Breaking Bad

June 16th, 2011

What would you make of a brilliant chemistry teacher, who uses his chemical expertise to churn out the purest form of methamphetamine the US state of New Mexico has ever seen? Before you jump to a conclusion, allow me to work a Nazi metaphor here: not everyone who worked at the concentration camps is evil. Walter White is diagnosed with an acute form of lung cancer and obviously his piffling teacher salary will never be a cushion for his wife, a disabled son and a soon-to-be-born daughter.

Thus, to provide for his family after his truncated life, he gets down to ‘cooking meth’ with his erstwhile not-so-bright student and currently a drug peddler-cum-junkie, Jesse Pinkman. This duo is probably television’s equivalent of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid and a more menacing one at that. While White is the matter, Jesse is the anti-matter and their banter is easily the show’s greatest strength. This must be one of those few television dramas whose mise-en-scene is not contributed by the garage sale of a rich man’s mansion. Barring the household squabbles of White, rest of the action happens in the open and this is the sort of action that can give you anxiety attacks.

Apart from the lead duo, there are a bunch of other characters who could easily straddle both the worlds of David Lodge and Werner Herzog. There’s White’s tough-as-Kevlar cop brother-in-law Hank, whose psyche goes for a toss after a ghastly experience. White’s sister-in-law Marie is a kleptomaniac and is forever in a state of self-denial. Of course, there’s White’s wife Skyler, a perfect embodiment of a household dominatrix. As show progresses there are other minor but hugely memorable characters that keep giving the show its Eurostar brio. Of the three seasons, the last one has some high-octane drama that would put even Robert Rodriguez to shame.

More than anything else, this show only reignites Gore Vidal’s assessment of USA: United States of Amnesia. Here’s a show set in the sleepy town of Albuquerque where all the settings are natural and the show’s creator Vince Gilligan has a Zen-like focus on the failings of the much ballyhooed Great American Dream. This is one show that will richly recompense for whatever time you expend on it. David Foster Wallace merits to be quoted here: “Entertainment provides relief. Art provokes engagement.”

Breaking Bad is art with capital A.

PS: Fourth season begins on July 17. Bad digg:Breaking Bad newsvine:Breaking Bad reddit:Breaking Bad Y!:Breaking Bad