August 11, 2013, - 8:47 pm
I don’t think having terminal cancer is an excuse for becoming a drug dealer, killer, and maker of lethal drugs. And, so, I was surprised when I got hooked on AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” the first of the last eight episodes of which debuts tonight. As longtime readers know, I don’t have cable, so I watched the show on DVD, which I mostly checked out of my local library. The show–about high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston)–has developed a cult following.
To those who do not watch, here’s a “Debbie’s Notes” version of the show. White, a smart, middle class teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He figures out that he’ll need almost a million dollars in cash for his family–his wife is pregnant and he has a teen son who has cerebral palsy–to survive after his death. His brother-in-law is DEA Agent Hank (Dean Norris), and while on a ride-along with him, he spots his former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), involved in the meth trade, getting away. Soon, White comes up with the idea of cooking and selling meth to make the money he needs for his family before he dies.
White and Pinkman become partners, kingpins, and killers, but the viewer is always rooting for them, even though what they are doing is wrong and illegal. That’s what troubles me about the series, even though I can’t stop watching and want to know what happens up through the end of this season. (I’m also troubled by the incredible violence in some seasons of the show.) Through it all, White goes into remission after expensive cancer treatment, and his brother-in-law is always on the hunt for “Heisenberg”–White’s drug dealer name on the streets. White and Pinkman best and outsmart all of their competition, including many evil criminals who are competitors and want to put them out of business, as well as kill the bro-in-law DEA Agent Hank.
We know little about White’s past or family. The only thing we do know is that in college, he and a lover and another friend had a start-up company, which today is worth billions. But he was pushed out, losing the girl to the friend, and they went on to become billionaires, while he is just a poor teacher, who has resorted to meth cooking and dealing.
The show, despite my reservations and the situational ethics of it all, is one of the best written on television. It’s incredibly suspenseful and entertaining. And there isn’t a minute of boredom. I like that Jesse Pinkman, even though he’s an uneducated slacker loser, develops a conscience where Walter White loses his. He’s sort of the moral compass of the show, objecting when an innocent young boy is shot and killed and so on.
My favorite scene in the series is the one in which White convinces an old Mexican cartel godfather in a nursing home (played by an old Jewish actor, Mark Margolis) to become a suicide bomber of sorts, using a bell and his wheelchair to murder drug kingpin, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), a bigtime mobster and drug kingpin. Fring parades as a charitable benefactor to the community and the DEA via his chain of fast food chicken joints, Los Pollos Hermanos (The Brothers Chickens).
And my favorite character is sleazy, unethical lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), an Irish American who changed his name to a Jewish sounding one in order to get clients. He is the typical low-life lawyer who advertises on TV and will do anything to make money. And he even has a live website–Better Call Saul–with actual ads on it (see some of them below). Reports say that there will be a spin-off show featuring his character.
So, to my readers who do watch “Breaking Bad,” what do you think will be Walter White’s end on the show, if there will be one? Will his cancer resurface, as I think it will? Will his DEA agent brother-in-law Hank, who finally discovers that White is Heisenberg (at the end of the last episode last year), put him in jail?
Will another drug dealing competitor murder him? Will Jesse Pinkman rejoin him in the biz?
I predict that Walter will go to jail and ultimately get out, no thanks to Saul Goodman. But I think he will die at the end, either by murder from someone in the meth biz or from a resurgence of the cancer.
I think they’re ending “Breaking Bad” at just the right time, since there’s not much more that they can do. But I’m interested to see how it all ends. In any event, I’ll have to wait until it comes out on DVD to watch these final eight episodes and find out for myself.
What do you think about “Breaking Bad”? Post your comments here.
Tags: Aaron Paul, Better Call Saul, Bob Odenkirk, Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston, DEA Agent Hank, Dean Norris, Giancarlo Esposito, Gus Fring, Hank, Jesse Pinkman, Los Pollos Hermanos, Mark Margolis, Meth, meth cooker, meth dealer, Saul Goodman, Walter White