Aug 16, 2017

[TV] Breaking Bad: Season 1 Review

It's 2017 and Tobie and I still haven't watched Breaking Bad. And thus with the whole series on Netflix and other shows having wrapped up in one way or another, we finally started watching the show. There's been so much good press about this show that it was a little hard to ignore.

And to be fair, this first season is pretty strong indeed and quite different from most other shows you encounter in the US. I think the biggest help is that it's a single solid narrative. It doesn't bother with the "case of the week" sort of episode format that has the characters encountering new experiences in each episode but the larger continuing remaining in force once things wrap up.

This show comes out of the gate with a startlingly different tone from most shows and with a very intriguing setup for the big scene in the desert. We are introduced to a handful of characters and their quirk interconnections and then things just take off from there.

And before we realized it we had blitzed through the first season.

Synopsis: Breaking Bad is an American crime drama series created by Vince Gilligan, once a writer for The X-Files. The show aired on AMC for five seasons and is known as one of the greatest television shows of all time.

At the center of the show is the now infamous Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a 50-year old high school chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. With this medical death sentence looming over his head, Walter decides the best thing he can do is to make sure that his family, composed of his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and their son (RJ Mitte) are in a good place financially before he goes.

A chance encounter with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a former student who is now a meth dealer, leads to Walter coming up with a strange plan. He decides to use his chemistry knowledge to create crystal meth and use Jesse and his contacts to sell it. This way he'll make a lot more money than he ever would with his teaching job. Thus they secure supplies and an old RV that they convert into a mobile meth lab.

What I Liked: Wow, where to begin, right? Solid characters combined with great writing and some pretty wry direction for scenes that can either be emotionally charged with tension or oddly humorous despite the worst of things happening as well. There are a lot of great creative elements that came together in this show and the end result is beautiful.

I feel like I'm most oddly drawn to Aaron Paul's performance as Jesse Pinkman. He's a pretty complex character who gets sucked into Walter's big plan. It starts that he's the main criminal element in the show who indirectly inspires Walter on this path of crime. But then Walt seems to escalate things even beyond what he's comfortable with and Paul plays out amazingly well opposite Cranston.

What Could Have Been Better: The show takes a bit of time to build up steam and the decision to go with a non-linear narrative for the pilot felt like unnecessary trickery. It wasn't exactly bad - just a little extraneous to things, especially when compared to the other episodes in the season. The pilot is striking in how distinct it is but then it feels off as more episodes roll along.

As the show is largely about Walter and indirectly Jesse, initial character development for the supporting folks isn't as strong. I'd like to see  more done with his wife Skyler and we know very little about his son beyond folks mistakenly thinking he's on drugs for a period of time.

TL;DR: Breaking Bad is an intense drama piece that starts strong and means business. You know from the way the story builds in each episode that they're building up to something big. And so the first season gets a solid 5 crazy baggies of blue meth out of a possible 5.

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