‘Breaking Bad’ Writing Explores Moral Lines Between Good And Evil

Breaking Bad has just finished the first half of its fifth and final season on AMC, the second half will air next summer. In the first season, the audience is introduced to a high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston). In the very first episode, Walter is diagnosed with lung cancer and is told that he has a very small chance of living. In order to provide for his family and to pay for his chemotherapy, Walter teams up with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and the two start cooking crystal meth together. Over the five seasons, Walter and Jesse’s operation grows and the viewer develops a changed perception of Walter and Jesse.
Breaking Bad is widely acclaimed as one of the best dramas on television. It does a great job developing their characters, and the actors allow the viewer to see so many different sides of them.
The director and executive producer, Vince Gilligan, makes the progression of the main character, Walter White, go from good to bad. As the seasons go on, the viewers watch the change of Walter White from a poor chemistry teacher with cancer, to the best meth manufacturer in the world. In first season he kept a man chained up in his basement for weeks because he couldn’t bring himself to kill him, but in the fourth and fifth seasons, he had no problems with killing innocent children to keep his operation going. As a viewer you still like him because he was that poor guy who was doing something to help his family, but then you realize you are watching a man who has become evil and insane. What the viewers see in Breaking Bad is a person who started as one type of human, but then makes a conscious decision to become something different. The viewers are introduced to this man in a way that made him impossible to dislike, and because viewers experience TV through whichever character is understood the most, the audience is placed in the dilemma of continuing to root for an individual who’s no longer good.
One thing that can be frustrating about Breaking Bad is the pacing of the show, and intentional confusion of the viewer. Every episode begins with a flash-forward that tends to be irrelevant to the rest of the plot. There can be episodes where the first forty minutes of the show are spent on Walter and Jesse catching a fly in their lab. But then in the last five minutes of the show, it manages to get the heart really pumping. Not all episodes follow a format like this either; in the fourth season especially, the episodes tended to be faster paced than other seasons. This is not necessarily a bad thing–the show just has very erratic pacing that can occasionally frustrate the heck out of you. Although these aspects can be frustrating, the acting usually compensates for the slower episodes.
Breaking Bad has some of the most outstanding actors in television. Bryan Cranston won three consecutive Emmys for best actor in a drama from 2008 to 2010. Cranston does such a great job because he allows the viewers to see all of the complexities that are influencing his life. He shows his despair and hopelessness in the early seasons, while he also shows anger and intensity in the meth production business. Cranston also has hilarious and incredibly serious interplay with lab assistant, Aaron Paul.
Aaron Paul plays Jesse Pinkman, a former student of Mr. White, who is a user of crystal meth and a small scale producer before Walter found him. Paul has extremely powerful eyes. His wide-eyed stare reveals so much about his character, his confusion over Walter’s chemistry, his shame in his drug-related mistakes and his feelings toward Walter. Walter’s anger at Jesse for his flaws provides some of the only comic relief in the show. Jesse also takes on the role of being the moral compass of the show, once Walter loses control and all morals.
In one episode Walter and Jesse go out into the boonies in their RV to cook a batch of meth. When they decide on a place to park, Walter reminds Jesse to put the keys somewhere where he can find them again. Jesse puts the keys in the ignition and they are left there for multiple days. This causes the RV battery to die stranding Walter and Jesse in the middle of a New Mexico desert with no food, no water and 200 pounds of crystal meth. Walter reacts to this situation like a crazed father whose son just keeps making idiotic mistakes. Jesse simply gives Walter his wide-eyed stare and proceeds to make the situation even worse. Interactions like this between Jesse and Walter provide comic relief for an incredibly intense show that can be a little slow at times.
Breaking Bad is a kind of show where all the seasons build on each other. If you want to start watching, it is necessary to start from season one and watch them all. The first four seasons are all available on Netflix, but it is a big commitment to start, due to the sheer addictiveness and intrigue of the show.