If you’re one of the few unlucky ones who are yet to be converted to the cult, nay religion of Breaking Bad then you should count yourselves lucky. You still have all of the excitement to come – the tension, the twists, the emotional barrage that will leave you reeling and broken come the series finale. Needless to say, Vince Gilligan’s crime drama is unlike anything else you’ve seen on TV (except the official prequel show, Better Call Saul, of course), and thanks to the ever-reliable powers of Netflix, available for your viewing/binge-ing pleasure at any time.
So, what makes Breaking Bad worth skiving off your lectures for? Well, principally the show’s strength lies in its characters. The show boasts a veritable tour de force in its duo of protagonists, the meek high-school chemistry teacher-turned methamphetamine kingpin, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his good-hearted junkie partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Appropriately, the pair bounce off each other like two opposing atoms in every scene, able to convey a huge range of emotions from a tender, father-son like affection to boiling, murderous rage, and it never comes out of nowhere. Supporting them are such endearing characters as Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), Walter’s masculine brother-in-law who, ironically enough, works as a Drug Enforcement Agent, and Bob Odenkirk’s sardonic, scene-stealing lawyer Saul Goodman. The show often progresses at a carefree pace, sprinkling plot developments sparingly but effectively, and so you never feel short-changed by your time spent with the characters. But, when the proverbial turds hit the fan, you can find yourself clawing for breath, desperately praying for your favourite characters to make it out of there alive. It also helps that the show’s revolving door of villains are so compelling and frightening, ranging from the stone-cold murderer Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), to the serenely-composed drug overlord Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
But character isn’t the only aspect of the show worthy of praise. Breaking Bad employs some of the most visually-arresting cinematography in the business, with inventive use of GoPro, shaky cam and lighting. Storytelling also benefits from these left-field choices too, with cold opens and flashforwards that keep you on your toes as the story unravels at whatever pace it feels appropriate. One excellent example of the show’s prolonged style of revealing story details is demonstrated in Season 2, with a wonderful series of flashforwards that foretell disaster for the characters. However, the way that these abstract images actually play out as the arc builds to its climax is completely unpredictable, rewarding a repeat viewing, as well as eager analysis going forwards, as the motifs and symbolisms continue to reverberate throughout the narrative in later seasons. To say anything more than ‘teddy bear’ would be to deprive you of glorious storytelling that you NEED to experience for yourself.
Investing in Breaking Bad is like putting your money on an up and coming race horse. Seeing the narrative and characters evolve towards devastating and compelling ends is infinitely-rewarding, even more so if you are fortunate enough to evade any kind of spoilers. Breaking Bad is the show, nay experience, that you need in your life, and if you haven’t yet had the privilege, go seek it out with extreme prejudice.