The definition of a genius according to the Oxford Dictionary is, “A person who is exceptionally intelligent or creative, either generally or in some particular respect.” According to this defintion, Vince Gilligan, the creator of the AMC smash series Breaking Bad, is a genius. Not only is he a genius, but so are the actors in the show, particularly the leads Bryan Cranston, who plays Walter White, and Aaron Paul, who plays Jesse Pinkman. The storyline, acting, and plot are all the definition of genius. The show will go down in television as one of the critically acclaimed best television shows of all time, and it is for good reason.
Breaking Bad, according to Gilligan, is a slang phrase meaning “Raising Hell.” This is just what Walter White, a 50-year-old high school chemistry teacher, decides to do in the pilot episode. On his 50th birthday Walt is diagnosed with cancer. While on a ride along with his DEA brother-in-law, Hank, Walt gets a glimpse into the world of making methamphetamine. Walt wants to make money fast to provide income for his family because he may not have much time to live. Providing income is important for Walt because his wife is pregnant, and he cannot pay for cancer treatment and a new baby on his teacher salary. But it appears that this isn’t the only motive Walt (a chemistry genius) has for going into the meth-cooking business. Maybe he does want to raise hell. Up until the age of 50, it appears that Walt has led an ordinary life. When he is given a deadline for his time left on Earth, Walt takes drastic action.
Walt seeks out a meth cook he saw on the DEA ride along, a previous student from his chemistry class, Jesse Pinkman. The two characters are vastly different in their ages, family backgrounds, and their life choices. Jesse has been a hell-raiser for many years, while Walt has walked a straight path for nearly 50 years. Their differences and the situations they run into as they begin to cook meth develops their characters immensely throughout the show.
Bryon Cranston, Aaron Paul, and other actors from the show have been recognized for their performances, and the strength of the entire cast is rare to see in television. The character development and depth is unlike any show I have ever seen. No matter how minor the character’s role in the show, we see every character’s flaws, strengths, and histories. It fills in the gaps and helps the viewers understand the story as a whole. The characters are all complex and three-dimensional.
Walt is the defintion of an anti-hero. He is the protagonist, yet as the series progresses, he displays traits of being a villian. His actions are evil, gruesome, and disturbing at times, yet not to the point that the viewers lose faith in him. Cranston brilliantly walks the line of creating a complex and conflicted character who the audience continues to root for, despite his flaws.
Aaron Paul’s character, Jesse Pinkman, is a drug dealer at first glance, but as the show develops, so does Jesse. We see many sides of him throughout the series, and Paul’s performance is sheer genius. The complexity he brings to this character is some of the best acting television has ever seen. Jesse is no longer just a drug dealer who has lost his way. He has many issues that manifest throughout the series. The audience is taken on a rollercoaster ride of his emotions, and Paul shows every emotion beautifully.
Breaking Bad is drama and action, but the storyline, acting, and plot of the series have made it a historical piece of art, and a piece of genius.