AMC drama shows dark side, internal side of freedom


With the emergence of TV shows that portray adults selling and growing drugs out of necessity, “Breaking Bad” takes the genre to a more twisted, in-your-face level.

The AMC series revolves around Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston (the dad from “Malcolm in the Middle”), who is a 50-year-old chemistry teacher with a child on the way and recently diagnosed lung cancer. He has little time to live and needs money to leave his wife, high school son and unborn child.

After accompanying his Drug Enforcement Agency agent brother-in-law for a meth drug bust, Walter looks into the drug making process, eventually joining up with a former student, and begins to cook and sell meth.

The unlikely pair buy a trailer and take it to a remote area in the desert to make the meth crystals, which are extremely pure because of Walter’s vast knowledge of chemistry.

After Walter’s partner, Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul, runs into his old partner that he ratted out, Pinkman leads his ex-partner and his friend to the trailer where Walter kills them with a deadly chemical. All of this happens in the pilot episode.

The next three episodes delve into the motives, struggles and inner thoughts of Walter and Pinkman, and they also answer the questions of what the partners do with the bodies, whether or not they continue making meth and how the family reacts to Walter’s cancer.

Above all, the series revolves around Walter coming to terms with his cancer and his gradual move toward emotional freedom, whether it is beating up a bully who is making fun of his son who has cerebral palsy or blowing up a irritating, snobbish businessman’s new car. Every risk Walter takes releases him from the inward, quiet demeanor he displayed as a teacher and father before the cancer diagnosis. When Pinkman asks Walter why he decided to make meth, Walter says, “It makes me feel free.”

Though award-winning Showtime series “Weeds” mixes a solid dose of adult humor with the struggles of parenting, “Breaking Bad” shows the emotional toll cancer and drug dealing can take on a family – both Walter’s and later Pinkman’s.

Unlike “Weeds,” where a recently widowed mom picks up marijuana distribution to maintain her suburban, cookie-cutter lifestyle, Walter has few options; he is dying. As a high school teacher, he has little money to leave to his family – there are no scandalous affairs or inept uncles like “Weeds.”

In each of the three episodes after the pilot, more is revealed about the two main characters, giving the audience background and an understanding of their actions. It is also interesting to see the transformation of Walter and Pinkman. Walter’s cancer is obviously a burden to him and his family, but it also removes many of the previous restraints that held him back. In Pinkman’s case, he gradually begins to realize the consequences of his actions and tries to seek help from his parents.

“Breaking Bad” is a true drama that addresses complicated issues like choosing family over the law, living a shortened life to the fullest while producing and selling debilitating drugs.

The show airs at 9 p.m. on Sundays, and the fifth episode will premiere this Sunday. Most of the episodes and summaries are posted on the AMC Web site, so people who have not seen them can catch up before the new episode airs.