REVIEW: Breaking Bad (Season 1)

This one picture alone convinces me that Hal from Malcolm in the Middle and Walter White are the same person.

So for as much TV as I watch, it might come as a surprise to many people that not once have I ever seen the show known as Breaking Bad. There really is no distinct reason for this, I just never went out of my way to check it out. I wasn’t going to deny that the show was potentially very good, or anything, it just never came across as my cup of tea, and I just sort of acknowledged that it existed. I didn’t get any internet jokes about the show, I didn’t know why everyone thought Walter White was a genuine badass, the only thing I really knew about the show was that Bryan Cranston was in it, and it was about drugs. Not exactly a big selling point for me. But here I am, finally watching it, and I got absolutely nothing but high praise for the show. Shall we get cooking, and see why this show is so awesome? Pun totally intended.

The early years…

Now as I said the first time I talked about this show on the group page, I had already thought that Bryan Cranston’s acting abilities were criminally underrated. I had seen him in Malcolm in the Middle, I remember the tremendous hype for 2014’s Godzilla simply because he was cast in it, and I remember so many people hoping that his character would be the Walter White Godzilla badass equivalent, to the point where a good chunk of the Godzilla fandom still resents the movie for what happens to his character maybe 30 minutes in. I will not deny the guy has some very good acting chops. I can’t think of one role I’ve seen him in that hasn’t disappointed me. Malcolm in the Middle is a personal favorite sitcom of mine, and Cranston can carry so many scenes in that show. And I even love what he brought to the Godzilla movie he was in. But if there was anything out there to further solidify my thought process that Bryan Cranston is criminally underrated as an actor, it was this debut season of Breaking Bad. Quite frankly, I’m asking myself why it took me this long to watch it.

Breaking Bad has so much going on for it. Despite a very short seven episode season, I am drawn in and eager to start season two. The only reason I haven’t started watching it is because the roommates are watching with me, and I’m a team player by not watching ahead of them. Ironically, it was one of these roommates that has been pushing me to watch this show for almost eight years now (good God, have I really been living with this guy for that long???), and he’s like a tour guide of this series due to the fact that he grew up in New Mexico and is able to point out certain and marks that he’s personally been to, or knows exist. I never remember specifics, but it’s still a fun fact none-the-less.

From the very first moment, the show had my eyes go wide, as it starts out unlike any show I’ve seen before. In fact, it starts out in one of the most bizarre introduction sequences I’ve ever seen in which we see a near totally naked Bryan Cranston driving an RV like a mad man in the desert, with three bodies in the vehicle, water on the floor, glass rattling everywhere, and absolutely no sense of reasonable speed. Needless to say, he crashes into a ditch, stumbles out of the RV, still near-naked, puts a shirt on, has a pistol in his hand, as well as a camcorder, as the sound of sirens appear to draw closer. He does a testimonial to his family on the camcorder as the sirens draw closer, he stands in the middle of the road, aims his pistol… title card.

White, Walter White.

What the hell did I just start watching, and why am I immediately in love?!

The show of course follows chemistry professor, Walter White, an average, run of the mill guy, and the rest of the pilot episodes details the events leading up to that absolutely bizarre opening. Walter White (played by Bryan Cranston) gets hit with the news that he has inoperable lung cancer, and that he has maybe two years at most left to live. We get a very interesting look at his inner psyche as he copes with this information and needless to say, his approach to coping is very unusual. Seeing a family friend, who serves law enforcement, busting a local drug operation, and seeing the high amount of money in store, and interested to make sure his family is set for his future passing, he partners up with a delinquent he used to teach, named Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), and says that with his knowledge of chemistry, and Jesse’s knowledge of the drug business, they could make a formidable team.

Legit one of the best moments of the opening season.

This of course is the catalyst for the absolute roller coaster that Season One is for this show. And perhaps the biggest reason everything seems to work in this show is it’s wonderful ensemble of characters, all wonderfully cast. There is no character of this series that feels like they don’t belong. Every character is believable, likable (and if they’re not likable, it’s for the right reasons), you enjoy each development that’s shown on screen, and that is something I can’t often say about each show. As much as I absolutely love shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, I’d be lying if I said that every single character has near flawless development throughout the series, and that’s the show I say has the absolute best character ensemble of that franchise.

Watching Walter White slowly transform into this chemistry professor, with little going on in life, to an emerging drug lord legend, and genuine badass is really damn fun. I never would have thought that show simple show about drugs could develop such an intriguing narrative on this one guy alone. And it is entirely believable! Early on when he’s getting his feet wet, the visual disturbance that his character goes through when he realizes the full scale of this kind of lifestyle is absolutely jaw-dropping at times. One of the most tense examples of this comes in the third episode when he’s forced to kill a trafficker who goes by Krazy-8. The final scene these two share together Is beyond tense in all the right ways, and is just one of the few examples I can think of when it comes to just how masterfully this show can manipulate your emotions.

I’m willing to bet that Kryptonite Bike locks flew off the shelves after this scene.

And that isn’t even the half of it. Jesse Pinkman, a character I straight up thought I would end up being more annoyed by than anything is also really damn likable. The show paints him early on as this wannabe punk who let his life get away with him, settled in with the wrong crowd, cares only about himself, and is only partnering with Walter because if he doesn’t he’ll get in trouble with the law. But I was shocked at just how much I would come to really like this character. Sure, he still has his thug-life moments that I just kinda shrug at, but one of the best character moments so far of this entire series came when he went to his parents, and bonded with them. The scenes he shares with his little brother in particular are truly heartwarming, even if for the reason you wouldn’t expect.

These two work so damn well together for this one episode.

Seeing Jesse in this one episode, seeing what his life was at one point like before everything went downhill shows us that these “thugs” are human beings too, and have people who love them. I’m not at all trying to say that drug traffickers and drug lords are nice guys by any means, but it is nice to see a more human side of these people here. The very last moment that Jesse shares with his younger brother, where Jesse willfully takes the fall for his younger brother in bringing weed into the house not only makes for another very believable scene, but I absolutely love when the younger brother asks for it back, only for Jesse to deny him along the lines of “it’s junk weed man”. I have no idea if there was a subtle message for his brother in that he shouldn’t fall for this lifestyle, or go down the road Jesse did, but it’s a damn good scene regardless.

And that’s not the mention the chemistry (no pun intended here) that Jesse and Walter share onscreen. This is definitely an opposites attract storyline here, and these two works so damn well together from episode one. I lost track of how many times I laughed at their interactions, or verbally said to myself, out loud, “Oh, shit…” You wouldn’t expect a guy who bombed chemistry (I can totally relate) and a guy who is a chemistry expert to blend so well together, but low and behold, this show pulls it off.

This one scene has not left my head since I saw it.

Seeing these two go from being hesitant criminal partners who only work together because they have little choice in the matter, to people who genuinely start to care about each other in the line is just fun in an of itself. Though, a lot of this contributes to Walter’s development as a character, in both his criminal and normal life. Honestly, following Walter around in this show is already worth the watch. His spontaneous behavior makes for some of the absolute best moments of the show so far, and since I’m ony seven episodes in, I have a feeling this is just the tip of the iceberg. Whether it’s sabotaging a dude’s car he barely knows, punching a random customer in a store for insulting his disabled son (I haven’t even touched how well Walt’s development with his actual family is in this!), or straight up confronting a drug lord trafficker who put Jesse in the hospital. There are just way too many moments of badass in this series.

“This is not meth.” That is definitely one of my favorite pre-ass kicking one-liners out there.

I could go on and on about this show and just how radical it is so far, but I mean, chances are, most of you have seen it. I know I’m very late to the train in watching it, but on the off-chance you haven’t seen this show, you’re really denying yourself quite an experience. I’m honestly getting a little antsy that we haven’t even started the second season yet. I wanna fucking watch it right fucking now. This seven episode season has proven enough to me that this show is something very special. It is on a fast track to become one of my favorite television shows of all time. Not even Deep Space Nine or Avatar: The Last Airbender had me hooked like this one season in. And definitely not by episode seven.

