By Joe Butterfield
In 2008, Vince Gilligan’s fantastic creation, Breaking Bad, premiered on AMC. Starring the man we all knew as ‘the dad from Malcolm in the Middle’, Bryan Cranston, it immediately captured the attention of the viewers. Walter White, an under-achieving chemistry teacher discovers that he has lung cancer and that he may only have a short time left to live. He strives to leave his family with something to remember him and wants to make as much money for them as possible. He then teams up with an old student of his, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul, and begins to cook crystal meth in the back of an RV.
The premise sounds rather ridiculous to some and, to an extent, it’s understandable. The leap from ‘I don’t have long to live’ to ‘I might as well just cook class A drugs’ might not be the most realistic, but the show is so brilliantly written that you honestly believe you’d be tempted to do the same thing in his situation.
That’s ultimately the show’s main strength; the writing of Vince Gilligan’s team. The character developments are so subtle that, after the show’s finale at the end of Season 5, you go back to the pilot episode and wonder what the hell happened to the characters you thought you knew in Season 1. Walter White’s development from the lowly chemistry teacher, who is so out of his depth that it’s almost funny, to the menacing and, quite frankly, bad ass Heisenberg is so naturally and slowly done that you barely even notice the change.
The one complaint that a lot of people have about the show, or at least those who are new to it and trying to get into it from the beginning, is that the first couple of seasons are quite slow and nothing happens. I understand this viewpoint, nothing particularly major happens in the first two seasons except for one or two things and that’s ultimately not really enough to keep people hooked who have been told that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. However, and this is probably something that people are sick of hearing about Breaking Bad, it’s worth sticking with.
The first two seasons set up the show for the latter stages and it’s a ballsy move. Most television shows insist on having an action-packed pilot series in order to intrigue the viewer but it’s clear that Gilligan had a story to tell and a way he wanted to tell it without being rushed. The rewards that come with Seasons 3, 4 and 5 are so, so worth it.
Many people praise this as one of the greatest televisions shows that has ever been made and I’m willing to take it one step further. This is the greatest television show ever made. Once every so often, a television show comes along that will be remembered for decades to come as one of the defining pieces of television of its time. Breaking Bad is that show.