and cold. It’s damn funny, morally bankrupt while full of heart, replete with irony and poetry. It’s too real for lots of people, and absolutely inappropriate for children. But, if people interest you, if you appreciate fine story-telling, fantastic acting, and, yeah! science!, then you might wanna check it out.
I hesitate to provide any further details as to the plot, but I will offer the following evidence to further prove how Completely Cool Breaking Bad is:
What other series uses the Language of Flowers so subtly and so brilliantly? (For those of you who know which episode to which I am referring, Lily-of-the-Valley means “return to happiness”, and symbolizes Eve’s tears when she was expelled from the Garden of Eden.)
What other series does a new season promo where the main character reads Percy Shelley, leaving the viewer absolutely shuddering?
Or has its own Mythbusters episode?
Or it’s own Grown-Up Fantasy Lego Game?
Or a better Nine Minute Series recap than LOST did (which is really saying something)?(The following clip contains roughly a zillion spoilers. Do not watch if you’ve never seen the show; instead, go straight to Netflix and cue up Season 1. Trust me, when you call in sick to work because you just can’t believe Walter did *that*, you’re boss will understand. If, however, you’ve seen the show, you’re gonna love this.)