Bad boys, bad boys


A breakdown of why Breaking Bad is televison’s best show

Aren Bergstrom
The Sheaf (University of Saskatchewan)

SASKATOON (CUP) –– Bryan Cranston is Walter White: chemistry teacher, cancer patient and meth cook.

If you haven’t already heard, Breaking Bad is the best show currently on television – an honour it acquired the moment Lost left the airwaves. This high praise isn’t meant to diminish Mad Men or The Walking Dead, which are both great shows, but to merely convince you that if you aren’t watching Breaking Bad, then you need to start doing so as soon as possible. Here’s why.

Bryan Cranston as Walter White

No character on television is as interesting as Cranston’s Walter White. As a high school chemistry teacher who develops terminal cancer and turns to cooking meth to provide for his family, Walt is the archetype of the person who does bad things for good reasons. He’s a hero struggling against the unfairness of his circumstances, trying to do what he thinks is best for his family.

However typical this sounds, we see just how far Walt is willing to go to get what he wants as the show progresses. Scarily, it begins to make us wonder just how bad all the “good” people we know could become.

Cranston, best known as the father on Malcolm in the Middle, doesn’t seem like the obvious choice for the leading man of a gritty crime drama. Watching the show will make you realize how perfect Cranston is for the part.

Aside from meth cook and chemist extraordinaire, Walt is also a struggling husband and father. Breaking Bad gives us a frightening glimpse of the family man as an antihero. By the end of Season 3, you’ll be horrified by what this ailing father has become and enthralled by Cranston’s peerless performance.

And, if none of this has convinced you yet, just know that Cranston has been named the best leading actor in a drama three years in a row at the Emmys.

Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman

Jesse is Walt’s right-hand man. He starts out as a drug dealer and former student of Walt’s, who is blackmailed into dealing Walt’s meth and ends up as Walt’s full-fledged partner in crime.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse is one of the great joys of the show. They’re always bickering, but amidst their disagreements, a father-son dynamic grows. Jesse is what most people would expect from a junkie burnout: he lives in a filthy house, hangs out with dimwit friends, and has no prospects in life beyond smoking another bowl.

However, it soon becomes clear that he is the heart of the show. He may begin most sentences with “yo” and end most with “bitch”, but Jesse becomes the show’s moral centre as Walt veers off the rails. He’ll likely become your favourite character on the show, as he is mine. As well, Aaron Paul won the Best Supporting Actor in a Drama award at the Emmys last year.

Constant tension and realistic stakes

A drug dealer strangled with a bike lock, a body dissolving in fluoric acid, thermite burning through an industrial lock, a severed head on a desert tortoise, twin assassins who brandish an axe and venerate the skeletal Santa Muerte – these are just a few of the very memorable and thrilling components of Breaking Bad.

Every scene has very real stakes at play and all the characters have to truly deal with the consequences of their actions. There are no deus ex machina moments or fluke coincidences to save the characters of Breaking Bad. Everyone gets out by the skin of their teeth. This makes for a show in which every scene is tense, every scenario has stakes, and all the characters live with their choices

You’ll never think of Albuquerque the same again

Who knew Albuquerque could be such a cesspool of scum? Apparently creator Vince Gilligan did, because his show exploits some of the darkest corners of the New Mexico capital.

It’s an architecturally unimpressive city, situated on a flat plain with sprawling suburbs, a rampant drug problem, gang issues, and an oppressed indigenous population. Sound familiar? The fact that Saskatoon could be swapped for Albuquerque makes the gritty realism hit all the closer to home. The resulting atmosphere of the show is one that seems terrifying, yet lived in and all too real.

Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

He may not show up until halfway through the second season, but Bob Odenkirk certainly makes an impression as crooked lawyer Saul Goodman.

The Mr. Show alum has some of the best lines in the show – “Drug dealer getting shot? I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say it’s been known to happen.” – but he’s never just comic relief. He’s an integral part of Walt’s criminal operations and, as the show progresses, Saul gets more depth than you would think possible for a typical seedy lawyer. It’s surprising, but despite the wealth of evidence to the contrary, Bob Odenkirk really can act. It seems like Breaking Bad just brings out the best in people.

The fourth season of Breaking Bad began airing July 17 on AMC.

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