By Claire Meakins, Subeditor and Film & TV Critic
Fifteen years after its first episode premiered, Breaking Bad (2008-2013) has managed to remain firmly in the cultural mainstream. Appealing to both critics and casual viewers, Vince Gilligan’s exceptional writing and directing have led many to dub it ‘the best TV series of all time’.
The series follows Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a chemistry teacher and cancer patient who begins creating and selling methamphetamine in order to provide for his family. Quickly, however, it becomes apparent that his motivations are not as selfless as he initially claims.
The character’s descent into ruthless and unmitigated evil is intense and unforgettable, with Cranston’s performance deserving all the praise it has received.
The supporting cast is, likewise, brilliant, with highlights including Giancarlo Esposito as the indomitable Gus Fring, Jessie Pinkman’s (Aaron Paul) surprisingly complex characterisation, and Anna Gunn’s heart-wrenching performance in the last season. Many of these characters have acquired almost cult-like status, regularly appearing in memes and pop culture even now.
Not only is this down to the acting talent of the series, but also due to its almost unique ability to combine the truly horrifying and unsettling with likeable characters and a healthy dose of humour.
Although Breaking Bad may be at its best when it’s at its darkest, its enduring appeal is no doubt partly down to its willingness to be playful and grounded. Cranston’s background in comedy acting is evident, making his moments of menace all the more impactful.
Technically, the series is stunning, with the use of colour being a masterclass in visual storytelling. Entire websites have been devoted to unpacking the meaning of different colours in Breaking Bad, which demonstrates both the dedication of its fanbase and the remarkable strength of its cinematography.
It’s hard to think about the series without picturing the iconic vibrant green that dominates its early seasons or the obscene amount of purple that follows the character of Marie (Betsy Brandt).
The show is not perfect - it takes a couple of seasons for it to really shine, and some moments do now feel a little dated - but it remains one of the best examples of television being able to pull off the narrative and artistic impact that was previously only thought possible in film.
It is the highest-rated drama series on IMDB, with the infamous season 5 episode ‘Ozymandias’ maintaining a perfect 10 rating a decade after its release, a testament to its brilliance.
Indeed, I have Breaking Bad to thank for helping me to get over my own misguided snobbery towards TV.
If you haven’t yet watched this cult classic, or if you’re due a re-watch, now would be the perfect time to do so. While the series’ hype may be a little overblown, Breaking Bad is undoubtedly one of the greats and remains just as impactful 15 years on.
Featured Image: Frank Okenfels on IMDB
Have you watched Breaking Bad (2008-2013)?