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Breaking Bad and Punishment

March 1, 2013

I read the description of the Breaking Bad series on Netflix many times:

Emmy winner Bryan Cranston stars as Walter White, a high school science teacher who learns that he has terminal lung cancer and teams with a former student to manufacture and sell high-quality crystal meth to secure his family’s future.

It never appealed to me.  In fact, it sounded quite implausable, and depressing too.  Then I read an article by Richard Falk about Breaking Bad and decided to take a look.  I watched two episodes every free evening and was quite impressed with the series.  New people appear briefly at first.  They seem to have a simple one-dimensional character.  Later they reappear and become more complex and more human.  Even the seemingly evil people have a benevolent side.  That was what I liked about the series.

There must be a rule that every TV series eventually becomes a soap opera.  This seems to happen when you focus on the characters rather than the events.  This one never turns into a soap opera.  Unexpected events arise regularly.  The characters deal with them any way they can.

Walter White, the chemistry teacher, committed many criminal acts.  His former student, Jessie Pinkman, has done the same.  These are clearly traumatic to the characters, but one criminal act leads to another.  This sequence leaves me wondering how they can ever return to a normal life.  It’s revealed in the final episode.  At that point, I felt vaguely unsatisfied.

At the same time as I was watching Breaking Bad, I was reading Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  What a coincidence!  Raskolnikov has committed a murder.  He feels great remorse.  He tries to deny that he was a murderer or that it was of any importance.  He has bouts of anguish and delirium.  When he meets his mother and sister, he realizes that he can never again be free and open with them.  He must always guard against a slip that might reveal his crime.  He must maintain a series of lies by becoming an actor whenever he had to deal with other people.  He drove other people away.  Finally, his life became intolerable.  He went to the police to confess to the murder.

I recommend the series.  I recommend the book too, although not necessarily read at the same time.

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One Comment
  1. Impressive knowledge associated with this subject, thank you
    for posting.

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