It’s no hyperbole. AMC’s Breaking Bad is, quite simply, the greatest show ever to hit the small screen. [5 Minute interval as I kneel and pray before my Bryan Cranston Poster.]
Let’s take a step back real quick here. I’m quick to acknowledge that many television fans have shown infinite and emphatic praise for iconic television series such as The Wire and The Sorpranos. Admittedly, I have not seen the entirety of these shows, but I do not believe that makes me unqualified to back up my statement. I do know and recognize that these two television shows were very popular and highly praised over the course of their tenure, and I look forward to watching them in their entirety soon, but the fact of the matter is that Breaking Bad for lack of a better word, “Broke” ground. [Tee-Hee]
Now, let’s take a look at the plot lines and stories for The Wire and The Sopranos, just as a comparison. As I understand, The Wire runs as somewhat of a crime-drama anthology, telling a separate story each season about different factions of crime in Baltimore. While its style deviates from the traditional crime-drama standard set by the Law & Order series, we have seen good cops, bad cops, drug dealers, and sketchy politicians before. I’m not taking anything away from the series, but upon hearing the plot, it is nothing that would essentially wow me in terms of a general plot.
The Sopranos, however, seemed to take the mafia genre and knock it out of the park, however, we have seen this before. Again, not that the show isn’t fantastic, but the show is taking a noticeable formula that has been done several times over. The mafia genre was certainly perfected in film by the time GoodFellas was released, so a show detailing the exploits of a mob Don (Tony Soprano) doesn’t seem to be anything unfamiliar. Breaking Bad, however, took many people by surprise, including myself.
2008 hits, enter Breaking Bad, an extremely low key series picked up by The AMC Network. At the time, AMC was not quite the original programming Titan it has become today. Mad Men had just begun months before Breaking Bad, and I remember usually just tuning into the channel every October for their October Monsterfest programming, but I digress.
Breaking Bad gives the audience a hero from the very first episode: Walter White, a sap who lives a life as a high school chemistry teacher. We learn Walt to be extremely overqualified for his job, as he has never had a true grasp on his life, and didn’t seize his opportunities. Here is where a large percentage of the audience can relate; we all feel as if we have missed opportunities along the highway of life, and Walter is the prime example of a great person who settled for mediocrity. After Walter is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, he takes his chemical expertise to the streets in a partnership with a former student (Aaron Paul) to manufacture the most pure and effective crystal methamphetamine in all of Albuquerque. As Walt slowly delves deeper into the dark world of drug rings, he sinks to new lows and faces countless character challenges that gradually turn him into one of the most feared drug moguls in all of the SouthWest. Gone is Walter White, present is “Heisenberg.”
The show’s greatness lies within the simplicity of the story: “Good guy turns to bad guy.” When you’re black and white about it, that’s as simple as it gets, but creator Vince Gilligan and a crack team of writers brought some of the most dynamic characters onto the screen to create the most layered and precise show ever brought to television.
In short, each character is crafted brilliantly, layered with each of their own journeys, struggles, and tribulations to fight through. As the story progresses, each character shows their true colors, and even take risks beyond their paygrade. That’s what film, television, radio serials, novels, short stories, and children’s books all succeed off of: Characters. Breaking Bad is the ultimate source of drama, tension, hilarious dark humor, and moral insight. Breaking Bad is nothing short of a spiritual experience that we all share as fans, and as human beings.
Without a single “slow season” or misstep throughout the entirety of the show, Breaking Bad is the one in a million instance of a show where they have simply gotten EVERYTHING right [as of episode 513]. The last hoorah lies just a few weeks ahead. Never again will a generation of television come upon us, and never will we share such an experience again. We will always remember the name Walter White, and “Heisenberg” will always live on.