‘Breaking Bad’ continues to highlight dangers of meth

By Kendall Kaut
Guest Contributor

“Breaking Bad” is television’s best show and will end its fourth season on Sunday. Although the season got off to a slow start, the writing, acting and late season have made this one of, if not the show’s best season.

“Breaking Bad” follows Walter White (Bryan Cranston) as a high school chemistry teacher diagnosed with cancer. To pay for his cancer treatment, Walt begins cooking meth with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).

Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) is a D.E.A. agent, which provides a constant reminder of the problems Walt’s lifestyle causes. Eventually Walt and Jesse produce a quality of meth so high that they draw the attention of a major distributor, Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).

This season’s acting has been incredible. Bryan Cranston has received the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama all years he has been eligible but this season he has done his best work.

Cranston has fully transformed Walt from a reluctant teacher who needed money for cancer treatment, to a villain willing to harm anyone to stay alive.

In the final episodes this season, Cranston has been able to smoothly remind us there is still something human to a man whose actions have harmed so many.

Aaron Paul’s work as Jesse may be even better than Cranston’s this season. Jesse begins the season trapped with grief after he is forced to commit a heinous act to save Walt’s life. Originally Jesse was a one-dimensional character who only seemed to care about money and was trapped in a cycle of drug addiction. Now Jesse has emerged as the stable force recognizing the danger his life is causing people.

“Breaking Bad” has once again demonstrated it has some of the best writing on television. Each sequence builds the intensity of a show that rarely has a light moment.

In one monumental exchange as Walt’s situation becomes dire, he states, “Skyler, I have lived under the threat of death for a year now, and because of that, I’ve made choices. Listen to me. I alone should suffer the consequence of those choices. No one else. And those consequences, they are coming. No more prolonging the inevitable.”

In fewer than 50 words, Walt describes how hopeless his situation is and owns the moment. In 10 years it’s difficult to imagine remembering the stupid things Don Draper says on “Mad Men,” but it does not seem tough to remember Walter White and the hopelessness of his situation by one single exchange.

The last few episodes of this season are unbelievable. “Breaking Bad” has followed the format of “The Godfather” by largely insulating the dangers of meth on clients until Jesse and Walt need to confront two customers.

In another powerful scene Jesse realizes his life as a meth cook may have caused a child he has cared for to be poisoned. Jesse’s response and panic are captured phenomenally. Walt is now left to decide how to confront Gus and how he can possibly get out of a past that has killed and hurt so many.

Four years ago AMC launched a show about a high school chemistry teacher who cooked meth to pay for his cancer treatment. Since then the problems his decisions have caused include massive death and the spread of one of the most addictive and dangerous drugs.

There are 17 episodes left to find out what happens to Walt and it would be difficult to imagine a show with such great acting and writing ending in any disappointing manner.

Reviews in the Lariat represent only the viewpoint of the reviewer and not necessarily the rest of the staff. Please send comments to lariat@baylor.edu