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Anxiety with a side of Crystal Meth...the genius of Breaking Bad

Tonight I sit and stare at my DVR, reading through the info on episode 4-10 of the best show on television, Breaking Bad. I’m filled with a breadth of knowledge, a lifetime of memories, scar tissue and endless suspense, and a deep, psychological need to see this through, to satiate my built up anxiety, to whatever end I’m given. Never before has a channel been so bold, so unrelenting, and so innovative in the pursuit of story-telling. I could not be more engrossed or more dedicated to a show. I cannot get enough. To relinquish any detail would give away some of the show’s magic. Basic details: The show is on AMC. On Sunday nights. At 10 p.m. I already fear I’ve said too much. Oh well. The show centers around Walter White (played brilliantly by veteran actor Bryan Cranston), a middle-aged, married, high school chemistry teacher living in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Because of the travesty that is the education system in our country, coupled with the fact that politicians clearly under-appreciate teachers, Walter works a second job at a car wash, under a demoralizing asshole boss. Immediately we see Walter finding out he has terminal lung cancer, and his world begins to spin madly out of control.

Crippled with the daunting, patriarchal burden of providing for his pregnant wife and disabled son, Walter quickly recognizes the harsh reality of his situation, and swallows the big, ugly metaphorical pill when finding the only solution to his problem is cooking meth. For those living under rocks (crack or sedimentary) or other sheltered environments, meth is short for methamphetamine, commonly referred to as crystal, or ice, known for its generous helping of dopamine, on top of increased energy, libido, confidence and euphoria. Sounds fun, eh? Not too fast druggies, this shit is serious. If you want to lose your teeth, weight, attractiveness, friends and morality, then this is the drug for you. Otherwise, kindly seek something more natural, herbal even (yoga and living green have helped a few nameless humans I know). Suffice it to say Walter put his genius to work, to acquire a safety net for his family before this nasty disease takes his life.

Walter, wanting desperately to remain hidden and behind the scenes, knows he needs connections to a dealer, someone in a community he’s never known and only ever criticized. Through a series of events he finds Jesse (performed with genuine talent and devotion by breakout star Aaron Paul), a former student and trouble maker, currently engrossed in this very dangerous, dark world. After a few awkward, semi-negative conversations, they agree to partner up, each on differing sides of the business, with one goal: money.

Hilarity ensues, blah blah, people get killed, shit gets hectic, you know the drill. Nope. Not even. The only levity and break from the impending ulcer comes in the latter half of the 2nd season, with the entrance of a corrupt lawyer, Saul Goodman (could not have been cast better, the BB crew wisely choosing comedy great Bob Odenkirk). Better call Saul. Not to worry though, the sheer magnetic forces of the show’s writing, acting and directing will suck you in, mess with your head and heart and leave you for dead on the floor, battered and confused until next week. Better take some Xanax.

I’m not sure if I’m even able, through the limited availability of the English language, to adequately describe why this show is so great and why more people should be watching. The phrase God is in the details is befitting of this show. No stone is unturned, no piece of information left lingering. You’ll be sucked in by an initial image, ride the tumultuous roller-coaster for two full seasons to finally fit that piece in the weird puzzle you’ve built in your mind. The happenings in between are suspenseful, often times scary, and fueled by urgency.

Each episode, and season, builds, incrementally, on itself, and on your gut, until finally, you burst, into tears or into the hospital but either way, something’s bursting. This show evokes that kind of reaction. This is not your typical CBS, standard, one-note, predictable crime-drama. Breaking Bad has redefined hour-long programming, and even writing and acting in general. It appeals so deeply to your humanity, makes you believe, feel like you could be Walter, Jesse, or one of the very richly written characters yourself. I’m constantly amazed how the show has evolved, the development of each character and their dynamic within the plot, the attention to every minute detail which inevitably comes back into play at some point, boiling your brain and stopping your heart once again.

This show makes you feel, deeply, pondering the consequences of each action and reaction, each step, each word. It casts a mirror, allowing you to see moments in your life, significant occurrences like seeing your parents humanity for the first time. We all can no doubt recall these moments, with mom or dad, or a sibling, a close family member, even your spouse. Unfortunately and fortunately, we reveal ourselves eventually. You get to see all that unfold, and similar to other genres of art, it reminds you how to be human, and above all, triggers your compassion and empathy.

My stand-point on television is similar to that of any art you choose to absorb; selectivity, it’s food for your mind and quite possibly your soul. It’s nice to let the rapidly diminishing brain cells exit without effort, I know, but I strongly encourage those of you who think of yourselves as intelligent, thoughtful people, to require as much out of the television as you do from your furniture, clothes, handbags, and other meaningless “things.” Being impressive from the inside takes work, not just money, so exercise your freedoms and choose wisely. Breaking Bad will challenge you, and as always, you will not regret it.

As much as I love and need comedy, life is full of drama. I prefer to keep the drama inside that light-emitting screen and out of my very loving, cohesive household. Perhaps there is an inverse relationship between the quality of art and food you consume and the quality of drama in your life. Just a theory. In my life, it holds true, and I’d love that for others as well. Keep the drama focused on provocative pieces created by others to entertain, and not within the confines of your family. Evoke kindness from within, and explore the complexity of human existence without.

Save the drama for something other than your momma. And make it worth while. Spend some time with the great work on AMC, especially the likes of Breaking Bad. Enjoy.