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Watching ‘Breaking Bad’

April 20, 2009 - Jim Anderson
I only realized a couple of weeks ago that Bryan Cranston, who won an Emmy for his role as the chemistry teacher turned meth criminal on “Breaking Bad,” is the same actor who played the beleaguered father (Hal) on the situation comedy “Malcolm in the Middle.” Just when you thought you had an actor pegged.

I’ve probably seen about half of the “Breaking Bad” episodes on AMC. Once you learn the premise — a terminally ill teacher turns to crime while maintaining the pretenses of his family life — you’ve caught on.

The show, now in its second season, is returning in 2010. So it looks like the meth-cooking Walter White is going to be around long enough to wreak more havoc in Albuquerque.

“Breaking Bad” is a jarring morality play. A once “good” man comes to justify evil work. Cranston’s Emmy reflects that discovery. Even the TV fantasy leap from “Hal” to “Walter” is made achingly plausible.

I’m curious about the directions the show will take. Will Walter repent or will he become increasingly intoxicated by his new power and go out defiantly and tragically ... looks, at this point, like he might be beyond hope. (With a third season to fill, he can hardly call it a day and try his luck with Amway.)

Not everyone’s cup of tea, but this oddly-toned drama goes beyond the usual story lines of "suspense."


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