By Breanna Shiflett
On September 29th, 2013, an era ended with the airing of the final episode of Breaking Bad. A show that had captivated millions of people across the globe and dominated the world of television for five years finally ended, and it was no small event—fans everywhere tweeted, blogged, and held BrBa viewing parties, enjoying the critically-acclaimed show for one last time. Though this is all well and good, it really doesn’t mean anything unless you know why Breaking Bad is praised the way that it is. Is the show really all everyone makes it out to be, or is it just another victim of too much hype? Even though it may sound impossible for a show to be as amazing as everyone says, I’m here to tell you that, yes, it is possible, and Breaking Bad has done just that.
For some, the numbers alone give a sufficient answer. As of last week, Breaking Bad is tied with Planet Earth for the highest rated show of all time on IMDb, and it has earned the title of the highest rated scripted show of all time on the website as well. The show also holds the record for being the highest-rated TV show in the Guinness Book of World Records for 2014, after earning a score of 99 out of 100 on Metacritic, a site that combines reviews from leading critics. The honors continue with the episode “Ozymandias,” which is the only episode on IMDb to ever receive a perfect rating of 10 (and considering that it has over 11,000 votes, it’s an even more amazing feat). For others, though, the numbers aren’t enough, and a more in-depth explanation of the show is in order.
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher who leads a fairly normal life; it’s definitely not the easiest, since his teenage son Walter, Jr. (RJ Mitte) has cerebral palsy and his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), is several months pregnant, but it’s relatively average. That is, until Walt discovers that he has lung cancer that is already in the third stage. After hearing the stories that his DEA agent brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) tells about arresting people running meth labs in the area, Walt asks to ride along with him during the next drug bust to get some information. During this time, Walt sees one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), escaping from a house across the street and gets an idea. He approaches Jesse, claiming that with his chemistry knowledge and his student’s street smarts, they would both benefit from becoming partners in the meth business. When Jesse agrees, Walt has to struggle to lead a double life, keeping his secret from his family while getting money for them using the pseudonym Heisenberg.
On the surface, the show is about a man who starts doing something completely illegal and extremely dangerous in order to secure the financial future of his family, but it is actually so much more. Throughout the show, Walter is constantly facing consequences for his actions, and the characters as well as the viewers are faced with moral decisions – after all, most of the time we’re rooting for a man breaking the law in a hundred different ways. But do we view Walt as a man of his actions, or of his motives? The answer varies depending on the viewer, but it is up to each person to decide if they judge Walter based on his devotion to his family or his conscious decision to break the law.
While the story itself is compelling and will draw you in with the first episode, there are many other aspects of Breaking Bad that make it the praiseworthy spectacle that it is. The show is surprisingly scientifically accurate much of the time, and it constantly does a great job of utilizing foreshadowing. This can especially be seen in the second season, when the beginnings of four episodes show only a pink teddy bear floating in water. The viewers later learn that the seemingly random scenes are actually flashforwarding to the end of the season. Connecting parts of the titles of each episode reveal a significant plot detail that occurs later on. Breaking Bad constantly uses symbolism, from simple things like flies and colors to allusions to the poet Walt Whitman.
Above all else, Breaking Bad is truly in a class of its own. It has been nominated for 113 television awards and has won 45 of them. Each season was rated higher than the last, and the show’s viewers doubled by its final season. BrBa truly broke many barriers in the television world during its run, and it is widely considered one of the greatest television series of all time, according to leading critics and fans alike. With all of the praise that the show receives, how could you not want to try it out for yourself? The first four seasons of the show are currently available on Netflix and iTunes, and a few episodes from the final season are on the AMC website. With its almost perfect writing, flawless cast, and astounding attention to detail, you have to do yourself a favor and watch the show that genuinely broke the barriers of television forever.