May 20, 2019gord_ma rated this title 4.5 out of 5 stars
Humankind cannot gain anything without first giving something in
return. To obtain, something of equal value must be lost. That is
alchemy’s first law of Equivalent Exchange.
-- Alphonse Elric, Fullmetal Alchemist
One of the most award-winning and most critically acclaimed American TV shows ever, [Breaking Bad] is about the brilliant but prideful New Mexican chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston), whose poor decisions in life come to a head with his sudden cancer diagnosis.
Desperate to support his family after he dies, Walter partners with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), his former student and now a drug dealer, to enter the Albuquerque drug trade with a new product: an exceptionally pure form of meth that is quickly coveted. However, Walter’s desperate desire for the financial security of his family and his talent also attract the attention of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), of whom Walter’s brother-in-law is an agent.
But what is [Breaking Bad], really?
[Breaking Bad] is a show of exceptional writing and plotting, exceptional humour and intelligence, solid to very good acting, strange but memorable characters, though the soundtrack was subpar—sorry, but [Mad Men] had much better music. [Breaking Bad] is a very regional TV drama, like the original [Twin Peaks] but minus the supernatural aspects: a psychological study set in an unique and quirky but totally American community. It also could be argued that [Breaking Bad] is a story the Great Recession (2007–2009), wherein the ripple effects of the steep and prolonged decline in the global economy gutted the American middle-class.
I also would argue that (at least in Season 1) [Breaking Bad] is a morality tale about a desperate man sullying his talents and sacred knowledge (chemistry) for the dubious and deadly drug trade, and by doing so sells away slices of his immortal soul one pound of meth at a time. Some may compare White’s descent into the drug trade with Dante’s [Inferno], it’s easy to see the similarities, but I’d compare it to the first Japanese anime adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s [Fullmetal Alchemist].
In that series, the desperate Elric brothers attempted and failed to resurrect their late mother using forbidden alchemy. In the exchange, one brother lost his limbs and the other his entire body. Life in exchange for life. Likewise, a dying Walter White (a modern day alchemist) has traded in the certainties of his life (unsatisfied family man who barely makes ends meet as a high school teacher) to get into the illicit drug trade to support his family and by doing so will destroy himself and everyone around him a piece at a time. Lives in exchange for lives. White may have created an alias and he may have Jesse do the actual dealing, but he can already feel the change crawl over his skin.
[Breaking Bad] Season 1 — 4.5/5 Stars