June 28, 2013

Why I Love Breaking Bad

Not until recently did I get hooked on the AMC show Breaking Bad, which is the story of high school chemistry teacher becoming a meth cook after learning he has cancer. I have to admit at first it sounded like a strange concept for a show and I wasn't sure I would like it. You see, back in the day I used to teach classes at the local jail, where I would be locked in a room with a dozen or so inmates. It was there that I saw firsthand the horrendous effects of meth addiction. I literally now can look at a crowd and pick out people who have used meth heavy for a long time. So I wasn't sure I wanted to watch a television show that glamorized the use of meth.

After much coaxing from a friend of mine, I finally watched the first episode of the first season. It opens with pants flying through the air in the middle of the desert, a motor home flying down a dirt road and quite a few other crazy things. Bryan Cranston does an excellent job of playing Walter White, the underachieving high school chemistry teacher who when faced with a horrible life situation turns to a desperate solution. Aaron Paul also does an excellent job of playing a suburban kid trying to act urban while satisfying his drug addiction. And let me tell you, Paul's character's addiction is not treated kindly or glamorously in the series.

The writing is top-notch. Many episodes start with a tremendous hook that draws you in, making you want to watch to the end to find out how things end up like they do in the flash-forward hooks. Nothing about the series seems forced, but instead it seems like the writers have allowed the writers to run free in their environment so the story evolves organically. There are no cheap tricks to make the series last longer (cough, cough, like in the Walking Dead). I personally think the series is a wonderful example of some honest and intriguing writing. Not only that, but the cinematography is top-notch, with so many interesting shots using a variety of camera angles and methods.

And the music in the series is incredible. There is something for everyone, literally. I personally rather enjoy many of the Spanish language songs in the show, which range from modern rap to old classics. And there are songs from Stonewall Jackson, Gnarls Barkley, Wang Chung, Robert Palmer, America, the Pretenders, Mozart, the Doors and so many more. The music is very much in the forefront of many scenes, giving an incredible feeling to the series.

And yes, I have to admit the Albuquerque connection is fun for me. For those who don't know, I grew up in Albuquerque or the Duke City. Seeing different areas that I know from my hometown as well as references to things like Blake's Lotaburger is incredibly nostalgic for me. I also enjoy watching the scenes in Spanish and ignoring the subtitles, since the sentidos in Spanish are so much more genuine.

The show tackles some pretty weighty issues about marriage, love, family, crime, drug abuse, fellowship, loyalty, business tactics and especially about going out and getting what you want. When the series started I felt quite sorry for Walt and found Jesse to be annoying and worthless. But as the series has moved on the characters have been anything but static and I now feel no sympathy for Walt and find myself at least fairly sympathetic toward Jesse. And then there is the issue of Skyler, Walt's wife. She's such a complex character. Sometimes I think she's wonderful and sometimes I think she's a complete moron. All of this is a sign of good writing and excellent characters, as well as that organic plot evolution I was talking about. To be able to make a likable turn into someone you want to see get thrown under the bus is a huge accomplishment, even if it is sad to see it all roll out. I could go on about Walt's fall as a character and the rise of Heisenberg and what that means for all of us, so maybe that will be a future blog post.

Are any of you fans of Breaking Bad?

Here's a sampling of the great music from the show. Enjoy!


Robin said...

I have not seen Breaking Bad. In fact, this is the first that I have read about it. That seems strange to me given that I am fairly rounded out in terms of TV. Maybe I just "turned off" when I came across previous articles about this show. Don't know. I think I was like you before you started watching this show. Drugs? Nah. However, I love shows with complex character development, so I am rethinking it.

In other news, I tagged you again on the Thursday post. Hope you like it:)

Steven said...

Robin, you should check it out! I tried going to your blog, but it says it's been removed??

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I dig the dark ride of this show. (That may be a bad reflection on me and society in general.) Watched the series from the beginning, and yes, I am hooked,

Steven said...

Alex, sometimes the dark side is the most interesting. That's the reason why my favorite Shakespeare plays are all tragedies!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

My husband watches it, but it's just too gritty for me.

Steven said...

Diane, my wife feels the same way.