Bad Timing

If I've missed the entry point on something that has taken the pop culture world by storm, I have the tendency to not even attempt to jump in mid-point to catch up, preferring instead to let the entire enterprise conclude, and then consume it in one big block later. Breaking Bad is a perfect example of this; until recently, I'd never seen a single episode. Somehow, despite it taking up 80% of the conversation on every website devoted to television discussion, and being mentioned consistently in friends' Facebook updates, I managed to stay spoiler-free.

Now that the show is over (though I notice websites still cranking out Breaking Bad-related content - gotta keep those clicks coming!), I can finally get started on it, and was happy to see that it's currently streaming on Netflix. It did made me a little nervous at the outset, however, for a couple of reasons. I'd heard this show is extremely violent, which is generally fine with me. I take no issue with violence, but a show's gore level can be an important factor in how much I enjoy it. My biggest concern, though, was the inherent danger in watching something so beloved by the world at large. How can it possibly measure up to expectations?

I'm now through Season 1, and while I can certainly see why the show became such a phenomenon, it's clear that it's still in the world-building stage. That's not a complaint. Mad Men had a waaaaaaaay slower build than this show, and I came to be a big fan of it. I don't see any obstacle to me becoming similarly enamored of Breaking Bad, but as I'm only talking about Season 1 today, all I can really mention is groundwork.

That's not to say there aren't standout moments. Walter White choosing to become a meth-pusher in order to provide for his family after his death is a perfectly valid choice in television-land, but watching how he attempts to deal with moral choices within that criminal universe is where the audience is really thrown for a loop. A lesser show would focus on Walt making drugs and his DEA brother-in-law tracking them. In Breaking Bad, they explore deeper ground. My favorite instance of this was watching Walt forced to contend with how he should treat a captive drug dealer who has already tried to murder him once. His choices are examined from every angle, and the whole thing was extremely suspenseful. Walt is ostensibly supposed to be a noble man, and he's understandably reluctant to kill a now-defenseless thug, but what else can be done?

Aside from Walt's efforts to break into the drug business and to solidify his partnership with the squirrely Jesse Pinkman, there's the matter of his unsuspecting family at home. I rather like Walt Jr., his seventeen-year-old son with cerebral palsy. The aforementioned brother-in-law (Hank) is also a lot of fun. The women don't fare as well. Walt's nagging, pregnant wife Skyler is kind of a chore, and the less said about Hank's wife Marie, the better. Why I'm supposed to care about her shoplifting when there are drug dealers being dissolved with acid two blocks away is beyond me.

Overall, though, I liked it a lot. Certainly enough to continue on with the show. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are tearing their roles to shreds, and the plotlines get more intriguing by the episode. If I get really involved with it, so much the better. It'll mean less time until I'm caught up, and won't have to read every internet link with trepidation anymore.

Breaking Bad - Season 1: B


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