It's been nearly six years since I last watched Breaking Bad, a show I've long considered to be one of my all-time favorites. I was captivated by Walter White's ascent into Heisenberg, so much so to the point where I had a Los Pollos Hermanos shirt. Culture, dude. It seems like a lifetime ago that the finale aired (2014), and with a lot having changed since then, I've decided to rewatch it and see how my perception of the show changes. What did I not understand the first time? Will I feel a stronger sense of pathos for Walter White, or are his intentions much more wicked than I originally remembered? I guess I'll find out.
There's no release schedule for the remaining four parts of this "series". I'm writing these at the end of each season and since the number of episodes per season jumps up after the first one, these are kind of going to be dropped at random times. Hopefully I can fly through the other seasons but things come up. Whatever, hope you enjoy.
Keep in mind that my short-term memory is less-than-great; I'm going to do my best. It'd be easier to steal one (and credit it, of course), but I want to feel like a "pro". Here's a refresher on the plot in case you haven't seen it in a while. Skip it if you're smarter than me.
Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher from Albuquerque, New Mexico, just turned 50. He has a pregnant wife, Skylar, and a teenage son, Walt Jr., who suffers from cerebral palsy. He's been "off" lately, which can be largely contributed to the fact that he has terminal lung cancer, a diagnosis that has given him limited time to live. During a ride-along with Hank Schrader, his DEA agent brother-in-law, to a bust at a trap house, he spots one of his former students, Jesse Pinkman, escaping out of a window. The additional income from Walt's second job at a car wash isn't sufficient, and desperate to ensure his family's stability after his death, Walt teams up with Jesse to cook and distribute crystal meth. After purchasing an RV and stealing the necessary meth-cooking equipment from the chemistry lab at Walt's school, the duo heads out to the desert and brews up pure crystal. Jesse's former partner, Emilio, is out of prison on bail following the DEA bust and after his cousin Krazy-8 gets a taste of Walt's crystal, they head out to the desert to make a deal inside the RV. When shit quickly hits the fan, Walt creates a chemical explosion that (seemingly) kills the would-be buyers; after Krazy-8 is revealed to be hanging onto life by a thread, he's stored in Jesse's basement. Now faced with a deal-gone-bad resulting in a death and a kidnapee, Walt is presented with multiple decisions that will force him to break bad and leave his once-normal life behind.
To sum things up quicker, Walt has to kill Krazy-8, leaving him to deal with cancer, family issues, and the impact of taking a life and dealing meth after spending 50 years crimefree. He eventually has to reveal his diagnosis to his family, adding another layer of issues to his mounting pile. Skylar's sister, Marie, is able to get Walt a meeting with a top-rated doctor, who reveals a treatment plan that will ease the cancer, but drastically hurt the bills. During a party at his lavish home, Walt's former partner, Elliott Schwartz, offers Walt a job and upon finding out about his illness, Elliott insists on paying for Walt's treatments. Walt declines, instead telling Skylar he's taking Elliott's payments while actually using profits from selling meth.
In the meantime, Hank's unit has found what appears to be a cook site in the desert. There's an abandoned car that happens to be owned by none other than Emilio. A gas mask is discovered and after getting DNA tested and scanned, it's discovered that it belongs to the lab at Walt's school. After paying Walt a visit and conducting an inventory check on the lab, Hank discovers all the beakers and scales necessary for meth cooking are missing. It's pinned on the janitor, Hugo, because he has a prior record for drug possession and a blunt was found in his car; reefer madness! (Walt dodges a major bullet.)
Jesse has had a tough time with Walt away but sees an opening when he manages to snag a meeting with a major distributor, Tuco Salamanca, who just so happens to be an incredibly loose cannon. Tuco is impressed by the incredibly high quality of Jesse's product; he wants the entire pound that Jesse brought. When Jesse reveals his price-point as $35,000, Tuco scoffs and tells him that he'll get his money, just not upfront. He proceeds to attack Jesse, leaving him in the hospital with multiple injuries and a hefty hospital tab. Upon seeing Jesse's condition, Walt decides to pay Tuco a visit himself, birthing the alter-ego of "Heisenberg". Walt requests $50,000 to cover the stolen meth and Jesse's medical bills; Tuco once again laughs. Using mercury, Walt semi-blows up Tuco's office, (somehow) earning his respect in the process and it leads to more business, as Walt and Jesse agree to up the ante and provide Tuco with multiple pounds per week.
Walt and Jesse successfully pull off a chemical heist and begin cooking in Jesse's basement, eventually delivering Tuco a highly-satisfactory batch. During the deal at a junkyard, Tuco snaps and stomps one of his bodyguards faces in. The dude's crazy.
