Emmy-winner Cranston makes “Bad” a success

John Sturgeon

With “Mad Men,” AMC put itself on the map as a player in television with its Emmy win last year by creating a rich adult drama with the superb plotting and intricacies you’d expect to find on Showtime or HBO.

The network also launched another drama, “Breaking Bad,” starring the actor who played an aloof and kind-hearted father on “Malcom in the Middle,” Bryan Cranston, in the role of Walter White.

In the series premiere we learned that Walt had inoperable lung cancer and had at most a few years to live. As a high school science teacher who had failed to take advantage of being a genius, Walt decided he had to do something extreme to make money so that his pregnant wife and son with cerebral palsy would be taken care of after he was gone.

Walt strikes up a partnership with his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).

Pinkman’s partner is busted by the DEA agent Hank (Walt’s brother-in-law) giving Walt the opportunity to blackmail him into cooking crystal meth in a 50/50 partnership.

The arrangement seems simple enough with Walt knowing the science to produce the drugs and Jesse having the connection to potential customers.

The show follows the exploits of the two unlikely partners and the ever changing dynamic of Walt from a common middle class citizen to a high-stakes drug dealer.

From the various drug kingpins they deal with to making sure Hank and the rest of Walt’s family do not figure out about his new business venture, the show is a deeply riveting drama with surprises lurking around every corner.

Unlike other procedural shows that deal with and figure out a case in a single contained hour, “Breaking Bad” really puts the viewer into Walt’s world in real time allowing the observation of the emotions and battles going on in his head.

In a climactic moment of last season where the partners were trying to find a new client to sell to, the hot-headed Tuco beats Jesse to within an inch of his life.

Walt, always thinking on his feet, concocts an explosive product and visits Tuco to sell him on his meth product and seeks revenge for what Tuco did to his partner.

Tuco does not take him seriously, so Walt turns and chucks the explosive he created, blowing up part of the building. Stunned and scared, Tuco makes a business deal with Walt.

This show also deals with Walt’s moral dilemmas. When a former drug partner of Jesse’s tries to kill both men, Walt and Jesse take him hostage in a basement.

Over the course of several episodes, Walt and the prisoner strike up a bond of sorts to the point where Walt entertains letting him go.

After breaking a plate in the basement, Walt cleans it up and takes it upstairs ultimately realizing a piece was missing and taken by the prisoner. Walt heads down to the basement and strangles the man to death.

This whole scenario showed the psychological battle waging in his head. Walt knew he had to kill the prisoner, but had to dig deep inside himself to make it happen.

On another show, this whole thing might have played out in a single hour, but here the writers give the audience time to struggle with the character and really feel for him when he finally commits the act.

Cranston puts on a tour de force performance that netted him an Emmy last year for best actor.

His surprisingly dark turn is even more impressive considering his roots in comedy.

His facial expressions and chemistry with his co-stars are both top notch, making the show one of the best on television as the audience sympathizes with this man struggling to do whatever it takes to make a better life for his family before his imminent death.

While the show moves at a slow pace, there are plenty of great action moments, and the characters are all supremely rich and played by tremendous actors.

This season has dealt with Hank and Skylar, Walt’s wife, realizing that Walt is up to something. All the while, Walt is trying to cover his tracks and provide for his family by getting more deeply involved in the drug world.

It has been painful to watch how Walt hiding his drug life has negatively affected all his family members. In this way, it is a fascinatingly dark alternative to the similarly themed “Weeds.”

Season 2 is airing weekly on AMC, Sunday nights at 10 p.m.