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Friday, March 25, 2011

Breaking Bad Is Just So Good

By Andrew Rich

            Breaking Bad, a serial drama that airs on AMC on Sunday nights, has garnered critical acclaim over the last couple of years for its writing, acting, and cinematography, which has helped the show garner numerous awards and nominations.
            Bryan Cranston, known most famously as Hal on Malcolm in the Middle, stars as Walter White, an struggling but brilliant high-school chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, who is diagnosed with incurable, advanced lung cancer. In order to provide financial stability for his pregnant wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and disabled son Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) after his death, as well as pay for the expensive cancer treatment, Walter contacts a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and devises a scheme to cook and distribute methamphetamine.
 Their manufacturing and distribution brings about a series of problems with high ranking drug dealers, and also forces Walter to hide his new business venture from the eyes of his family, including his DEA agent brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris).
            The show deals with the lengths that Walter will go in order to protect his family as well as himself. The third episode of the first season, “…And the Bag’s in the River,” deals with Walter and Jesse imprisoning a rival drug dealer in Jesse’s basement, and the inevitable decision of whether or not Walter should kill him. The second season episode “Grilled” provides incredible tension as a crazed drug dealer, who thinks Walter and Jesse are informants, kidnaps them. The following episode forces Walter to lie to his family about his whereabouts.
            As the series progresses, Walter’s lies become more and more prevalent, as he contends with a crooked lawyer (Bob Odenkirk) who meanders his way into Walter and Jesse’s drug business, a massive drug kingpin (Giancarlo Esposito) who doubles as the friendly owner of a chicken restaurant, and two twin Mexican drug cartel hitmen (Daniel and Luis Moncada) whose physicality and non-verbal interaction only heightens their fearsome presence.
            AMC, which is regarded for its other drama series Mad Men and The Walking Dead, premiered Breaking Bad in early 2008 with an order of seven episodes. After the show received rave reviews, AMC quickly ordered a second season of thirteen episodes.
The series, which has been on for three seasons and has been renewed for a fourth, has gained a steady following of fans. The first season averaged 1.2 million viewers, while 1.7 million viewers, up 41.6% from the previous season, watched the second season premiere. The third season premiere has been the highest rated episode of the entire series so far, having been watched by 2 million viewers.
            Reaction to the show has been universally positive. Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly rated the first season a B+. Horror novelist Stephen King, who also contributes to Entertainment Weekly with his column “Pop of King,” praised the series as “the best scripted show on TV.”
“The acting is as good as you’ll see on TV,” stated New York Post columnist Linda Stasi. Alan Sepinwall of the Star Ledger describes the show as “still the best drama you’re not watching.”
“You can sense its maturity and rising ambition in each episode,” wrote SFGate.com
On the review aggregator website Metacritic, the first season scored 74/100, the second season scored 85/100, and the third season scored 89/100.
            Breaking Bad has also acclimated a rabid audience following, thanks in part to the current economic crisis. As Walt is backed into a corner because of his diagnosis, his decision to cook meth won understanding from viewers as a born-again renegade.
            “I think they saw that the show isn’t about the glorification of a drug,” Cranston says in an interview with MSNBC, “but about a man and what he does when he feels backed against a wall. People hate the abhorrent behavior, but they root for the character.”
Due to the abundance of positive reviews that the show has grossed, the series has been nominated for numerous awards. Breaking Bad has won six Emmy Awards, which includes Bryan Cranston winning the Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series three years in a row. Aaron Paul won a 2010 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. The show has also been won Satellite Awards, Writers Guild of America Awards, and Television Critic Association Awards.
            As Breaking Bad enters its fourth season, it remains certain that the show will continue its trend of incredible writing and emotional acting.