9 December 2014

Believe the Hype....

Breaking Bad - Walter and Jesse - Crystal Canyon TV Poster
Breaking Bad -...
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Have you ever watched a TV show that affected you so much, you couldn't stop thinking and analysing it? I was going to write an article that explored a variety of TV series that were as powerful and captivating as each other, exploring shows that featured episodes that were just as mouth-dropping as the next. Then I got stuck as I couldn't think of more than one TV show that actually captured this. I will give you one guess to which show I'm thinking of (hint, look up). After months and months of hearing everyone rave about this television show, I gave it a whirl, and after two episodes... I gave up for a bit. I put it down to bad timing, here was a show that I could see had huge potential but I just couldn't get through an episode without a lot of effort. So I put it on hold, knowing I would pick it up again someday. And then I received the boxset, settled down to watch with my sister and boom! Chemistry happened....

Throughout this piece, I'm going to analyse every part of the series that makes it THE show that everyone talks about and why I actually agree. Spoilers abound, so what you waiting for? If you haven't seen it, go, go! I'll wait behind the cut....




The Plot:
Breaking Bad TV PosterBreaking Bad TV...

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  The concept of Breaking Bad is an intriguing one, certainly one I haven't come across, that is done at least as well. Walter White is a Chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with lung cancer at the start of the series. Due to limited funds to help with the insurance and medical bills, he gets an idea after joining his DEA brother-in-law on a ride-along to raid a drug cooking operation. His idea is to combine his expertise on the subject of chemistry with the local drug pusher. Thanks to his extensive knowledge on the subject and with the help of his former, drop-out student Jesse, he soon gets into the flow of cooking Crystal Meth. However, as things aren't as straight-forward in real life, the same applies to Breaking Bad. The audience soon finds themselves witnessing Walter's descent into madness as he's corrupted by the power that he has from making the best meth available and his absolute greed.

The Writing:

Breaking Bad - Typographic
Breaking Bad -...
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Never have I ever come across a series where the writing was so consistent through the entire show. Even with a slight slow build up in the first few episodes, I knew this was something that I would want to stick with. Especially mid-way through season 1 where the pace just starts to build and never really stops through the whole 5 seasons, gathering speed like a growing snowball. I cannot come up with another programme that manages to make me feel a whole tidal wave of emotions, from fear to sorrow with joy and giddiness thrown in for good measure. Not even when I think back to my favourite TV series that still hold up in that position, can I even come close. Breaking Bad was consistent throughout, the dramatic scenes - making me hide behind a cushion (something I never do) and the humour found in really dark situations (a genre that I absolutely love, if done well). The term: edge of your seat really does apply here. Each episode's storyline never once felt far-fetched or grasping; it all flowed constantly. Good writing is demonstrated by the amount of times Breaking Bad had gotten me to shout at the TV screen: out of disbelief, anger, frustration by the characters' decisions. What really sets Breaking Bad apart from the many acclaimed shows out there, is its quirky added features: black and white 'fast-forwards' scenes, predicting what's to come; use of narco-corrido - a Mexican ballard depicting drug use - again, cleverly tying in the events of things to come; dedicating an entire episode about catching a fly (it has to be seen); etc. Another example of the good writing featured is character development; a change in characters over the time period set in the series without doing a complete 180 - all character developments were believable in each circumstance. Which leads me to the next point...

Characters/Actors:

Breaking Bad (Up In Smoke)
Breaking Bad (Up...
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 Apart from the writing, it's the acting on Breaking Bad that keeps the tension high. If it wasn't for the extraordinary talent featured in the show, it could have easily just have been average TV with some good writing. First mention is Bryan Cranston as the main character, Walter White. Now, Cranston is normally known for his comedy roles, especially that of Hal in the sitcom: Malcolm in the Middle. Certainly, when I first heard that he was in Breaking Bad in a serious role, I couldn't imagine Cranston as anyone but the hapless, loveable, clumsy Hal. First episode in, however, and that is quickly forgotten - his transformation into an opposite role is that swift. White's gradual descent into madness is done with relish by Cranston and he is so effective at, not only the very serious and the very dramatic scenes, but also bringing dark humour through his physical performance. The audience goes from liking his character, to being wary of him, to admirig him, to hating him and to, finally, respecting him. All of which couldn't be achieved if Cranston was just a one-trick pony. He bounces off the other actors so well and in countless behind the scenes features, it could be easily seen how passionate he is about his job - something that comes across effectively in the entire series. Next, Aaron Paul as Jesse Pinkman - Walter's reluctant partner in crime. While Paul's acting is consistent and believable throughout the show's run, it isn't until the final season that he truly shines. It's almost as if Paul has been taking acting tips from his on-screen partner and real-life friend Bryan Cranston, which is very evident in the final episodes where each dramatic scene punctures a hole in each audience's heart. It's obvious that the character has grown alongside each of the audience; and if Paul was a wooden actor, it would not have been easy to care for the character in the way that most do. The key-scene for me, that stands out is the scene in which Paul's character has to witness his girlfriend being killed - watch that without feeling your heart is being wrenched apart, I dare you. Of course, like Cranston, Paul has also come into his own with most of the comedy scenes. Most of the laughter comes from the partnership of Walter and Jesse trying to muddle through the life of crime they've found themselves in. Another character/actor worthy of a mention: Bob Odenkirk as the lawyer with the questionable morals, hired to take care of any mishaps Walter and Jesse get themselves into. Odenkirk is someone I recognised from watching How I Met Your Mother, being reunited with Cranston. His comic timing comes in such good effect in Breaking Bad, he was often the light-relief after such dark moments. There's hardly a scene when Odenkirk isn't on comedy form and even does the serious scenes with such conviction. There's not one weak actor featured on the show - even the ones that aren't much of a fan-favourite as the others already mentioned. Even the character of Skylar, as played by Anna Gunn cannot be criticised as a poor character - she is fleshed out by not only the writers but the actress. Only a great actress is able to convince audiences that her character, Walter's wife, is the villain here when infact, she's just a wife, looking after her family and growing more concerned over her husband's troubling behaviour.

I have never come across a television series as powerful as Breaking Bad. It has all the right ingredients - amazng writing, gripping plotlines, consistent pace, phenomenal acting and very dark humour. For a show to keep me so gripped that I'm constantly thinking about it, is astounding. I've not come across one person, who's seen the entire series, who's disappointed in it. Everyone raves about it and from watching it, it's very easy to see why. I hope that they continue to make shows like this, as everyone can learn from Breaking Bad.

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