Breaking Bad: Pilot (2008)
Season 1, Episode 1
8/10
A very promising start to one of the great television programs
19 December 2015
Warning: Spoilers
I have never seen "Breaking Bad". Since its inception in 2008, until its departure from television in 2014, I have never once watched a single episode of the show. And it is with that, that I start my reviews of the show.

The pilot episode features Bryan Cranston in his defining role as Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher who on his 50th birthday is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Realizing that there is an opportunity to cook and sell crystal meth, as a means of supporting his family, he enters the business with a former drop kick student of his.

The theme of death, and meeting death, has been explored in great detail in cinema. Legendary films, such as Akira Kurosawa's "Ikiru" showed the way an individual changes when realizes death is soon upon them. Vince Gilligan's "Breaking Bad" is immediately about the corruption and the consequences of White's actions, as he enters the drug business.

Here we have a fairly ordinary human being, whose mid-life crises are too much to handle. He lives at home with a pregnant wife, played by Anna Gunn, and a mentally handicapped son. He is a chemistry teacher in high school, and is disrespected by students. He takes on a part time job at a car wash to support his family; a job he clearly has a disdain for. And at the age of 50, he discovers that he has only a few years left to live at most. Bryan Cranston is terrific from the first moment to the last, and is able to sell the characters sudden transformations perfectly. White remains very much a family man, at least so far, and it will be interesting to see how the character becomes corrupted as the show progresses.

Jesse Pinkman is played by Aaron Paul, who would later win a number of Emmys for Supporting Actor. In this episode, he is simply decent, but his character also has not much to do in the script. The dynamic of teacher/student in the context of "Breaking Bad" will be very interesting to explore.

Centered very much around Walter White's crumbling life, the pilot does an excellent job of introducing the central character and making his very sudden transformation convincing. When White decides to enter the drug business, he seeks out Jesse after realizing he is behind a drug op. His line "You know the business, I know the chemistry" is now an iconic line, and rightfully so. It will make these very different individuals coming together all the more interesting.

Among pilots that I have seen, "Game of Thrones" and "Angel" are the two shows that best succeeded at introducing its characters and worlds. "Breaking Bad" has a very good pilot, one that manages to focus almost exclusively on Cranston's Walter White, and takes an interesting and unorthodox turn with his character.
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