Next up in the “Worth Watching” series is that gritty, drug-laden, violent romp Breaking Bad. It’s been around since 2008, and there are five full seasons to binge if you should choose to take on the task. But should you? Are you the type of person who might enjoy this series? And, more importantly, is Breaking Bad worth watching?
If you enjoy hard-hitting stories about regular people doing outrageous things, you should watch Breaking Bad. If you’re interested in stories that explore why good people may decide to do awful things, give it a try. Breaking Bad is worth watching if you enjoy complex characters in dark situations.
The Breaking Bad story – pretty much no spoilers
There’s so much that happens in this series that it’s actually not that difficult to set the stage without giving too much away. If you’d rather not know anything about the storyline at all, feel free to skip this part. But I’ll do my best to not give anything critical away.
The story centers on high school chemistry teacher Walter White, played amazingly by Bryan Cranston. As is true with most teachers in our country, Walter is underpaid, overworked, and under-appreciated. His family is everything to him, but the pressure to provide is heavy for his pregnant wife and his son who is also dealing with cerebral palsy.
When Walter learns that he’s dying of cancer, he’s overcome with the panic of a loving father and husband who knows he isn’t leaving much behind for his family. He’s been a “good guy” for so many years, and he struggles with the fact that it hasn’t done him a lot of good in terms of security and comfort for the ones he loves the most in his life.
So, Walter, with some help from a former student, decides to put his chemistry knowledge to good use as a top-notch meth producer in order to provide for the family he’s about to leave. On the journey, he enters a world that couldn’t be more different than the one he’s lived in his entire life.
Is Breaking Bad based on a true story?
While much of the action and plot line of the series could very easily be taken from real life, the story as a whole is not.
There is a LOT of discussion about this all over the internet, and it seems pretty clear that there are elements of the story that are loosely based on some real events, including a real drug dealer named Walter White. However, the long, incredibly complex, and outrageous plot of the show isn’t, and honestly couldn’t in my opinion, be straight out of real life.
Kate Powers, a writer who worked on Breaking Bad, answered a Quora post about this topic. She relays a funny story that has Vince Gilligan talking to Tom Schnauz (both from X-Files) while they were both out of work. Schnauz apparently said to Vince Gilligan that, since they couldn’t find work anyway, they should just travel the country and cook meth. Gilligan had the spark of an idea, and the rest is history.
What does Breaking Bad mean anyway?
As Walter has lived on the “right side” of the law most of his life, the decision to provide for his family in ways that are “non-traditional,” shall we say, are most definitely his way of breaking bad. And let’s just say that he breaks bad very well in this series.
Apparently, Vince Gilligan used it for the title as he thought it meant to “raise hell.” It seems that’s the way it’s used in the area of Virginia that he’s from, but it was in use for quite a while before that. There’s a really interesting article on the origin of the phrase from Time Magazine if you’re into that kind of thing.
Walter’s break from societal norms leaves everyone questioning right and wrong, good and bad, and all that other deep philosophical stuff. For Walter, breaking bad means a lot more than just deciding to break the law and do “bad.” He’s making a conscious decision to do something he knows is wrong, but for what he feels is most important in the world. And his struggle between the two is one of the best parts of the show.
What the world thought of Breaking Bad
The show has been called a neo-Western crime drama among many other things, and it won 16 Emmys over the years. The entertainment industry heaped praise on the series, and it’s deeply loved by a very large, very loyal audience.
There was a lot of positive response to both the writing of Vince Gilligan as well as the performances of the entire cast. The show has spawned two spinoffs and many fan sites online.
The reception of spinoff Better Call Saul was also quite positive; however, the spinoff Metástasis was not as well received.
What type of content is in Breaking Bad?
This is a gritty, violent, rough show. You’ll hear a lot of bad language. There’s a decent amount of very violent violence if you know what I mean. And there’s some sexual content as well.
This is obviously not a show for anyone who isn’t OK with very mature themes and content.
I’m a pretty conservative viewer when it comes to my family, and I never really wanted to watch this show with my older child, even when she was a young adult. That’s just my sensibility, and you should just take that as my way of saying, be warned…it’s grimey. But hey, the show is about the drug world, gangsters, and other colorful thematic elements.
Standout performances in Breaking Bad
The acting is truly fantastic. The performances by the cast are by far some of the show’s biggest rewards. It’s a small enough cast of central characters that you get really attached to them, in either a good way or a horrifying one. But there are also enough characters that come in and out of the show to keep it fresh and exciting.
I feel bad leaving any of the cast out of this list, but here are the performances that I really thought were outstanding.
Aaron Paul provides an incredible performance as Jesse Pinkman, Walter’s former student and troubled youngster who provides the entrance into the world of drugs and drug running that Walter is after.
Anna Gunn plays Skyler White, Walter’s wife. It’s hard to imagine how an actress could make this situation truly believable, but Anna Gunn does. She’s one of the best characters in the show.
Walter White Jr. is brought to life by RJ Mitte. RJ does a great job walking the line between a developing, sometimes annoying teenager and someone we end up feeling great sympathy for in the story.
Dean Norris plays Hank Schrader, tough-guy brother-in-law to Walter White, oh and he’s also a DEA agent. He’s one of my favorite characters. He is over the top at times, but he plays it very well so that it becomes a believable character trait for Hank.
Bob Odenkirk plays Saul Goodman, seedy attorney at law. Bob Odenkirk is one of my favorite comedians who can also act. He was so good, he got his own spinoff, Better Call Saul. In Breaking Bad, Odenkirk provides plenty of comic relief, but he also masters the art of the pathetic character overall. One of my favorite characters.
Also watch out for Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut and Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring. Both performances are stellar as well.
Where can I watch Breaking Bad?
If you’re looking for the best streaming service to watch Breaking Bad, here’s what we’ve found:
Netflix has the show as part of its subscription
You can also purchase episodes and seasons from YouTube, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon Prime.
So, is Breaking Bad worth watching?
Yep, absolutely. Breaking Bad is worth watching. If you’re into that kind of thing, which I am. And, if you’re still reading this, you probably are too. I would recommend giving the show at least three or four episodes before making up your mind. It took me that long to get hooked.
I’m a big fan of stories that take their time to set the stage right, and this one does. It’s definitely a slow burn kind of beginning. That’s not to say that things don’t start off with a bang…they do. But I didn’t really start to care deeply about the characters until several episodes in. When I did get hooked, I was hooked good.
All in all, the show is really about transformation, as most good stories are. It’s interesting that chemistry is such a prominent part of the storyline, and it provides an excellent analogy for that aspect of transformation. People most definitely change in this story. You’ll enjoy the journey if you take the time to get fully on the road.