Breaking Bad: Season One

Breaking Bad: Season One


Reviewed by: Stephen Carty

Choosing to name a show after a southern US colloquialism about people going off the rails might confuse a potential viewer or two (or three), but once you get past the ambiguous moniker, there’s impressive television to be had. Created and produced by veteren X Files writer Vince Gilligan (geeks in the audience will note the Erlenmeyer Flask in-jokery), Breaking Bad is a mixture of intelligent writing, hard-hitting topics and ballsy acting.

When mild-mannered chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) finds out that he has cancer, he slowly starts to turn off the straight and narrow. Not wanting to leave his pregant wife (Anna Gunn) and handicapped son (RJ Mitte) without any money, Walter uses his chemistry genius to begin cooking crystal meth with an old high school drop-out (Aaron Paul).

Copy picture

First and foremost this is a tough watch. Full of despair and approached with a bleakly-realistic outlook, Gilligan pulls no punches as our 'hero' deals with his truly awful diagnosis. Additionally, we also get some brutal violence, a few gory aftermaths (such as cleaning up the remains of a melted carcasse) and human drama that’ll have you reaching for the Kleenex.

Thankfully, there's also some much-needed humour. Sure, these moments are fairly scarce and usually quite dark (like tossing a coin to decide who kills and who disposes of a body), but they serve as a welcome counter-balance to the palpable-yet-gloomy atmosphere. Of course, given that Walt is on a journey that plays like a mix of Michael Douglas' William Foster from Falling Down and Kevin Spacey's Lester Burnham from American Beauty, the best bits are always when the normally mild-mannered citizen 'breaks bad'.

Enveloping this all together is a phenomenal turn from the moustachioed lead, Cranston. Though known for his comedic role as childlike-adult Hal in Malcolm In The Middle, he proves a natural at serious dramatic material, evolving subtlety and believability over the series from hen-pecked family man to scary drug-dealer with nothing to lose.

Elsewhere the support is rich (In particular Dean Norris is a scene-stealer as macho DEA officer/brother-in-law Hank and Paul does a lot with a potentially clichéd role), but it's to Cranston's credit that no matter the circumstances, we're always symapthetic towards him. And yes, that includes when he's standing schlubily in his pants waiting to gun down cops.

The writer’s strike meant the full story wasn’t told and it might be too 'depressing' for some, but Breaking Bad is quality television that – like Walt’s cooking - mixes all its ingredients for a very powerful reaction.

Reviewed on: 05 Apr 2009
Share this with others on...
Breaking Bad: Season One packshot
A chemistry teacher embraces a life of crime after being diagnosed with cancer.
Amazon link

Director: Vince Gilligan, Adam Bernstein, Tricia Brock, Bronwen Hughes, Tim Hunter

Writer: Vince Gilligan, Patty Lin, George Mastras, Peter Gould

Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, Carmen Serano, Steven Michael Quezada, Maximino Arciniega

Year: 2008

Runtime: 346 minutes

Country: US


Search database: