On Screen: A Perfect Storm of TV Production in Breaking Bad

Hello everyone and welcome to The Augur Bit’s new column all about television and film, On Screen! I’m Alex, and I will be talking about a different television show or movie periodically. I’ll share my thoughts and give a rating out of ten at the end of my review. To start, I’ll discuss a personal favorite, the critically acclaimed series Breaking Bad. 

Breaking Bad was created by writer Vince Gilligan and debuted on the network AMC in 2008. The show follows an Albuquerque high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. To pay for his rising medical bills and to help leave money for his family, Walter begins producing and distributing crystal meth with his former student, Jesse Pinkman. Breaking Bad follows Walter’s journey through the world of crime while trying to hide his identity as a drug kingpin from his wife, children and brother-in-law, who works for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). 

What makes Breaking Bad so interesting is that it blurs the line between good and bad. The show forces the viewer to root for the criminal Walter White and against his DEA agent brother-in-law Hank Schrader. While in most shows, Hank would be the good guy and Walter would be the bad guy, things are not that cut and dry in Breaking Bad. Instead, in this story, Walter is the hero of the narrative, since he is doing everything for his family, even if it is illegal. 

By making Walter the hero of the story, Breaking Bad makes the viewer consider several important ethical dilemmas, including whether it is moral to cross the boundaries of the law for the benefit of one’s family.  That question is at the core of Breaking Bad, because every crime Walter commits is done with the purpose of leaving his family with a better life after he dies. 

Some other important aspects of Breaking Bad are the show’s use of symbolism, color and foreshadowing. Throughout the show, many simple objects become symbols for the show’s underlying themes. For example, in season two, Walter comes across a pink teddy bear with half of its face burned off. This teddy bear represents the loss of Walter’s innocence and foreshadows a major plot point from season four.  Breaking Bad’s intricate use of symbolism and foreshadowing show just how much detail went into the writing of the show. Every single line of dialogue and every single object in Breaking Bad help to deepen and enrich the story that the writers have created. 

Breaking Bad utilizes color to show the characters’ motivations and qualities. For example, most characters involved in the drug trade wear yellow, and those not involved in the drug trade wear the tonal opposite of yellow, purple.

Breaking Bad features top-notch writing, directing and acting. Over the course of the show’s run from 2008 to 2013, Breaking Bad was nominated for 58 Emmys and won 16 of them. Most impressively, Breaking Bad practically swept the 2014 Emmy Awards following the show’s final season, winning awards for Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Bryan Cranston), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Anna Gunn) and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Aaron Paul). 

Some other notable performances come from Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring, a calm and calculated adversary of Walter; Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Gus’s reliable and formidable henchman; and Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman, Walter’s lawyer. After Breaking Bad finished, Esposito, Banks and Odenkirk went on to star in Better Call Saul, a prequel to Breaking Bad that explores the origins of Saul Goodman. 

All in all, Breaking Bad features incredible writing, acting and cinematography. Every episode takes twists and turns while still feeling grounded in reality. Breaking Bad’s top-notch production value, intriguing story and award-winning acting combine to make an incredible show that is definitely worth watching.

My rating: 9.5/10

If you like this show you should watch: The Sopranos, Mad Men and Better Call Saul

If you want to vote on what TV show or movie I should review next, click here.

Alex Gerson ’23