Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Walter White Wednesday 34

Breaking Bad is on hiatus, both Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have movies coming out this weekend (Walt's is here, Jesse's is here) and Aaron Paul has Emmys for bookends. So it seems like a pretty good time to take a look at just why fans love the show.  In no particular order, I give you 6 reasons to love Breaking Bad - and why you should catch up on it.

1. Jesse. The story goes that the character of Jesse Pinkman, an ex-student of Walt's who's turned meth dealer and general loser, wasn't supposed to live beyond the first season.  But when you have an actor as talented as Paul, who can bring a fragility and layers of nuance to a character who is so basically unlikable, well - that's not something you just toss aside.  Over the run of the show, Jesse has deepened, matured and become a character to watch. He's got some talent for drawing, carefully moves a random bug so he won't crush it, but he's also a drug maker-and-dealer and, oh yeah, a murderer. Yet in many ways, he's become the moral center of Breaking Bad and yes, it's a little weird to realize that at first - and it's a clear indication of just how skewed Breaking Bad can get.

2. Family Life. Good stories are always about relationships and Breaking Bad's Vince Gilligan knows this. Jesse might be Walt's surrogate son (they do go into business together, after all) and Walt claims loudly and often that everything he's done, he's done for his family, but take a look at the Salamanca familia for a terrifying look at how tightly those family bonds can constrict. Hector has drawn so many into his orbit - some of whom are related by blood and some of whom are definitely not - but this is a man who understands loyalty and family, as well as murder and revenge. I wonder - think there's a parallel between Gus/Hector and Jesse/Walt?  Hmmm.
3. Skyler. Talk about a character who gets the social media nets a-humming!  There's a disturbing amount of Skyler-hate out there and any time there's that strong a reaction to a character, it's a good idea to keep an eye on her. Some of the hatred seems to come from fans who just can't stand the idea of anyone getting in Walt's way but - let's face it - Walt's off the rails. Sky is the one who keeps the family actually going. Once she's brought in to the mess that is Walt's retirement account, she has to figure out how far she's willing to go (pretty darned, it turns out) and where she's going to draw the line. The goalposts keep moving.
4. Tension & Drama. Breaking Bad is a thoughtful show that understands that you don't have to rush things. Sure, it uses time-lapse photography with changing light angles to show the passage of time, but it is willing to let stories unfold slowly rather than go for the quick solve. There are distinctive camera angles (look for the "up and through" shot) and images that echo in later episodes to pull viewers full circle. The show is primarily focused on Walt's descent into his own personal Hell (he even made the handbasket!) and the fundamental shifts his choices make in his own psyche. That's a story that takes time to tell and Gilligan & Co. aren't rushing it.
5. Humor. Without this, Breaking Bad would probably be too bleak for me. Humor runs throughout the show as a sort of leavening agent to keep things from getting just Too Damn Dark. It tends to be dark humor  (the kiddie pool scene, for example, or Ted's supposed end), but not exclusively.  Whenever I see Saul Goodman, I just start chuckling.
6. Walt. The diseased heart of the show. Walter White is a good man who goes bad and discovers that he likes it. He makes horrific decisions, bobs and weaves like a welterweight (hmm, close to "Walter White," isn't it?) to avoid being tagged with responsibility for his own twisted actions, yet we spend a good part of the first couple of seasons (maybe even longer) pulling for him.  That's the true genius of the show! Look, Walt is slowly becoming something terrible and malignant - he doesn't have cancer, he is cancer to everyone whose life he touches. And yet.  And yet. Can he change? Does he want to? And what price must he pay for the devastation he's wreaked in those lives?

In short, the show is fantastic and completely unlike anything else on television today. Watch. Catch up. Tell a friend.

But above all else - watch. Breaking Bad's like will not be seen again.

1 comment:

Shimon said...

Also: Science!
The show shows a healthy respect for science and treats it seriously. of course this is something I personally would find endearing but I may not be the only one :)