Ten years ago Breaking Bad premiered and changed the landscape of Television forever. It was a groundbreaking show that told one story through multiple seasons, about the journey of a “good every day guy” who gets cancer and provides for his family by cooking meth with one of his old students.
Walter White is one of Television’s most memorable characters and his slow transformation during the course of the series to Heisenberg is absolutely remarkable and fascinating to watch. Brian Cranston portrayed the character flawlessly and evoked empathy from the viewers towards the character when needed as well as fear and hatred when he did terrible things. His rise, fall and eventual redemption is the outline of the show and Vince Gilligan has crafted a masterpiece. The writing, acting, humor, cinematography, plotting, characters, twists and turns are unlike anything else that has ever appeared on television.
Walter White is father to Walter Jr (a 16 year old handicapped brilliantly played by R.J. Mitte) and an unborn daughter and husband to Skylar White. He also has a brother in law named Hank and a sister in law named Mary. He is a highshcool chemistry teacher who also works at a car wash. Walt is a reserved man with little confidence but that changes the day he learns that he has cancer. Walt could have taken the money his old colleagues Gretchen and Elliot offer him but he refuses out of pride and decides to cook meth with his partner, Jesse Pinkman, who usually messes things up and Walt is left cleaning up his mess, like when Jessie melts a body with acid in a bathtub. A lot of the comedy and situations are also due to the RV they use as a transport to cook in the desert, which always dies on them (even though they could have easily fixed this by bringing an extra car).
Aaron Paul is fantastic as the meathead/dealer Jesse (who despite using meth throughout the series, has perfect teeth, a flaw Gilligan has admittedly regretted). The chemistry between Walt and Jesse is so entertaining, as they go through their highs and lows (mostly their lows). Badger and Skinny Pete are also friends of Jesse and often bring comic relief to the show and are great side characters. While they often fight with each other and they do have an unlikely partnership, Walt and Jesse do however respect each other and that respect lasts throughout the series even when they both betray each other several times and things do go rough for them from the get go. Jesse isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but Walt needs Jesse since he knows the players and the business. He’s also extremely easy to manipulate, which Walt uses often as his advantage.
Anna Gunn gives a great performance as Skyler, but despite all the shows strong characters, she is the weakest and most annoying of all. Her character switches loyalties numerous times during the show, a quality that makes her unbearable to watch and while she does add suspense in the first two seasons as Walt lies to her about what he does and where he goes, she should have been better written, or a more consistent and thorough character. She does have her moments and she’s not useless and does provide a great lie by telling her brother in law Hank (who is also a DEA agent) that Walt has an addiction to gambling, which is something Walt never even thought off. Skyler also has an affair with Ted, someone from her past as she takes a job at his work place. She later becomes an accomplice to her husband after she learns the horrible truth and catches him in between lies, and even asks him when they need to get rid of an opponent, “what’s one more?”
Dean Norris is amazing as Hank and while does sometimes can get on your nerve, it’s all consistent and part of his character. He’s also very funny (“That ass is like an onion, makes me want to cry”). He’s great at his job and will fight until his last breath. He can be annoying and flat out irritating at times (poor Marie) but he has a good heart. Hank will stop at nothing to catch Heisenberg, unaware for most of the series that the drug kingpin is in fact his brother in law. Walt investigates Heisenberg throughout the seres until he goes to the toilet and reads Walt’s book Leaves Off Grass. After discovering Walt’s true persona, Hank confronts him in his garage and the manhunt is on.
His hunt for Heisenberg is one of the most entertaining aspects of the show. In the episode Sunset, where Hank tracks Jesse to his parked RV while Walt and Jesse are inside is one of the most suspenseful moments in the series. “This is my private domicile and I will not be harassed bitch!” Jesse exclaims just before Walt has the brilliant idea of fooling Hank by telling him that his wife is in the hospital. Hank leaves in a rush and Walt and Jesse manage to destroy the RV. Hank realizes it was all a diversion and that his wife was fine (if he had called his wife then and there the diversion would not have worked).
Bob Odenkirk arrives in the series in season 2 and quickly becomes one of the best parts of the show. He’s Jimmy McGill a.k.a. Saul Goodman, the world’s best lawyer and helps Walt and Jesse in the drug trade. The episode where Saul is first introduced entitled “Better Call Saul” is one highlights of the series. His character is delved deeper in the spin-off series where we learn how Jimmy McGill becomes Saul Goodman. His handyman, Mike is played superbly by Jonathan Banks and becomes integral to the series moving forward when Walt decides to do business with Gustavo Fring, an empire Kingpin, which forces Walt to do an exchange and miss the birth of his daughter.
Gustavo Fring is the main villain of the series for seasons 2-4 and he’s absolutely terrifying and chilling. You do not want to double cross this man and Walt challenges him and wins with the help of Hector Salamanca, one of Gus’s old rivals. Gustavo’s storyline is one of the most suspenseful’s of the series and culminates in a bang in the season 4 finale where Gus and Hector go head to head and Gustavo’s death is the catalyst that makes Walt fully become Heisenberg.
Season 5 A and B introduces Todd, his uncle Jack, the Nazis and Lydia, who all play an integral part in the series finale. They are worthy opponents for Heisenberg, who has already gone against men like Tuco and the twins. The finale season is my favorite season of Breaking Bad and the series finale is the best one that I have ever seen. It’s extremely satisfying and fulfilling in all the best ways possible. Everything is tied together perfectly and every question that was raised in the season opener like Walt buying a machine gun (Vince Gilligan admitted that he had no idea why Walt bought it at the time but had confidence that they’d figure out a reason why) and him getting the ricin from his destroyed home. Walt ultimately gets his redemption by saving Jesse, getting closure with his wife and son. He gives his wife the coordinates of Hank and Gomez’s corpses, and manages to kill Todd, Jack, the Nazis with a machine gun and poisons Lydia with ricin. Jesse is free, Walt dies, just as the cops arrive as the song “Baby Blue” plays. While Walt’s sins are too many to count to forgive and he ruined countless of lives since the very beginning, but in his final moments, just like Darth Vader, Walt found his redemption.
Vince Gilligan and his team of writers have created a show that has sustained the test of time and is still talked about to this day and with it’s spinoff “Better Call Saul” now entering it’s fourth season, the Breaking Bad universe is far from fading from people consciousness. It’s a masterfully directed and brilliantly written drama with wonderful characters. Breaking Bad changed the face of television forever and has and will continue to influence TV for years to come.