Breaking Bad: Season 3
Through most of time stories typically were centered on main characters that were ready likable. The exhibited characteristics universally perceived as noble and admirable. To even consider lionizing a serial killer, nocturnal monster or a corrupt police detective would beyond the imagination. That is until recently. Television series such as ‘Dexter’, ‘True Blood’ and ‘The Shield’ have readily and successfully accomplished this exact feat. A few years ago another unlikely trope was added to this list, a chemist on the supply side of Methamphetamine trafficking. I have to hand it to the writers of all the above mentioned shows. Millions of people, including myself, have become fans of programs that feature protagonists routinely engaged in illegal and immoral behavior. Still, they are so well conceived and executed that we cannot help but to keep watching although it is generally impossible to condone the specifics of the depicted activities. The case in point for this consideration is the third season of AMC’s hit original dramatic series, ‘Breaking Bad’. The main character is a family man; husband and father in a nice suburban community near Albuquerque, New Mexico. The one major aspect of his life that differentiates him from his co-workers and neighbors is his means to stave off the bad economy; he cooks the best Meth in the Southwestern United States. Of course the producers provide a set of mitigating circumstances that would not offer much in the way of legal easement but they are tailored to allow the audience a moral excuse for accepting the character despite otherwise reprehensible behavior. This is done with such skill that it generates a ‘there but for fortune go I’ feeling among those watching. It’s all about a way to placate the moral outrage such behavior normally generates. The result is you don’t feel bad about initially tuning in. After that, once you are hooked by the story, you can consider the incredible craftsmanship present on every aspect of this series. It is simply one of the best things on television and has helped put AMC in the same league with original programming as HBO and Showtime. In standard fashion as the countdown to the fourth season gets ready to conclude the third seas DVD and Blu-ray are release, just so you can refresh your memory or prepare to become a full fledged fan.
Like many Americas Walter White (Bryan Cranston) made a fairly comfortable living but after the usual bills to pay there was little left over to save as a cushion against the proverbial rainy day. Then one day the unexpected downpour occurred. Walter and his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) had a disabled son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), she was pregnant again and Walt was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Ironically, he never smoked but as a high school chemistry teacher he did spend much of his life around chemicals of all sorts. Walt was faced with a serious and all too relatable dilemma. He needs to provide for the fiscal needs of his family but his prospects of finding a means to infuse his bank account with a sufficient sum of money was bleak. The first season detailed how Walter with the assistance of a former student, slacker and low end Meth dealer Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Walter decides to temporarily dabble in cooking Meth to quickly accumulate the much needed funds. His doctorate in organic chemistry and perchance for attention to details results in Walter’s crystal meth the purist anyone in the trade has ever seen. With such purity come the potential for incredible profitability and the subsequent interest of regional drug cartels. What makes this series such an excellent example of drama is the way its creator, Vince Gilligan, made sure the show was able to grow from one season to another. You might think that the premise would quickly be used up. Fortunately, Gilligan placed a lot of careful thought into how the characters could continue to grow in response to changing circumstances.
Initially Walter wanted to make some quick cash and get out of the drug trade before he died. The first wrench in those plans is Walt goes into remission. He is now faced with the prospect of living with the consequences of his illicit scheme. This includes several powerful players in the Meth supply business that does not want their source of the legendary Blue Crystal to end. Only Walter has the knowledge and technique to manufacture product of such purity. In this third season the city of Albuquerque is shaken by a horrible mid air collision that killed hundreds. Skyler finally got fed up with the lies Walter told to cover up what he was really up to divorces him. His apprentice, Jesse, is trying to clean up his act by going into rehab for his own meth addiction. He tried in vain to reconcile with his estranged family but too much damaged has been to mend. One drug lord offers Walt $3 million as a cook but Walt wants to steer clear to expedite regaining his family. Adding to the pressures piling on Walt is the appearance of two mysterious hit men from Mexico, Marco and Leonel. (Luis and Daniel Moncada) hunting down Walter to avenge the death of their cousin.
The first season presented the audience with the premise introducing the characters and setting up the initial set of circumstances. In the second season Walter’s life begins to spiral out of control as visually manifested with the plan crash in the season’s concluding episode. In this third season the series is invigorated by shifting focus to the repercussions of his actions. Although Walt set out on this path for understandable reasons born of desperation and an overwhelming need to care for his family. The proverbial road to hell is paved with such good intentions. The story remains fresh by the constantly changing danger looming just ahead always blocking Walt’s purpose. There is a touch of the classic ‘every time I try to leave you pull me back in’. This makes Walt into a tragic figure. The way he tries to provide for his family results in their loss; his temporary solution is forced by external factors beyond his control to be permanent. Instead of being played out the show remains tautly written an acted to perfection.