by Aaron Navarro
Breaking bad is about methamphetamine and a high school chemistry teacher named Walter White. His life is close to miserable and it only gets worse. Walter’s salary barely makes ends meet, so Walter has another job working at a car wash. His wife is about to pop out their second child and their teenage son is battling cerebral palsy. Everything hits the fan when Walter learns he has terminal cancer, so Walter flips out hence the name Breaking Bad. With the realization that his illness probably will ruin his family in the long run, Walter races to earn as much money as he can in the time he has left. Breaking Bad is an American drama series that was aired on AMC for five seasons, and five was all it needed.
Breaking bad is a story about man versus time. While the basic plot grabbed my attention, what really interested me was the series’ ability to tackle a current issue. The series really showed how meth has exploded into a huge drug in the black-market. Not only does the series shows how easy it is to make the meth, but shows how addictive and cheap the drug can be. Breaking Bad did an excellent job of taking people out of the norm and into this underground world. Although, as much as I love the story hook of meth and Walter’s ambition to make the most money possible, I am mostly interested in the characters’ social and internal conflicts.
Starting with the main character, Walter White is conflicted by his personal life and his meth life. Walter is stuck between two lifestyles and finds himself trying to make sense of it all. As the series goes on Walter slowly learns to accept the immoral things by creating an alter ego. Walter’s alter ego is known as Heisenberg and he uses this identity to mask his morals, therefore committing violent crimes. In addition to his violent acts, Walter finds his inner Heisenberg slipping out of him like Dr. Henry Jekyll. Throughout the series, Walter is conflicted with family ties and loses his cool, but I believe that it Heisenberg who is taking action and not Walter.
Secondly, Jesse Pinkman is Walter’s partner in crime and is my favorite character throughout the series. Jesse evolves throughout the series and matures. At first, he starts off as a small time drug dealer and an occasional drug user at the beginning of the series. Throughout the series, Walter impacts Jesse in both a positive and negative way and it seemed like he guided Jesse. While Walter did everything out of personal interest, this exposed the underlying problem Jesse had within. Jesse struggled to seek affirmation from others since his family neglected him. Furthermore, everyone in the series abused Jesse, thus making the audience feel sympathetic towards him. This heightened sympathy that I felt could have been the result of me relating to his character. As a young adult, I can relate to Jesse the most because he endured social expectations and searched for affirmation from others. Jesse’s personality gives the series a lot of color and his social endeavor grabs my attention even more. At the end, Jesse is able to walk away with experience and maturity.
Finally, the last character that I thought played a major role in Breaking Bad was Hank Schrader. Hank, the antagonist was Walter’s brother in law. He was constantly on Walter’s tail and ambitiously did so throughout the whole series. Not only was it a constant cat and mouse game, but this conflict also played on the audience’s morals. Indeed, the audience becomes attached to both Walter and Jesse even though they are criminals. The audience is forced to pick a side between justice and personal morals. Our minds side with Hank because his actions are justified, but our hearts side with Walter and Jesse because we sympathize for them. Besides Hank’s impact on the plot, his internal problems create another dimension to which the audience can relate. Hank is human no matter what he does or says in the series. He is the typical tough guy who talks big and is the big shot in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Despite his image and reputation, Hank deals with psychological problems. For example, Hank struggles with anxiety in the series and when he is promoted to a higher position in the DEA this anxiety is exposed to the viewer. Shortly after his promotion, Hank strolls into an elevator by himself. He then starts to panic in the elevator and when the doors open he walks out acting like nothing happened. Since Hank was isolated in the elevator, this shows how he deals with this anxiety by himself because there is no one around to take notice. This leads me to believe that his macho man attitude is affecting him psychologically. Again, interpersonal and personal conflicts bring life to Breaking Bad.
Breaking Bad’s characters all influence the series in their own way. Vince Gilligan, the director, does one more thing to represent all the characters’ influence on the storyline. He uses color to affect our visual perception and sensation, and to explain what is happening in the plot. Throughout the film Vince plays with different shades of specific colors to show and explain what is going on in a certain situation; for example, green usually symbolizes money, greed, and envy while yellow is usually associated with meth. This color scheme continues throughout Breaking Bad and to understand it fully one would have to watch the series. Overall, Breaking Bad is a wonderful series to watch because it is filled with non-stop action, mystery, and romance. Meth is exposed and explored to the point where not only are our morals tested, but so is our visual field.