When I first heard about the television series “Breaking Bad” from my family and friends, I was urged to give the show a chance. I didn’t understand what the big deal was and thought it had too much gory violence and action for my taste.
After catching up on it over winter break, I realized that the show is so much more than this and that I was completely wrong. With each season better than the last, AMC brings viewers a television phenomenon that is difficult to pass up.
The show centers around Walter (Walt) White (played by Bryan Cranston), a high school chemistry teacher. Leading a normal life in a suburban town in New Mexico, one day Walt discovers that he has stage-three lung cancer. Initially Walt attempts to hide his illness from his wife Skylar and son Walter Jr., but experiences a series of health problems as a result of the lack of treatment for his condition.
Once Walt’s family finds out, Skylar urges him to seek out chemotherapy immediately. After a consultation with an oncologist, it becomes evident that Walt’s chances for survival are slim and that the treatment will be extremely expensive. In order to satisfy his wife’s request, Walt looks for unconventional means to cover his hospital bills.
After contacting one of his former students, methamphetamine dealer Jesse Pinkman (played by Aaron Paul), Walt decides that teaming up with Jesse in order to produce and sell their own meth is the most efficient and quickest way to earn the money he needs.
The two form a partnership and buy an RV trailer that serves as a meth lab on wheels. Walt often sets his sights high and constantly pushes his business with Jesse to the limit, which often gets the two in trouble.
As a result, Walt convinces Jesse that in order to expand their operation, they must sell their methamphetamine product to a psychotic drug distributor who calls himself Tuco.
At many points throughout the series, it is hard to watch Walt’s desperation in keeping his double life under wraps. In an ironic twist, viewers learn that Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank Schrader, is a Drug Enforcement Authority Agent. In a nail biting first season finale, during a drug raid by the DEA, Hank almost discovers Walt’s secret.
However, there are moments of triumph throughout the series, like when Walt and Jesse’s product quickly becomes renowned as the best crystal meth throughout New Mexico. Over time, Walt learns to embrace his criminal identity and creates a street name for himself, Heisenberg, which earns him a great deal of credibility.
In his early fifties, Walt also has another baby on the way with Skylar and justifies his business by using the money to provide for his growing family. Once his baby is born, Walt attempts to stop cooking for good. Nevertheless, he learns that severing ties with the drug industry is much harder than it seems — especially when a successful drug lord offers him a once in a lifetime opportunity to move up the ladder in a big way.
Jesse also emerges as one of the show’s most interesting characters. In a sense, Walt becomes somewhat of a father figure to Jesse by protecting him against the harsh threats of the drug industry. Jesse often frustrates Walt because he has so much potential, but fails to deliver it in a successful manner.
More often than not, he makes major mistakes that jeopardize the team’s business venture. It creates for several intense scenes where Jesse tries to impress Walt and seek the approval or praise from him that he never got from his own parents. Jesse also finds himself in a romantic relationship with his neighbor that ends tragically and impacts the show in a critical way.
Ultimately, “Breaking Bad” is the kind of show that keeps you coming back for more. With a highly addictive plot line and intriguing season cliffhangers, it’s hard not to continue watching. Now in its fifth season, “Breaking Bad” has definitively made its mark on television history.