I came to New Mexico in 2009, during the second season of Breaking Bad. Now it is November 2013, and Breaking Bad is history. Not to worry, all the episodes are recorded and readily available. Personally, I have never been able to sustain an abiding interest in any television program since Bonanza. I’ve tried on my own as well at work in a video store. People were checking out the Sopranos and Twenty-Four like crazy. To me, they were impenetrable. In stores, shrink-wrapped in thick boxes, the dvds to many other long-running shows look very appealing. The cover art is superb and the subject matter is usually fascinating. I sometimes have trouble passing them up. But I know I will not be able to watch more than a few segments. And yet, Breaking Bad‘s demise made me feel bad, and I’m glad it did. To penitently make up for my deliberate ignorance, I put the original pilot on my iMac and came away impressed.
There are any number of great things going on in this hour-long installment to make it readily understandable why the show was a success. I liked seeing Albuquerque and its unique surroundings in so many scenes. I find the main plot a trifle incredible, but what do I know? To watch a chemistry teacher/milquetoast (Bryan Cranston) burdened by work, finance, and a terminal illness altogether opt out of the system was truly liberating. It is axiomatic that there is no one-to-one correspondence between reality and what goes on on either the silver screen or in the demon box. But to vicariously experience the world of crystal meth is as good a cheap thrill as can be purchased for a few dollars.
I especially liked the dialogue spiced with chemical terms as they relate to “cooking”. I enjoy street slang and fully realize how far behind I am when it comes to this subject. Also, the main character, Walt, remains throughout a sympathetic figure, despite his criminal activity. This is not at all an easy accomplishment, as writers well know. Some really bad hombres populate this horrible but lucrative business, conducted in this instance within an RV out in the “boonies”. As it turns out, an acquaintance with phosphine gas and its poisonous potency proves as effective as a deadly weapon and equally fatal. I hope to catch more episodes. But as it is, one has to pick and choose. Screens gobble up a great deal of time, of which there is only so much. So little, really….
My only caveat (since this is a critique) is that television drama still lags far behind movies — movies at their best, that is. As clever as the narrative is and regardless of how well acted, written, shot, directed, choreographed, and everything else, one senses that the whole production would have looked and sounded better in a movie.