End of Season 1
As I've mentioned before, it's been a long time since I've seen the show. Even though I remember the show being a bit of a slow burn, I must've been struggling from a stronger case of self-diagnosed ADD than I had thought. It's actually gotten worse. Walt's descent into crime happens right off the bat, but he's not fully evil yet. Walt was never somebody I actively rooted against; I always hoped he'd somehow beat cancer and get away with being a meth empire kingpin.
I don't see that changing this time around. Walt gets broken down as a character right away; you can only help but feel for him. He's gravely ill and is clearly struggling to support his family but doing everything he can; Walt is tired, broken even. He's a talented chemist, having done research that led to a Nobel Prize, but is stuck and unsatisfied teaching high schoolers who couldn't care less about the atoms he's lecturing about. Hank attempts big dicking him at every dinner or family party, and his wife and sister-in-law both seem pretty miserable to be around. At the core, Walt is a good person. In 50 years of life he was never malicious or remotely evil, but desperate times call for desperate measures. I've never been in a position where I had to team up with an old friend to cook up some narcotics. I can only imagine what it's like to be in that spot, again leaving me to sympathize with Walt. Sure, distributing meth and murder are frowned upon by society, but he's setting up his family. It's not like Walt's motives are completely self-serving; his intentions are actually good (as good as they can be, I guess). If anything, he's a man of opportunity.
After the botched deal in the desert that left Emilio dead and Krazy-8 barely breathing, Walt is forced to make a big decision early on. When he has to strangle Krazy-8 to death with a bike lock, it clearly takes a toll on Walt, as it would any normal person. Just a few weeks prior he was celebrating his birthday with a turkey bacon breakfast; now he's a murderer. Based on a quick Googling, to break bad means to "raise hell or challenge authority". Walt has just begun tipping the iceberg, but the distribution of a Schedule 2 drug and a couple of deaths on his hands is a definite start. Emilio and Krazy-8 might've been the first deaths in Breaking Bad, but they certainly aren't the last.
I'm now starting to see supporting characters in a different light. I'm writing this as I'm at the halfway mark of the second season, and I know I said in the synopsis that Skylar seems miserable to be around, but I kind of get why she's acting the way she does. For starters, she's pregnant. Her husband has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and the diagnosis is pretty grave, and the finances aren't really in place following his certain demise. Walt Jr. is a teenager with a teenage attitude, which never helps, and the odds of her short stories being published are looking low. To make matters worse, Walt is never around (because he's off being a meth kingpin). Skylar has seen better days; if only she should know she should cherish her current dysfunction. By no stretch is she going to become my favorite character, but I sympathize with Skylar. Probably because I know what's going to happen.
Hank provides a breathe of comic relief (occasionally), but man, is he a dick. I never realized how patronizing he was to Walt, I mean the guy is always acting like his superior. He's not a bad guy, and he might just do it subconsciously, but it feels as if he's got a bit of a Napoleon Complex. I don't know, I'm not a psychologist. Hank genuinely cares about his family and his job, always willing to help out if he can. He's high up in the DEA, but if he was really a super agent, he would've popped Walt within the first few episodes. Or maybe not; was DNA and forensics and all that as advanced as it is now back in 2007? And why doesn't Walt's school have any cameras in it? Hank was one of my favorite characters the first time I watched the show and don't get me wrong, I still really like him, I was just pointing out an ~observation~.
I have to mention this, Jesse is hilarious in the first season. He's such a stereotypical white trash "gangster" stoner with the way he talks and dresses, it's so funny. I kind of imagine that's what a petty meth dealer would look like in Albuquerque from 2003-2008. Maybe he's what the stereotype is based on. You can't not root for Jesse, especially after his family dynamic is thrown into the mix. His backstory really isn't divulged but you can tell Jesse's been through the ringer, especially around the time he was in Walt's class. Aaron Paul's performance is one of my favorites ever. I'm glad I get to see it all over.
Last one. Tuco is a fucking nut. I don't know how he became so high up in the drug world by railing lines of crystal all day. To him it's like shotgunning a Red Bull and getting donkey kicked in the family jewels, but I don't know, I feel like an addiction that crippling would derail your progress in the underworld. Does he wear a grill because he teeth are so damaged from meth? Or does he only snort it? Whatever. I would be so scared to even breathe in the presence of that guy, who knows when he's going to snap. Kinda reminds me of the new homeless guy whose been wandering into my work the last few weeks. Waddup Ryan.
Season 1 is the shortest of the five but it packs a punch. A lot of moments aren't as devastating as later on the show, but all the decisions made lay the groundwork for the chaos that is yet to ensue. As far as introductory seasons of shows go, Breaking Bad's has to be on Mount Rushmore.
I have to mention this. The scene where Walt rolls a joint is absolutely hilarious. He just rips the nug apart and puts three big pieces on the paper, which would lead one to believe that it's going to be an un-smokable mess. When the shot switches, Walt is rolling up a MF bullet, absolutely preparing himself for launch. It was a pearl; Walt must've found a grinder nearby when we weren't looking.