Saturday, 8 September 2012

TV: Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is intense viewing and a show which quickly draws you in.

Breaking Bad, a show with a dark sense of humour.
Breaking Bad tells the story of Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston), a regular chemistry teacher who seems well and truly stuck on the everyday treadmill of working life.  Then one day his life starts heading down a dramatically different road when first his DEA agent brother-in-law makes a big methamphetamine bust, confiscating drugs with a street value of over seven hundred thousands dollars, and this implants the seed of an idea in Walter’s head.  When Walter then discovers that he has inoperable lung cancer this seed of an idea progresses into something more and Walter makes the decision to put his expert knowledge of chemistry to illegal use.

As you can imagine a life of crime is not without its complications, and Walter’s attempts at pursuing a shortcut to making cash take him on quite a complicated and stressful adventure with things quickly spiralling out of control.

The first episode opens with a dramatic scene more typical of the climax to an action movie.  Walter is clearly in a great deal of trouble and then before you see exactly how that particular scene plays out, the action rewinds to three weeks earlier before any of the drama in Walter’s life had began.  By the end of the episode the opening scene is explained and there are also a few laughs and dramatic moments along the way.

Don’t let the mention of laughs mislead you, though.  Breaking Bad is not a full blown comedy by any means, and would more accurately be described as a dark drama with some cleverly worked funny moments.  Given that the show deals with some heavy story-lines, this dark sense of humour compliments the subject matter well and helps take the edge off some of the more gruesome moments.

Breaking Bad is a show which quickly draws you in and even by the halfway point of the first episode I was already thinking to myself, ‘Hey, this is a really good show.’  By the end of the episode I was actually quite excited that I’d discovered such an excellent new show with four series worth of episodes ahead of me to catch up on.  In fact for the next few days I had to ration myself to a single episode per day as the first couple of episodes had me so hooked that I could easily have sat through the entire first series in one sitting.

It’s hard to pinpoint what it is that specifically makes Breaking Bad as watchable as it is, but I think it’s just a case of every ingredient to the show being extremely well implemented.  It features very strong acting performances, great story-lines, a well-paced plot and a generous dose of dark humour to balance out some of the heavier moments.  That said, even with the softening effects of the humour, Breaking Bad is certainly not for the faint-hearted and it features a number of very extreme scenes.  Sometimes you take the warnings at the start of a show with a pinch of salt, but in the case of Breaking Bad, the warnings are very much accurate.

As well as the gruesomeness of some of the opening story-lines, midway through the first series the show eventually confronts the massive emotional effects of being told you have cancer and then focuses on the aftermath of having to deal with some of the extremely tough decisions that you are subsequently faced with.  All in all it can therefore be pretty intense viewing but this only adds to why Breaking Bad is such a great show.

The show also highlights the sense of moral freedom that comes to Walter after he is diagnosed with cancer.  It’s not just the temptation to abuse his chemistry knowledge which he decides to pursue.  Certain episodes also show him acting as judge, jury and executioner when he crosses paths with people who he no doubt feels are far more worthy of the trials he has to face than he is, and on occasion these moments of retribution can be extremely satisfying, both for Walter and the viewer.

Overall, if you can stomach the pretty much anything goes story-lines then Breaking Bad is a very additive show which will leave you wanting more at the end of every episode and the sort of show where you don’t want to look away for even a second in case you miss a moment of the action.

Music: The Big Roar by The Joy Formidable

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