I cannot imagine what I was doing around the time Breaking Bad was taking over television. I apologize to fans of the show, for not having realized my error of omission sooner. After repeated barbs from my much younger brother, who happened to catch all of it while still in school, I decided to take it upon myself to watch Breaking Bad like my life depended on it. Of course, this is hyperbole, because on a good day I would manage two episodes after work. Who said binge-watching was easy?
Breaking Bad is about Walter White, a high school Chemistry teacher whose life is boringly ordinary. He works at a car wash to make some extra money, he lives with his wife and teenage son, and his wife is expecting. He appears to be a kind, gentle man, harbouring a few disappointments like everyone else, mostly content with his suburban life. Walt is diagnosed with stage-III lung cancer, and he doesn’t have much time left. A desperate Walt decides to start cooking meth, his desire to provide for his family after his demise driving all his actions. It starts innocently enough. Walt teams up with a former student/junkie, Jesse, who might be the most softhearted thug ever.
Walt’s limited time allows him the freedom to break free of the rules that he has lived by all along. Everything is acceptable now, as long as he tells himself and everyone else that he’s doing this for his family. As we see Walt rise to the top of the drug ring, we see his simultaneous fall into the depths of depravity. His moral compass is destroyed. It is only at the very end that he admits he did it for himself, because he enjoyed it, and it made him feel alive.
There is a specific feeling I get while watching The Wolf of Wall Street – repulsion. Part of me finds the movie exciting, its energy infectious. But there’s this other bigger part of me that feels disgusted by what unfolds on screen. The unchecked reveling in excesses and the fact that I never saw Jordan Belfort suffering upsets me. Breaking Bad doesn’t let its characters get off that easy. They can run and they can hide, but their mistakes will catch up with them. It does not matter if these mistakes were done with what appeared to be selfless intentions at the time. Walt may end up believing his own stories, but we know he made those choices. We see him hesitating, and then proceed to hurt, attack, use, and kill people repeatedly. His remorse is phony, his logic is cold, and he uses his words to manipulate those around him. His insatiable greed for money and absolute power get the better of him eventually.
Breaking Bad isn’t about plot points or sudden twists that have you wondering what the hell just happened – though it does have its fair share of moments that make your jaw drop. Breaking Bad is about the journey. It shows you how these events came to be, how these people changed before our eyes. It primes us slowly, thoroughly, that when something unbelievable happens, you realize you knew this is where it was heading all along. It is no longer unbelievable, it makes perfect sense. It turns the screws and twists our insides even as we gasp for air.
Breaking Bad isn’t for the fainthearted. It is also not for you if you’re like my friend who prefers to watch shows that leave you feeling happy. Breaking Bad will teach you the best ways to cook methamphetamine (and achieve over ninety-six percent purity while you’re at it), the best way to dispose a corpse (dissolve it in concentrated acid – but always remember to use a PVC tub), and the best way to rig a machine gun in the trunk of a car (make sure you can operate it with your key).
What a truly magnificent show.
- All five seasons of Breaking Bad are available on Netflix.
- You might be wondering if I’m the kind of person that pays to watch television shows, when these can be downloaded off µTorrent. I have been asked this numerous times. Yes, I am exactly that kind of person.