Wednesday, June 22, 2011

‘Breaking Bad’: Life and Meth in New Mexico

I finally saw the complete third season of AMC’s terrific series, “Breaking Bad,” hands down my favorite TV program of the past several years. In fact, I’ve got to say that BB might be the best thing on the tube – ever.
I hear your chiding. “Bold statement.”
Settle down and listen.
For it’s unpredictable twists, as well as the amount of heart the show displays, there are few, if any, that are better.
There’s more to talk about in this show than a mere blog posting can accommodate, from the protagonist, Albuquerque every-man Walt White’s relationship with his cohort, Jesse Pinkman, to his deteriorating marriage, and relationship with his handicapped teenaged son.
Bryan Cranston, who plays our anti-hero Walt White, achieves the near impossible (SPOILERS HERE, but if you haven’t heard, then you’ve been living in a Pakistani compound), he’s a likable guy who happens to be a meth manufacturer and dealer. It’s an incredible feat to make this work, but somehow Cranston does. This also speaks to the power of the “Breaking Bad” writers, who take hard-to-like characters and somehow make us root for them. (Another spoiler follows. If that’s a problem you should have already stopped reading.) The show’s conceit is that Walt suffers from terminal cancer. He’s got a handicapped son, a mortgage and a wife, and aside from being a high school chemistry teacher, he works a part-time job as a car wash attendant. And in economically broken America of the 2010s, he can no longer provide for his family.
We aren’t supposed to think, “So, under those circumstances, who WOULDN’T deal meth. Walt is a flawed character. He may be the dumbest genius we’ve ever seen on TV. He makes stupid choices, even though his heart is in the right place. Ultimately, we must feel sorry for his unsuspecting family.
Jesse, his partner in crime, is a former high school pupil of Walt’s, and a first-class screw-up. Together, they make beautiful music. Jesse knows the meth business – at least, somewhat – and Walt knows chemistry.
The sharpies and pros that they meet up with in the course of trying to run an illegal business are an education for Walt. Less so for Jesse, who has seen his share of drug-addled opportunists.
By Season 3, we see the transformation of Walt, from high school teacher to “gangsta.” And his mild-manner wife, Skyler, loses much of her innocence, as well.
There are too many sub-plots to discuss here, from the local drug king pin who seems to be a meek businessman, to the two strangely mute cousins who cross the border into Gringo-Land to raise a bit of hell with the locals and pursue Walt. I can only suggest that you see it, starting with Episode 1, Season 1. Immediately.

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