On paper, “Breaking Bad” should be a terrible television program.
After all, as creator Vince Gilligan has repeatedly said, it is all about turning Mr. Chips into Scarface. In the case of “Breaking Bad,” that has meant turning cancer-ridden high school chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) into a cold, calculating, crystal meth kingpin.
But, thanks to excellent acting, a compelling, tense storyline and a level of cinematography usually reserved for Hollywood movies, the show has instead received overwhelming critical acclaim, as well as dozens of awards and nominations since it first aired in 2008.
The second half of the final season, currently airing every Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC, is flying ahead at full-speed, as Walt’s brother-in-law and DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) attempts to finally throw the elusive Heisenberg into prison.
The second half of the season has so far been short on action, but tense, well-acted moments have moved the drama along with expert pacing. Each and every one of the actors, from Cranston and Norris to Aaron Paul (Jesse Pinkman) and Anna Gunn (Skyler White), give their best in each performance, leaving viewers in awe.
One intriguing aspect to season five of “Breaking Bad” is the lack of a clear antagonist. Seasons one and two had Walt and Jesse fighting back against small-time drug dealers and the cartel, and seasons three and four saw the two-faced Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) become the show’s main villain.
But this season, there is no true villain; at least not yet. Todd Alquist (Jesse Plemons) and his neo-Nazi families could rear their ugly heads in the episodes to come, but so far, we have largely been dealing with two of the show’s protagonists, Walt and Hank, going at it.
“Breaking Bad” is the very definition of “must-see television,” but it is not for someone who wants an easy-to-digest plot to enjoy. It is a dark and gritty but an absolutely brilliant show that comes along only once in a generation.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.