Breaking Bad

"Breaking Bad" is a TV show about a rogue chemistry teacher who must earn a million dollars and twelve Emmys before he dies.

It's actually much better than this.

Just The Facts

  1. "Breaking Bad" centers around crystal meth, insufficient health care, and a little hint of chili. Yes, it's set in New Mexico.
  2. The show does for drug dealing what Johnny Cash did for capital punishment.
  3. Every episode reminds us we are one tumor away from a world in which Bill Nye the Science Guy is an unstoppable drug lord.


Walter White WALTER WHITE -- The aptly named White is so milquetoast he gets a city permit to organize his sock drawer. At any given hour, he's the epitome of unremarkability, unless somewhere two Phil Collins CDs are touching. Everything changes for him when a bad case of the cancers drives him to make his last months meaningful, just like it did for Kurt Cobain when he married cancer.

Jesse Pinkman
JESSE PINKMAN -- Walt's partner in crime and former high school chemistry pupil. The most ambitious thing he's ever done is double-knot his shoelaces. If you were to chart his lifetime achievements, you'd start at "Did not drown in tub" and quit when your friends came over with Taco Bell.

Skyler White
SKYLER WHITE -- Walt's wife alternates between supportively pregnant and pregnantly suspicious. Acting ability is like camouflage: highly effective where it counts, though in the wrong setting it can make you stand out more. If you're ever watching a really good film or TV show and don't know where you recognize a great actor from, that person was on Deadwood. But if you recognize them immediately, you're watching The Wicker Man. It took me two whole seasons to realize actress Anna Gunn was a major Deadwood character, earning this show a rare "Goddamn fucking cocksucker" on the Al Swearengen Cuss-O-Meter for Dramatic Excellence (or the lack thereof).

The Al Swearengen Swear-O-Meter
Any higher, and you'd need to write an essay
explaining why you're mature enough to watch.

Walt "Flynn" Jr.

WALT JR. -- In a show full of lying, drug dealing, and murder, Walt Jr. is the most suspicious thing of all: a teenager who loves and admires his father. He's probably an undercover cop.


HANK -- Walt's brother-in-law is a gruff DEA agent who never misses a chance to emasculate him. To hear Hank tell it, Walt's Y-chromosome is actually a V with its knees clenched together for propriety's sake. Hank bottles his own beer, guns down criminals, and it's strongly suggested he makes his own jerky out of them. When Hank attends a barbecue, he slaps all but one male present on the back. That man then fasts in the desert until he can spell the 1961-1972 Playmates of the Months' names backwards. The reason New Mexico has no professional sports teams is because they all tested positive for testosterone enhancement after Hank stood upwind.

The Al Swearengen Swear-O-Meter
The second presidential beer summit did not go as well as hoped.

MARIE -- Skyler's sister. It's hard to describe her character since she only exists as a shared nightmare between Hank and Skyler. If Kim Jong-Il were as effective at making himself the center of attention as Marie, North Korea's entire economy would be shoplifting-based. The only two days of the week on Marie's calendar are Wahhhturday and her next therapist appointment. Swarms of mosquitoes leave her alone as a professional courtesy.

The setup

Since the formula for this show is "(Deceit + Family)/Drug Use = Conflict" I can't tell you what it's about in specific terms. What if you tried to film "Breaking Bad" yourself and wrecked your home? Your mom would stop trying to seduce me.

Here's a hypothetical concern: suppose you, a spineless nerd who has never truly lived (that's not the hypothetical part), discover you have advanced lung cancer?

"No problem," you squeak in a high-pitched nerd's voice, "Cancer is curable, thanks to Chemo!"

This picture will be useful reference later.

Okay, but suppose you're slightly less of a nerd, not a virgin, but a family man, which is another way of saying "flat broke." And you love your family, so you're a tad disturbed that your impending death will leave them so poor they'll get most of their nutrition from turning tricks on the corner. Pretty grim situation, but at least you don't live in Albuquerque.

Albuquerque's actually got a lot going for it, like the pie at the Village Inn.
Nope, nothing suspicious here.

Dying in Albuquerque is the breaking point for any man, and while most of us would take that as license to go hog-wild on pie down at the Village Inn, high school chemistry teacher Walter White enlists his former pupil Jesse Pinkman to teach him the ways and means of down-home country crank. Yes, to an embittered public school teacher, the only rational step is cooking enough meth to sustain the Japanese air force. He also hides his cancer from his family until it provides a pretty useful cover for his meth-making business, but they totally stole that idea from "It's a Wonderful Life."

Walt and Jesse find distribution with a fellow named Krazy-8, who accuses Walt of being a DEA agent. This isn't an unreasonable assumption. The only crimes guys like Walt commit involve tax fraud or sleepovers. Our protagonists take their business to a more powerful dealer named Tuco, who has the easygoing nature of a badger that slept with Lady Gaga on a dare.

Little does the maniac Tuco know Walt can call upon the power of lizard-brained determination to survive at the expense of his very soul.

All I know is the M in Shazam stands for MONEY.
What's terrible is that joke is cyclical rather than topical.

Basically, it's the most flawless show on TV right now. I know you think that would be Mad Men, and yeah, that's a great show, but the toughest decision Don Draper makes is how dirty he wants his martini and/or sex. Lives are on the line here, people.

A Hamm sandwich.
I'm not sure if this Hamm sandwich is an example of -- or exception to -- Rule 34.

To recap:

Not shown: sex, drugs, Christmas chili

Brendan McGinley is the writer of a ton of webcomics. He had a fine old time in Albuquerque last summer.