Family. Security. Methamphetamine. Which of these is not like the other? In AMC’s hit drama Breaking Bad, they’re all inextricably related.
The main character, Walter White, is a high-school chemistry teacher—a harmless, law-abiding one—who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Walter knows that his modest salary, impending medical bills, and imminent death will leave his wife, son, and unborn daughter in enormous debt for years to come. With an initial diagnosis of mere months to live and an otherwise monotonous life keeping him infinitely in the doldrums, he decides the best and fastest way to accumulate $737,000—enough money, he estimates, to cover college tuition, insurance, et cetera—is through cooking and selling meth. After all, he is a chemist, and a spectacular one at that.
Breaking Bad, now in its 3rd season, tells an enthralling story about a man willing to participate in the horrors of the drug trade and risk his life for his family. And I am hooked. Remember the dad from Malcolm in the Middle? Funny, cynical, loving Hal? Bryan Cranston has moved on from that role into a much darker, more complex character as Walter. His portrayal of someone who would never be drawn into illegal activity but out of love amazes us (by which I mean me), and forces us to ask: is it ever right to do the wrong thing? Director Vince Gilligan sets the show in Albuquerque, a city whose appearance is about as desolate as the meth addicts hungering for Walt’s first-rate product. Breaking Bad’s cinematography is different from other shows I have watched religiously; the show places almost equal importance on silence as it does on dialogue—not so much the case with The O.C. (only the first season, I promise, and let’s be honest, everyone watched it) or House—and we, the audience, are often shown important pieces of each episode’s puzzle before we can understand them.
I’m not going into a lot of detail here, because I want all of you to watch every episode that has been released. There’s still time! Some cool facts that might intrigue you: RJ Mitte, who plays Walter’s son with cerebral palsy, has CP in real life; Bryan Cranston has won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for both Season 1 and 2; Danny Trejo plays a pivotal role as an intermediary with a love of turtles; inspired by the enormous depth of scientific knowledge Walt possesses, I am enrolled in a chemistry course next semester. So if you’re tired of the same old lineup on television, it’s probably time to break bad.