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The Best of ‘Breaking Bad’

Troy Mathew | Thursday, November 8, 2012

“Breaking Bad” is about a lot of things – it’s a story about the meth epidemic in the American Southwest, a critique of the American healthcare system or a trying tale of a boy with cerebral palsy that really loves breakfast. At its core, however, “Breaking Bad” is about the complete moral corrosion of its lead character, Walter White (Brian Cranston). Just about every other television series features a protagonist who possesses a constant set of character traits and qualities. For example, Dexter of “Dexter” has always been the serial-killer anti-hero with a close attention to detail. What makes Walter White so compelling and original is his total character shift over the course of four and a half seasons – from lovable loser to egomaniac, from high-school chemistry teacher to meth kingpin and from dedicated family man to remorseless murderer. “Breaking Bad” is in the midst of its fifth and final season, and has taken a break – a very long break. An excruciatingly long break, in fact, was directly preceded by one of the show’s biggest and most dramatic cliffhangers. Yes, the American people will have to wait until the summer of 2013 for “Breaking Bad” to return, which makes now an ideal time to reflect on the greatest moments Walter White and company have provided us with over the past four and a half seasons.

Pizza on the Roof
Despite dealing with an obviously heavy and dark storyline, “Breaking Bad” never fails to inject some sort of humor into its shows, whether it’s a witty one-liner or bizarre recurring theme. One of the best is the pizza on the roof. Walt, trying to win back his wife’s favor and reenter the family, shows up at the house with an enormous pizza. When Skyler denies him entry, Walt responds incredulously (“But I have dipping sticks, Skyler, DIPPING STICKS”) and flings the giant pizza onto the roof over the garage. It’s one of Walt’s funniest (and least violent) displays of frustration, and is continually referenced throughout the season, much to the delight of diligent viewers.

The Box-cutter
This scene is perhaps the show’s most graphic, and without question is ingrained into the minds of every viewer who has experienced it. “Breaking Bad” loves to open shows with a bang, and the Season Four premiere did just that – in bloody, stomach-turning fashion. Season Four introduces Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), a mysterious man who owns both a fried-chicken franchise and an international meth empire. Gus seems genteel and unthreatening, that is, until he grabs an unsuspecting man and cuts his throat open with a box-cutter, much to the horror of Walt and his business partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul). This disgusting scene provided a valuable lesson for “Breaking Bad” fans – you really don’t know what is coming next.

Walt and Skyler’s son Walter Jr., a lovable, albeit angsty, high-schooler with cerebral palsy, is arguably the only main character on the show who is wholly innocent. While this trait is unique among characters on the show, that doesn’t mean Walter Jr. doesn’t have his entertaining moments.
As his parents separate and his scowling, sassy mom becomes more and more intolerable, Walter Jr. inexplicably insists that his parents and relatives refer to him only as “Flynn.” No reason is ever given for this identity change, and no rationale is given as to why this would be Walter Jr.’s pseudonym of choice. However, it never fails to get an easy laugh when Walter Jr.’s teen angst flares up, often when the family is gathered around the kitchen table. Which brings us to our next point…

“Breaking Bad” is not a family show. You shouldn’t watch it with your family (your mom would be disturbed) and none of the characters have family values (Walt’s family is occasionally in danger of attack from violent drug cartels and it doesn’t seem to bother him all that much). Incongruously, the Whites still eat family breakfast together. A lot. Seriously, you’d think this was a “Full House” remake judging by how many wholesome family meals they share before Walter Jr. goes off to school. Once again, it doesn’t make any sense. The only explanation is that it’s a knowing wink to viewers who have caught on to the trend and cherish the show’s gratuitous breakfast scenes.
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The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Observer.