Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad” is by far one of my favorite television shows ever. But not for the reasons people might think. So, let’s jump into it. I should note that this is not an effort to convince people to watch the show. It is wonderfully written, acted, and produced in so many ways but it also deals with some very difficult subject matter. I’m simply explaining why I enjoy such show.
For those who are unfamiliar or only slightly so with the show, I will try to provide a basic rundown. It follows the transformation of chemistry high school teacher Walter White to the notorious meth cook, Heisenberg, who is diagnosed with lung cancer and sees the end of the tunnel, which would leave his pregnant wife, unborn daughter, and teenage son without much once he’s gone. Working a car wash job in addition to his teaching gig, Walter is put up against a horrible situation and is desperate to not only pay for treatment but leave his family with more than debt and hospital bills.
By chance, his brother-in-law, a DEA agent, shows a video at Walt’s birthday party where the DEA has busted a meth lab where the evidence gathered reveals a stash of cash to which Walt instantly wonders about. It’s this event that eventually leads to Walt’s being on a ride along with his brother-in-law to bust another meth lab where he sees one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, avoiding arrest. Yada yada, Walt and Jesse join together to go into business and embark on a whirlwind of danger that affects them all in sorts of ways that have them constantly making choices that would keep them safe and out of jail. Unfortunately, they do not come out unscathed all the time and suffer both physically and relationally throughout. Whether its the DEA or rival drug lords, Walt and Jesse have to trust each other and their wits to keep ahead of the danger.
Suffice it to say, this show is never dull (even the bottle episodes are great). It explores characters and the transformation of said characters in ways most shows avoid or don’t know how to execute. Obviously, no spoilers here but you will often be conflicted, not knowing who to cheer for from season to season.
The reason I love this show and recommend it purely from a storytelling aspect is that Vince Gilligan and his writing team are famous for stating that they purposely wrote Walt and Jesse into corners just so they (the writers) could find a way out for the pair. Storytelling is the best part of the series while the characters are a close second. (Aaron Paul’s performance as Jesse is amazing. He is my favorite character throughout the show.)
Again, this is not an easy show to watch. It deals with very real subject matter from family drama to the high cost of drug usage. I do not take these things lightly and never want to insinuate that. I have spoken with friends who have actually dealt with others in this regard and it’s sobering to hear the stories. I am not disillusioned by this to say the least.
In my mind, compelling stories are best when they deal with true and difficult aspects of life. Sure, a lot of the scenarios of “Breaking Bad” are embellished for the small screen to be dramatic and hold our viewership but in reality, life is not easy and we face difficult decisions every day. I pray it not so for everyone but things happen and livelihoods are put to the test. Walter White’s livelihood and that of his family are tested so much so that you truly wonder if his choices were worth it in the end. He makes his choices in order to see his family taken care after he is diagnosed with cancer. However, his dive into the criminal underbelly costs him a great deal and affects his personality in ways that make you wonder about his overall psyche.
There’s a quality of storytelling here that provokes me as a writer to not just be the gardener but push more towards being the architect when planning and writing my books. Honestly, I’m drawn to great writing and it’s hard for me to stay away or ignore it when it’s in the form of a show like “Breaking Bad”.
Call to Action: If you’re willing, check out the pilot episode of the show. If you get through it and are kind of interested to see where it will go, I’d recommend trying another episode and so on.