Monday, 30 November 2015


“Morality is not the doctrine of how we may make ourselves happy, but how we may make ourselves worthy of happiness.” - Immanuel Kant

We are currently watching the 2008-2013 TV series “Breaking Bad”, starring Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt and RJ Mitte. Vince Gilligan created the series and a number of talented writers and directors have worked on the five seasons of the highly acclaimed and very popular series. We didn't watch this while it was showing on TV, despite all the acclaim and instead are watching it now on DVD. We are watching the penultimate season at the moment and are still enjoying it very much.

In case you are unaware of the plotline, and the main premise of the show, here is a summary: When chemistry teacher Walter White (Cranston) is diagnosed with Stage III cancer and given only two years to live, he decides he has nothing to lose and embarks on illicit activities to make money. He lives with Walter Jr (Mitte), his teenage son, who has cerebral palsy, and his wife, Skyler (Gunn) in New Mexico. Determined to ensure that his family will have a secure future, Walt embarks on a career of drugs and crime. He proves to be remarkably proficient in this new world as he begins manufacturing and selling methamphetamine with one of his former students, Jesse (Paul). The series tracks the impacts of a fatal diagnosis on a regular, hard working man, and explores how a fatal diagnosis affects his morality and transforms him into a drug trade kingpin. Complicating things is that Hank (Norris) is Walter’s brother-in-law who is married to Skyler’s sister Marie (Brandt), and who is working in the Drug Enforcement Agency.

The success of the series is that it involves characters the viewer can identify with and sympathise with, even though we know that they do is morally reprehensible. One cannot help but feel for Walter who finds himself in such an uncompromising position that he has to resort to illegal activities in order to make ends meet. We know that what Walter does is bad, and we know that Walter makes a conscious decision to leave the path of light and go into the darkness, yet we try and make excuses for him, hoping that he will see the error of his ways and find redemption… Walter’s decision to follow evil is ultimately his choice and we know that ultimately he will pay the price – and perhaps that is how the series maintains our interest. We watch with morbid fascination as Walter commits greater and greater crimes and wince as he quashes his conscience and feel some relief as he begins to suffer the consequences of his evil actions.

A strong theme running through the series is “family”. Nearly every character in the show displays an attachment to their family and it is this excessive devotion that motivates many of their actions (good or bad). Walter’s primary motive for his choices to manufacture drugs is to make money to leave his family when he dies. Even the Mexican drug lords uphold family ties as sacred and the obvious sacrifices that Skyler makes to assure her family’s safety support this view. As the show progresses, we find that family can act as a convenient peg on which to hang all sorts of crimes and at some point, Walter finally admits that while he started to do “bad things” for his family, he continues to do so after he succeeds in overcoming his enemies “because he can and because he has begun to enjoy it…”

Acting is quite amazing. Every single actor in the series plays superbly, and that goes for the supporting cast as well. The writing is great and the scenario makes for some thought provoking viewing and quite a lot of philosophising for the thinking viewer. Production values are excellent and I would recommend this show to all and sundry, even though it is quite gritty and violent and deals with extremely sensitive topics. Watch it, if you haven’t done so already!


  1. I tried to watch it. Got through a few based on it is filmed in Albuquerque where I grew up. I could never get past the meth. I have seen it destroy too many people. And the plot is about he doesn't care who he destroys as long as his family has money overruns the quality of acting in my opinion.

    I know I am the odd duck in this but there are more worthy things to spend my time watching. I read your review to see if you could change my mind. You didn't.

  2. This is my favorite show of all time! Enjoy!

  3. An excellent TV series. Walter's transformation from a "good" family man to a ruthless and "evil" drug lord is amazing to watch. I squirmed as I watched this show, and was made painfully aware of how our society is aiding and abetting such transformations as Walter's, given where our values have shifted...