There are few shows that have captured the imaginations of viewers as much as AMC’s award-winning Breaking Bad. Critically acclaimed and worshiped by the enlightened few as “the best show on television — right now”, Breaking Bad has cemented its place as a show worthy of being perched up on the Mount Rushmore of groundbreaking television.
Alongside The Wire, The Sopranos, The Shield and Curb Your Enthusiasm, never before has a television audience been treated to the plight of man in such a graphic and visceral manner. They just don’t make men on TV like they used to.
Oh, but you say we’re supposed to like Don Draper of Mad Men? An advertising executive who oozes cool from every orifice of his chiseled All-American body? Sure, sounds good in theory, but in reality, Don Draper lacks the testicular fortitude of a Tony Soprano, Jimmy McNulty, Vic Mackey, or a Larry David. When tasked with the question that all men are faced with, at one point or another, Don Draper drops his pants and runs to the nearest pair of open legs he’s somehow fanagled his way into with his superior salesmanship.
Instead of grabbing his crotch and accepting his duties as a father, as a husband, as a man; Don Draper runs at the very mention of the question that hangs like the sharp edge of a guillotine waiting to be dropped onto the head of Breaking Bad‘s Walter White. That question is:
“How far would you go to protect your family?”
And Walter White has certainly answered that call like a man.
Faced with death and the possibility of leaving his family with nothing, Walter White does whatever it takes to protect his family. His answer to that very question has captivated audiences and earned actor Bryan Cranston acclaim for bringing him to life. No longer the emasculated high school chemistry teacher, Walter White decides to take a page out of American Beauty and learn to finally be awake again. For a show that continues to grow in numbers as it progresses, Breaking Bad has figured out the answer to the most difficult question writers have asked since Michael Corleone invited us into the family. How do you get the audience to sympathize with your anti-hero?
Make no mistake about it, Walter White is not your typical protagonist. He is, for all accounts and purposes, your typical villain. But what genius showrunner Vince Gilligan (of The X-Files) and his talented team of writers, cinematographers, directors, and whoever else he’s got in his army, has done is introduce a character at the most opportune time.
Rule number 316 of screenwriting: Know when to get in and when to get out. Applicable to drug dealing and sex, it is one of the most important rules you’ll hear critics and evangelicals spew concerning story construction.
Walter White is on a dark road. Anyone who’s been following the series since Season 1 knows that the Walter White that will invade our screens Sunday night is a completely different man. No longer the desperate father hoping to scrape together a few dollars for the welfare of his family, Walter White is now a full-fledged criminal. His actions over the course of three seasons, thus far, has been nothing short of horrific and yet, here I am, begging you to give him some love. Had the show’s creators come in any later, we’d have never gotten on board with the growing evil that has mutated inside of Walter White like the lung cancer that started it all. Know when to get in and when to get out — yes, even the great ones follow the rules. Sometimes.
By exploring the depths of evil and how it manifests itself within your average everyman, Breaking Bad is treading water that few shows have ever looked to reach. Like the most wonderful high you’ll ever experience, it elevates your senses and begs you to ask questions you never thought of answering.
It’s good, I promise. Why would I lie to you? I ain’t got no reason to lie. Okay, okay. Look, the high is amazing. The trip is unlike anything you’ve ever taken or seen. The only bad thing is the comedown — that longer-than-you-think week where all you can do is wait for the next hit, I mean, episode. It’s not fair. Like you just had all your synapses filled with more dopamine than you could handle and now they’re asking you to wait? Fuck, I need more. Just a taste. Just a little bit, man. I’m fuckin’ tweaking, bro. Please. Just one teenth. Just a teenth, yo! This premiere couldn’t have come any sooner…
Breaking Bad premieres Sunday (July 17) at 10 P.M. EST on AMC.