So I finally watched the series that has been creating such a stir for several years now. It's very good. It's extremely good, in fact, in every technical sense: well-written, well-plotted, well-acted, well-photographed. And it's extremely gripping. I know at least three people who have watched a few of the roughly 60 one-hour episodes and stopped there, but I don't see how they did it. If it were a book, you'd call it a page-turner.
As most everybody probably knows, it's the story of a fifty-year-old high-school chemistry teacher, Walter White, who leads a frustrating life, barely getting by financially, a bit hen-pecked, knowing that if he hadn't felt obliged to bail out early from the company he'd helped to found many years earlier he'd be a billionaire. Into this dreary situation comes a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Wishing to provide for his family after his death, he decides to go into the business of making methamphetamine, with a former student and current meth-maker and dealer, Jesse Pinkman, providing the sales outlet. His intention is to make a quick bundle and get out before he dies.
Well, of course it gets considerably more complicated.
The series is sometimes compared the The Wire, of which I am a great fan. One could argue that Breaking Bad is superior in an architectural way: it's one long story that spans six seasons, with some sixty episodes which maintain a consistent level of quality and continuity, whereas each of The Wire's five seasons was a somewhat distinct story, although they involved many of the same characters. But I like The Wire better, mainly because it has more characters for whom I had more affection. There aren't many people in Breaking Bad that I liked very much, certainly not Walt, as one quickly begins to refer to him. And most of it is in some way painful to watch. There are many psychologically excruciating scenes involving Walt's attempt to keep his family in the dark about what he's doing, and to shield them from its effects, and many more which I can't mention without giving away too much. Suffice to say that very bad things happen to a lot of people, and although that was also true of The Wire, there is less humor and less light in Breaking Bad. And there's a fair amount of serious violence that some people--for instance me--may have trouble getting out of their heads afterward.
I don't want to give much away, but here's a link to the opening scene. It may give you some idea of the way the narrative pulls you in. Or maybe you'll just shrug. And if you've seen it and want to discuss it, spoilers allowed, in the comments, I'd certainly like to hear what you have to say.