This looks like the start of a beautiful relationship.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about the execution of characters, the production value, the intriguing narrative, the near flawless tension in the atmosphere, the wonderful portrayals of each actor… Breaking Bad succeeds on every front with flying colors. The fact that the biggest criticism I can really come up with is that I really don’t care for the one character that is a bit of a klepto really says something, and even then, I’m pretty sure I’m not supposed to like her. That’s just the show’s design. I guess I’m mainly hoping she has a bigger impact on the plot moving forward since her subplots in this season really don’t matter all that much. I feel like you could cut them out, and not much changes. We will just have to see moving forward.

And we better fucking move forward soon, because I’m beginning to suffer a massive Breaking Bad withdrawal.

Verdict: 9/10

REVIEW: Unforgettable – CBS (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m.)

Unforgettable stars Poppy Montgomery as Carrie Wells, an enigmatic former police detective with a rare condition that makes her memory so flawless that every place, every conversation, every moment of joy and every heartbreak is forever embedded in her mind.  It’s not just that she doesn’t forget anything – she can’t; except for one thing: the details that would help solve her sister’s long-ago murder.  Carrie has tried to put her past behind her, but she’s unexpectedly reunited with her ex-boyfriend and partner, NYPD Detective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh), when she consults on a homicide case.  His squad includes Det. Mike Costello (Michael Gaston), Al’s right-hand man; Detective Roe Saunders (Kevin Rankin), the junior member of the team; and Detective Nina Inara (Daya Vaidya), a sassy, street-smart cop.  Being back on the job after a break feels surprisingly right for Carrie.  Despite her conflicted feelings for Al, she decides to permanently join his unit as a detective solving homicides – most notably, the unsolved murder of her sister.  All she needs to do is remember.  – CBS

70 out of 100

Well, if you like Numb3rs, The Mentalist or CSI, you’ll like this crapfest, Unforgettable, as well.

Honestly, that’s probably not very fair, though, as there’s nothing particularly wrong with Unforgettable at all, really… provided that you’ve never seen a police procedural before. Unforgettable is just your typical American, cookie-cutter, vanilla, bland police procedural where someone dies in the beginning, the detectives investigate, there’s a couple of suspects along the way and a twist about 45 minutes into it, with a little misdirection and then the real culprit is exposed and in true CSI/Scooby Doo, Where Are You? fashion, they (sans attorney) admits everything and the then lament how they could have gotten away with it.  The only thing that’s missing is, “… And I could have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling kids (or… police detectives)!”

Add to that, the protagonist with the amazing ability that’s unique, but not supernatural (this is where Numb3rs and The Mentalist come in) and you’ve got the typical police procedural with a twist!  And, oh yeah… the lead’s sister was murdered and that was the one murder she hasn’t been able to solve (expect an arc on that to resolve it quickly if the ratings start to drop) and surprise, surprise she and the male lead have a professional and romantic history from years past in common.

Really, though, it’s fine for what it is and we try not to rate new shows based on our own personal biases against format, hence the higher than expected rating for a show that we don’t particularly enjoy. There’s nothing original about the plotlines of any of this show’s murders-of-the-week at all but we’re sure this will probably be a big hit for CBS because A.) it’s on CBS and B.) this is the type of safe, generic fare that general audiences lap up.

It’s well cast, the performances are fine, it’s shot well, the storytelling is OK (if not entirely original) and the pace is decent, but then again, it’s hard to screw up a show when your playing Police Procedural Mad Libs (and no, it’s no coincidence that the creator of Mad Libs was the late Leonard Stern, well-known television writer and producer).  It’s a good show, but as we’ve noted, dry, formulaic procedurals just aren’t our thing so it won’t be in our viewing stable, but we wouldn’t discourage our readers from watching if they like this sort of thing because we’re sure you’ll enjoy it, but the problem for Unforgettable for us is that it was, well… pretty forgettable.

You can watch new episodes of Unforgettable, here.