The recent deluge of American series’ has given us many of our kicks by dramatising the unraveling of a man’s life. And while we like to pretend that we can relate to ruthlessness of Tony Soprano, the devil-may-care attitude of Jimmy McNulty or even the innate charm of Don Draper, the fact is that most of us can’t. And this is a good thing. It allows us to take our place in the front row and watch the seams of their psyche split without plumbing the murky recesses of our souls. Sure, we might feel angry, bewildered or even joyous at their actions, but we’re essentially on safe ground when it comes to internal dialogue. This is not the case when watching AMCs Breaking Bad.
If I was writing this article for the colour supplement of a broadsheet, I’d probably have to say that ‘Breaking Bad is the latest finest thing you’ve never seen but should have and if you haven’t then why are you reading this you cultureless camel.’ That I’m not allows me to subjectively simplify and tell you that it is blinding telly. However the central narrative - that focuses on an apparently normal man driven to some incredibly dark places to (in his eyes at least) protect his family - does pose some very uncomfortable questions.
Walter White is an chemistry teacher at a high-school in Albuquerque who, on discovering he has inoperable lung cancer, teams up with an ex-student to manufacture glass-grade (i.e.; it will suck your knickers up your arse, floss your molars and comb your muzzie) crystal methamphetamine and use the proceeds to safeguard the future of his family. It’s inevitable that this career choice leads to a full-deck of bat shit mental scenarios, but in the interests of not being an arse I’ll leave you to find out for yourselves. What I will say is that the shocks, and therefore questions you have to ask and possibly answer, come like a vampire; thick, fast and bloody.
It will suck your knickers up your arse, floss your molars and comb your muzzie
What I’ll also say is that despite Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of the uptight, emasculated White resulting in three consecutive Emmy Awards for Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Breaking Bad is no one trick pony. The quality of the writing means that upon meeting each central character and seeing them interact, you feel as if you know them, or indeed someone like them, in an instant. There is nothing trite about the secondary characters and each scene or sub-plot, whether hilarious, heart-rending or hopeless are given the room to breathe rather than being throwaway or flabby.
Crazed drug dealers, a narcissistic lawyer, mute hitmen, a wheelchair bound Don, a bald fixer, Danny Trejo, hopeless junkies, desperate whores, an idiot called badger and many more flawlessly weighted characters swap pitch-perfect dialogue and engage in deeds that mix mirth, madness and malevolence against a backdrop of cinematographic genius that cost some $3 million per episode.
As I type, I’m desperate to give you even one morsel of dialogue or spectacular set piece to whet your whistle. But I truly want you to enjoy the three seasons (with a fourth scheduled for July 2011) of Breaking Bad as much as I have, so you’ll have to make do with a few of the characters in the meantime.
Walter White (Bryan Cranston)
An ex-Nobel Prize winning researcher, White has wound up teaching chemistry to bored high-school kids and struggling to extract his balls from the velvet-coated vice operated by his wife, Skyler.
Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul)
Walt’s hopeless drug-addict sidekick. Fancies himself as a big-time dealer but lacks the necessary minerals to pull it off. Consistent only in spectacularly fucking things up. Paul won an Emmy in 2010 for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.
Hank Schrader (Dean Norris)
Cigar chomping, backslapping DEA officer and Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank struggles to talk about any feelings other than those of tumescence. His personal unraveling could be a series in itself.
Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito)
Controls the meth distribution for New Mexico while masquerading as a fast-food worker. Cold, ruthless bastard with more than a passing resemblance to Barack Obama.
Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz)
Sociopathic Mexican meth dealer fond of testing the potency of a batch by snorting it off his bowie knife. Loves dishing out highly unnecessary beatings.
Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk)
Sleazy, oleaginous lawyer who pretends to be Jewish and provides counsel for Jesse and Walt. Fond of blackmail, money laundering and the odd corking one-liner.
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