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How AMC’s Breaking Bad remains relevant a decade later

Created by television director Vince Gilligan, AMC’s crime drama “Breaking Bad” ran from January 2008 to September 2013, accumulating over 16 primetime Emmy wins and earning countless praises from critics and audiences over its five season run. 

It’s no surprise that the show has remained a prominent part of pop culture years after its initial ending, in large part due to its incredible storytelling and character development. At the center of it all are some of the most unforgettable performances in television history from the likes of Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris and Aaron Paul.

After being diagnosed with lung cancer, the Albuquerque, New Mexico chemistry teacher Walter White will find any means necessary to secure his family’s financial future. Partnering himself with former student Jesse Pinkman, Walt makes waves in the methamphetamine drug world under the alias of “Heisenberg”. While attempting to stay in the clear, Walt evades suspicion from his brother-in-law Hank Schrader, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent investigating the Heisenberg case, and his wife Skyler, with the relationship between them becoming more estranged and complex as the story progresses.

Walter White is one of the most brilliant anti-heroes ever put to screen, thanks in large part due to the acting talent of Cranston, whose portrayal of the character is nothing short of phenomenal. Through the combination of Walt’s ever-evolving character and Cranston’s acting ability, it is never easy to tell if his actions are from the perspective of a sympathetic, underpaid family man or an egotistical and manipulative drug lord. The show does a brilliant job of testing the audience’s moral compass, and makes you either sympathize or despise Walt whenever all hell will break loose. 

“Breaking Bad” has also set the stage for many other incredible acting performances as well. Paul’s portrayal as the comedic but morally upstanding Jesse Pinkman leads to many of the show’s most visceral and emotional moments that feel borderline real. Jesse’s dynamic with Walt will shift constantly from semi-comedic lab partners-in-crime to bitter hatred and contempt as Walt becomes more malicious and manipulative.

The dynamics shared between Walt and his family members are is also incredibly well done. A constant game of cat-and-mouse forms between Walt and Hank, as Walt contributes to a massive drug business under the nose of his drug busting brother-in-law. The dynamic between Walt and Skyler evolves from an uneventful but stable marriage into a destructive and dysfunctional relationship. Gunn absolutely sells her performance in every scene, making her portrayal of Skyler White one of the most realistic portrayals of emotional abuse in television.

 In a way, the show is about the chemistry between Walt and the relationships around him, how Walt’s own actions cause others to “break bad” in their own way. The results of Walt’s actions ends up affecting hundreds of people over the course of the show. 

Due to its massive popularity and success, Breaking Bad has since received multiple continuations that expand the in-show universe, such as the spin off series “Better Call Saul” which ran from 2015 to 2022, and a sequel movie “El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story” which was released in 2019. With an incredible story and character depth that allows for endless rewatchability, “Breaking Bad” is one of the highest peaks of modern television.

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