Walter White’s fall from grace has been one of the most fascinating things to watch. In a television filled up with heroes, Walt’s self-styled Heisenberg has been anything but. Murder, Meth and mayhem follow in his wake, and while his intentions starting out could be considered noble, he is so far past the point of no return that sympathizing with him at this point may beg for some serious self-reflection.
Way back in the year 2009 in Albuquerque, N.M., timid high school chemistry teacher Walter White is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He doesn’t tell his pregnant wife, Skyler, nor his son with cerebral palsy, Walter Jr., about the troubling diagnosis. The thought of the cost of treatment is weighing heavily on his mind. That night, at a family dinner, his brother-in-law Hank, a DEA agent, invites Walt on a ride-along to see him bust a meth lab. Walt says yes. This marks the beginning of Walter White’s moral downfall, and his rise to power.
The most fascinating part about Breaking Bad may be that it exists at all. When it began, AMC wasn’t nearly the powerhouse network they are today. There was no Walking Dead, no Hell On Wheels, and The Killing was just a European cop drama at that point. Mad Men existed, but other than that one example, AMC was still the channel with the movies, like, all the time. Then this script about a chemistry teacher turning to the ultimate dark side for a chemistry teacher found its way onto a higher-ups desk. It blew him away. It blew everyone away. Breaking Bad had found a home outside of Showtime and HBO, where it would have felt right.
AMC had a goal at that point to offer premium cable television on a basic cable network. Financially, this could have been disastrous. Cable TV is based around ad revenue. By way of a for instance, Mtv’s Skins was destroyed because so many of it’s advertisers pulled their ads. Quite rightly so, as it’s terrible and the UK version will always be far superior. That show contained underage drinking and things of that nature. Breaking Bad contains cartel violence and just crazy a amount of Methylamphetamine. Meth being one of the nastiest and most addictive substances in the world, most shows, be they network or cable, are inclined to just not even mention it. Breaking Bad was going to be based around manufacturing it. They would be diving into some of the worst aspects of meth addiction along the way, as well. This could have been a recipe for disaster.
Thankfully, it wasn’t. Despite a first season cut in half by the writer’s strike (Dear God was that fun) Breaking Bad struggled in the ratings at first, but AMC stuck by them. With a little help from Netflix, who offer’s the entire available series on their streaming service, Breaking Bad found it’s audience. Ratings steadily increased as the seasons progressed, and season 5’s second start a few days ago saw some of the best ratings in the series’ history.
Something that has always struck me as interesting is the progression of time in the show. Walt is diagnosed right after his 50th birthday, and celebrates his 51st in the show’s 3rd or 4th season. While most programs advance their timeline along with the year’s actual, real-life change, unless of course they are called LOST and then who knows what’s going on. Breaking Bad has kept the year around the 2009-2010 era, at least I think. I’ve never seen the White family celebrate Christmas, New Years, or any other holiday that may help to give some idea to where we are in time. The obsessive nature of Vince Gilligan, the creator and frequent writer/director of Breaking Bad’s more defining episodes, is a pretty incredible thing to watch unfold on screen. From the clothing people wear to the mannerisms adopted by a major character, Vince Gilligan has packed Breaking Bad with references to the past and future, and because of this, theories abound as to where Walt is headed. With a recent glimpse even further into Heisenberg’s future, the internet exploded just a little bit more with questions and theories. One thing is sure though. Wherever Walt is headed, it can’t be good. That man has lost all sense of morality, going from chemistry teacher to kingpin, and leaving a trail of blood and debris in the wake of his climb up monster mountain. Walter White’s end, whenever it comes and whatever it may be, is sure to be one of the most talked about television events of the year. One for the record book. The “man who knocks” meets his end (or at least the end of his story) in just seven weeks.
The entire 4 1/2 season run (62 episodes) is available on Netflix now, and the final 7 episodes of the series air each Sunday at 9/8 p.m. central time on American Movie Classics (AMC), and are available day-after on things like iTunes and XBox Video.