Breaking Bad, a wonderful combination of Frankenstein, Dr. Faust, and Repo Man, is turning out to be one of my favorites.
The star is Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, who you might remember as the harried father in the comedy Malcolm in the Middle.
Initially, we see Walter White as basically a sympathetic man, who's way overqualified for his job as a high school chemistry teacher. His older kid, Walt Jr., is about 16, he has cerebral palsy (as does the young actor, R.J. Mitte who plays him). Walt's wife Skyler seems to be about 10 years younger than him. At the start of the series, Walt is diagnosed with cancer at just about the same time that Skyler learns she's pregnant with a "surprise" baby.
Walt figures he doesn't have long to live, and although he's afforded an opportunity by an old friend to pay for his entire cancer treatment, Walt rejects this and decides to fund it, as well as his post-mortem family nest egg, by going into the trade of cooking meth. But Walt is so broke that he has to purloin the high school chemistry equipment to make his first batch. Another problem is that Walt knows nothing about the meth business.
But this soon changes. The series (now in its fifth season) has covered only 1 year of time in the character's lives. In that one year, Walt has killed, by my count, nine people. Walt's stats:
-- Asphyxiated with home-made phosgene gas: 1.
-- Strangled with bicycle lock: 1
-- Run down with family car and killed: 1.
-- Run down with family car and not killed, finished off with pistol: 1.
-- Blown up with pipe bomb and home-made explosive: 2
-- Assisted suicide with pipe bomb and home-made explosive: 1
-- Shot (bodies later incinerated in giant explosion / fire): 2.
This show is replete with twisted humor. Where the writers get the genius to come with this stuff?
For example ... Jesse Pinkman, Walt's neer-do-well partner in the meth lab business, finds himself seeking housing, during the course of which he must scale a chainlink fence and then climb onto a roof of a port-a-potty where he stands ... briefly ... in triumph, thus giving rise to the well-known insult:
"Yo, you dumber than Jesse Pinkman standing on top of a Porta Potty in a junkyard!"There are many well-developed supporting roles. For example, Gale Boetticher (played by the wonderfully clueless David Constabile) is the Salieri of meth chefs, who also collects recipes for vegan smores.
My favorite character is Saul Goodman, an attorney who received his law degree from the University of American Samoa, an academic institution of equal repute with the University of Southern North Dakota at Hoople. Saul's real name is McGill, but he changed his name to Goodman, both to go with his advertising slogan ("It's all good, man!") and his marketing strategy whereby he believes the various low-lifes to whom he markets his services will be more likely to hire him if he's seen as a "pipe-hitting member of the tribe".
Saul advertises on bus benches all over Albuquerque, and he also has a website, www.bettercallsaul.com, ("WELCOME, LAWBREAKERS) where Saul, memorably played by Bob Odenkirk, announces via recorded video:
Traffic accident? Better call Saul.And here's one of Saul's classic advertisements:
Injured on the job? Call NOW.
Confessed to a homocide? What are you waiting for?
Hi. Welcome to the Law Offices of Saul Goodman and Associates. From parking tickets to mass murder, from slip and fall to bond fraud, Saul Goodman and Associates is your one-stop shop for all your legal needs. This week only, I'm having a special. 2 for 1 misdemeanor shoplifting arrests for the price of one. How can I do it? Because I CARE. So if they say you're breaking bad, you'd better call Saul.
In recent episodesBreaking Bad has moved its characters, particularly Walter White, so far into the criminal life, so far beyond really all civilized conduct, that you start to realize that Walt, who now fancies himself a Dope Bonaparte, really, really has to die ... an amazing development, like Star Trek letting the Bad Kirk stay in charge of the Enterprise.