Netflix Description – A terminally ill chemistry teacher teams with a former student to manufacture crystal meth to secure his family’s future.
Episode Run Time – 45 mins (approx.)
Number of Seasons – 5 Seasons
My Take – Just take a look at any review for Breaking Bad and you’ll see that most people have run out of superlatives to throw at it. Ground-breaking and bleak, funny and dramatic, this scientific series is one that almost the whole western world has fallen in love with.
…although he is superb without this comparison…
No Breaking Bad review would be complete without mention of the flagship cast member, Bryan Cranston. My dad insists that to really grasp the quality of his performance you have to have seen him in Malcolm in the Middle where he played witless, clueless dad Hal; and although he is superb without this comparison, it is an effective demonstration of his range.
Starting in a very Hal-place, bored and misanthropic chemistry teacher Walter White discovers that he has cancer. A genuine wish to better the lives of his family leads Walter into a life of less than savoury exploits alongside his erstwhile student Jesse (played by the highly praised Aaron Paul) as the two struggle to make money, and eventually a name for themselves, in the drug trade.
…We cannot help loving the increasingly immoral Walter…
Now perhaps the best comparison for this story would be Jekyll and Hyde – as the story progresses we watch as Cranston’s White transforms from a timid and loving family man into an (not to give too much away) absolute badass. And I forgot to mention that his brother-in-law Hank (played by the ever manly Dean Norris) is a member of the DEA team that is tracking White’s alias, Heisenberg.
Breaking Bad is character driven. With an astoundingly strong cast that are each able to hold their own when the burden of story falls on their shoulders, show creator Vance Gilligan has built a world with very few (if any) faults. We cannot help loving the increasingly immoral Walter, just as we cannot help loving the macho Hank – balanced in each case by worried wives, Skylar (Anna Gunn) and Marie (Betsy Brandt), the show also straddles family drama as we watch as lies and secrecy tug at the string that keep each unit together.
…a consistent quality of performances and story…
At five seasons long, and with each episode being of a decent length, Breaking Bad has managed to avoid the pitfall of being too long that plagues most series by maintaining a consistent quality of performances and story. And given the addictive quality of the above, it is unsurprising that many are waiting with baited breath for the long rumoured Better Call Saul spinoff.
Look out in particular for the tonal shifts that dot the plot and for the humour that often (usually masterfully incorporated by Cranston or Paul) punctuated tense scenes – my personal favourite sees Jesse baring witness to an incredibly tense mealtime with Walk and wife Skylar – green beans feature and there is no shortage of awkward, and hilarious, silence.
Watch For – Sublime acting from Bryan Cranston with a transformation to rival any other.