Written by: Ron Bricker
The Chemistry of Breaking Bad is Creating Good TV.
To review a show about a drug-dealing chemistry dealer, I have decided to review it in a way that would make the lead character proud: The Scientific Method. Let’s hope the experiment works!
An hour long drama about a dying suburban father cooking crystal meth to support his family will make compelling television.
Take one very smart chemistry teacher. Add in a family containing a pregnant wife and a teen-age son dealing
with cerebral palsy. Mix in one dose of terminal cancer. Add equal parts desperation and ingenuity. Throw in the DEA and an ex-student/drug-addict/dealer. Watch for one hour.
Walt teaches chemistry at the local high school. He’s good at his job; he’s passionate about the subject,
and he’s smart enough to realize that the students who take his class only take it because it’s required. To make ends meet, he also has a part-time job at a local car wash. Apparently, New Mexico is yet another place where teachers don’t get paid a livable wage.
Walt has a loving wife, Skylar, who is pregnant with their second child. Walt has a teen-age son, Walt Jr. who has cerebral palsy and is going through all the angst, surliness, and misery of adolescence. Walt has a mortgage, medical bills and worst of all, Walt just found out that he has terminal lung cancer.
Walt’s reaction to the bad news about his medical condition is atypical. He does not blow up in anger at the doctor; he doesn’t deny the diagnosis; he doesn’t bargain for health with a supreme being; he doesn’t fall into a terrible depression; however, he does accept the inevitability of his demise. He internalizes the news, shows almost no emotion, and thinks about it. He thinks about his family: the bills that need to be paid, and what his loss (as the sole bread-winner) will mean to his pregnant wife and disabled son. This is a scientist at work, weighing all the factors to come up with a viable solution.
Later, at a birthday party in his honor, Walt’s brother-in-law, a DEA officer, talks about a recent bust of a crystal meth lab that not only put some low life dirt-bags out of work, but led to the confiscation of many thousands of dollars. Seeing the video footage of the arrest (and the stacks of cash), Walt gets an idea. An awesome idea. An awesome scary idea. An awesome scary completely illegal idea. If he can figure out the details needed to make crystal meth (and he’s a chemistry teacher with actual skills), he can provide a cushion of money for his family before the cancer kills him. But, how to do it in secret?
And, that’s the hook of the show.
Walt has limited time to get the money he needs, and he has to deal with some not very nice people to do it. But, he’s desperate and he doesn’t really care about the consequences in the long run because he expects to be dead in the short run.
After only four episodes, I cannot wait for the next. The slow build up is like superb foreplay. I just hope the climax is as good as I imagine it will be.