Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Breaking Baddest

Walt White gets himself into the worst messes. So far he's been able to extricate himself with a combination of lying and dumb luck. The messes don't come about because he's not smart, far from it. Walt is a high school chemistry teacher, and he knows his business.

Walt has a nice family: a wife, Skyler, a 15-year-old son, Walt Jr., who has cerebral palsy, and a newborn baby girl.

Walt also has lung cancer and has about 18 months to live. Fortunately, Walt has been undergoing treatment and the tumor has shrunk considerably, but the treatments are costing a lot of money. Walt is paying the bills in cash. Did I mention that Walt cooks methamphetamine, and uses the alias "Heisenberg"? His family doesn't know that Walt is manufacturing drugs and selling them with a young dope entrepreneur, a former student of Walt's named Jesse. And that's where Walt seems to get into the messes.

For instance, Walt and Jesse were doing business with Tuco, a Mexican drug dealer who orders up huge quantities of their meth. But Tuco is psycho. He kills one of his own crew in front of Walt and Jesse. Later Tuco kidnaps both Walt and Jesse and holds them in his uncle's house in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Due to blind luck and an intersession by a DEA agent, who kills Tuco, Walt and Jesse are able to slip away and escape.

Did I also mention that the DEA agent is Walt's brother-in-law, Hank, who is looking for "Heisenberg"?

Then there's the matter of the lying. Walt's wife suspects he has another cell phone (he does) and he keeps denying it. Eventually she's had enough of the lies, takes her baby and leaves him.

Before that Jesse takes up with his young landlady, Jane, a junkie who overdoses and dies in Jesse's bed. Her father, an air traffic controller, is so distraught that his distraction causes two airplanes to collide in mid-air, over Walt's house.

This is the AMCtv show, Breaking Bad, with Bryan Cranston as the anti-hero Walt "Heisenberg" White. Walt's reason for cooking the meth is that he's trying to earn money for his family, so when he dies they'll have something. The problem is that he has to lie to those closest to him, and he has to depend on unreliable people like Jesse.

Walt is amoral, which makes for a conflicted hero. On the one hand Walt wouldn't have an extramarital affair--something his wife suspects, else why would be need another cell phone?--but despite being a faithful husband, he doesn't lift a finger to help Jane, the young junkie, who chokes on her own vomit and dies.

That act of omission by Walt leads to the airplanes colliding in air as Walt watches. He doesn't realize, but indirectly he bears responsibility for many people dying in that crash.

The show doesn't spare anyone in its depiction of meth junkies as scabby-faced, toothless zombies.

Did I mention that Walt is set up with a crooked lawyer who is now laundering Walt's money?

The show presents several dilemmas for the viewer, not the least of which is that they find themselves rooting for the criminals, Walt and Jesse, to get out of their messes and to eventually win. The other is that the viewer really likes Skyler and Walt Jr., and wants them to win, too.

Unfortunately, with Breaking Bad, there don't seem to be any clear winners. Just conflict and an ever deepening hole that Walt finds himself in. We wouldn't care so much if the story wasn't compelling and the acting topnotch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

wonder when this show is coming to australia?