To paraphrase the immortal Bret the Hitman Hart, Breaking Bad is the best there ever is the best there ever was and the best there ever will be. No show will ever come close to what Breaking Bad has done. It is just delightful but is also a cold, dark antithesis to anything ever considered delightful. It manages to show us problems with no right answer, and at the same time evoke strong beliefs of right and wrong.
I was introduced to Breaking Bad late into the show’s airing, middle of the fifth and final season in fact. Fortunately, when I like something I become very obsessed with it, and I love Breaking Bad. I got caught up in about three weeks, which was a simple feat when the show ends with ending that make you need to watch the next episode.
The transformation of Walter White is so complex and so intricate it makes every other character arc in any medium look like child’s play; he, believably goes all over the emotional spectrum, thinking one thing now and another later. This genius characterization is the biggest reason that any viewing of this show requires it to be from the beginning in order.
Everything about this show is absolutely fantastic: the writing, the acting, the locations, the cinematography, even the state in which it takes place. Everything is thought about down to the most minor insignificant thing that subtly hits a larger message home. One could write a six part novel series about how great Breaking Bad is and they still would not cover everything. And because of this I will go on to list my ten favorite moments, characterizations, shots or otherwise cool stuff about Breaking Bad.
10. Family is a large driving force of both Walter White and his wife Skyler’s motivations, which for a few seasons are completely opposite but become more parallel in later seasons. Walt wants his family to be secure financially after he dies from cancer, and since he only has a short amount of time, and is a genius chemist the only logical way to make a lot of money is to sell meth with a former student of his, Jesse. Skyler feels that the best thing for her family and kids is for them to do any and everything to allow Walt to live so he can be in their life.
Family is not just important to Walt’s character inside his household; the first big antagonist of Walt and Jesse is Touco, a fellow drug dealer with a lot of weight in the illegal market. Touco is a lunatic meth head who kills for almost nothing. Tuco kidnaps Walt and Jesse when he becomes paranoid that the cops might be on to him and that Walt and Jesse might of ratted on him. Walt deduces that Touco is not someone he wants to associate with and since Touco would simply kill Walt if he found this out, Walt sees no other option than to beat Touco to the punch. Word of Tuco’s death reaches his cousins, (two terrifying mute twins who I will discuss in more detail later) who seem to posses the ability to kill anybody, anywhere and by any means.
Family is the driving force of everything Walt does and becomes his biggest enemy.
9. Walt and Jesse are at times so cute together and at other times the saddest part of the show. The show is so much fun when Walt and Jesse are hanging out cooking meth, and in no time at all the show destroys any previous happiness. The best example of this is the episode Four Days Out. About ten minutes into the episode it becomes a happy weekend meth cooking session in the middle of nowhere in their RV and is my favorite single five minutes of the show. Walt is teaching Jesse and Jesse is enjoying the learning, they are far away from any of their worries and genuinely like each other. Then it is found out that Jesse has left their trailer/meth lab on the entire time. Walt’s reaction is the worst so far; he becomes an absolute monster.
8. The next thing is something I only noticed my second time through the show. It’s hidden and was most likely an accident while shooting made into a beautiful image. In the episode in which Jesse and Jane share their first romanticism they are sitting in lawn chairs in Jesses living room waiting for his satellite to connect to his T.V., Jesse lets his hand rest off the right side of the chair as the T.V illuminates the otherwise dark living room. Waiting in silence, Jane drops down her left arm off the left side of her chair and slowly moves her hand closer to Jesses. When they finally meet, they embrace each other. Their arms form a triangle, the sides of which are touching the light emitting from the T.V. that sits perfectly into the indentation of the wall forming a heart.
7. Walt is, in a roundabout way, responsible for a plane crash that devastates the town he lives in. He lets Jane, Jesse’s girlfriend, choke on her vomit during an overdose. Jane’s dad has tried for most of her life to help her with her addiction and when he finds out about her death he becomes detached from the rest of the world. Later we see him at work as an air traffic control operator. Thinking about Jane causes him to make a monumental mistake, he allows two planes to crash into each other. A piece of of the debris smashes Walt’s windshield. The event is a circular one: Walt lets Jane die, her dad found out and lost his mind, he let two planes crash, and Walt is finally punished for his decision.
6. At the beginning of the show, Jesse is immature, he’s a dumb drug dealer with a few connections, nothing else. His car reflects this, its a low rider that bounces up and down, it’s really brightly colored and it has a vanity license plate that says THE CAP’N, his drug dealer street name.
After the incident with Tuco, Jesse’s car is lost in the crossfire. When he and Walt return home Jesse buys a new car, a broke down Pento to keep a, “low profile.” Jesse’s personality at this point is also one of a low profile, he has become timid and slightly more cautious, still Jesse, but different.
5. The cinematography is something that I had heard about all the way up to my watching of Breaking Bad and with good cause. It is absolutely fantastic. From the wide angles of the desert, constantly reminding us of how vast it really is, to confusing close ups of peoples hand, and floating teddy bears, to perfect action sequences that require being on the edge of your seat. The Director of Photography, Michael Slovis is a very simple but smart photographer who knows what and what not to show for each scene character and flash forward/backward.
One of my favorite sequences is the cold opening of the final episode. The last episode ended with Walt turning himself in only to at the very last second change his mind (like only Walter White can) and run away. At the beginning of the last episode, we are with Walt in a car covered in snow that he has broken into. There is a police officer looking for him who passes by him just as he is trying to figure out some way of starting the car. The police officer slowly passes by, shining his lights through the car window. He soon drives by and Walt finds a set of keys.
This scene is, save for a few whispered words from Walt completely silent, letting to visuals tell the story and it is so tense and anxiety inducing that you forgot that you want nothing more than for Walt to die a horrible death, or at least get caught.
4.. Tuco’s cousins are brought up a season or two before they are introduced, they seem so terrifying before we even know what they look like and when we are finally shown them without the show telling us who they are, we know, it could only be them. One of my favorite cold openings to the show is the “Negro y Azul” music video before the episode that shares the same name. It is performed by a mariachi band. The lyrics depict violence against Heisenberg from the hands of the cartel. We know that things, as complicated as they already are, will become ever more complicated for Walt soon, but we are unsure when and by whom.
The introduction to the Cousins is a bizarre one; we are in Mexico, we see a village of people crawling to a seemingly arbitrary location. A car pulls up, two gentlemen twins step out of the car, drop to the ground and join the village on their journey which we find out is to a small hut that houses a shrine dedicated to a drawing of Walt in his Heisenberg garb. This is when we know.
The Cousins decide to pay a visit to their uncle, Theo, who is the only living person other than Jesse who knows Heisenberg’s face and name. With this information the Cousins go to Walt’s house to murder him only to be led away by Gus (Who will discuss later).
3. Sal Goodman is in one word great. Walt wins by default but my second favorite character in the show is Sal. Bob Odenkirk is simply fantastic as a, as Jesse puts it, “Criminal lawyer.” Sal is a sleazy blading lowlife who always, no matter the situation, always gets Walt and Jesse out of trouble. Sal is the character that changes the landscape of the show the most, he introduces Walt to Gus, who becomes their distributer, he comes up with the idea to launder money through a local business and when Walt finally gets caught by Hank, Sal is not tied to it at all. He is the perfect mix of a man who does what he wants for himself and a man does his job better than anyone else.
2. Walter White is the greatest character of all time. And I wholeheartedly mean that, as much as it pains me to say that he is better than the previous seat, Batman of course. From the moment I saw Walt I knew, there is something beyond that cute Bryan Cranston face, past those lying monster eyes. He transforms from a simple chemistry teacher, to gosh darn Heisenberg. All of this is foreshadowed so amazingly in the first episode when he talks about two molecules that can look the same but act completely different.
Bryan Cranston makes us absolutely hate Walt at the very same moment that we love and feel for him. Everything in the show is his fault and yet we cry when he hugs Jesse in the meth house right after killing Jane that one person he ever loved or cheer when he says things like, “Tread lightly.” There is no right way to feel about Walt and his actions individually, we must dissect his every action on the whole, to understand Walt as a person; the way he stands, the way he talks to every person, the way his face looks at the beginning of the show when he lies to the way it looks at the end when he doesn’t care enough about lying.
I could talk about Walter White literally down to his shoes. He doesn’t just slowly morph into his opposite but into many different versions of that opposite and I for one am happy with his ending.
1. My favorite relationship and my favorite thing period in the show is between Walt and Gus. Gus is the perfect mentor for Walt, he seems squeaky clean up front but is hiding a dark secret; he is a powerful drug lord. Gus and the way he runs his operation, using his business Los Pollos Hermanos as a multi-million dollar money launderer, is the thing Walt tries to emulate most about Gus. Gus is the definition of a professional even in the dirty profession that he has undertaken. Gus never makes a mistake twice and hardly ever makes it once.
Walt wants to be all these things. He admires Gus’ ability to completely control his market. All the while Gus is Walt’s biggest and scariest enemy. Gus is Walt’s controller, his boss, and of course Walt would rather that not be true. After a short while Gus becomes aware how similar the two are and knows that he can count on Walt to be as professional as he is. “I hid in plain sight, just like you.”
Walt and Gus’ egos become their relationship’s downfall, they become too alike to coexist. In Gus’ eyes Jesse is too important to Walt, he sees Jesse as a weak link, someone he can’t trust. This doesn’t bode well with Walt. Jesse is Walts partner and in many ways his apprentice and for most of the show Jesse comes first, whether they fight or not never matters, they will always be Walt and Jesse and we know how important that is.
Breaking Bad makes us look into ourselves and question our moral compass, what truly is the difference between right and wrong. It also is very entertaining and is the best written show ever on television. In any viewing of Breaking Bad one learns about human nature, how we deal with issues in our lives and whether or not they are the right decisions. After completing Breaking Bad I felt alive.