THE SHOW "Breaking Bad"
season premiere, Sunday at 10p.m. on AMC
REASON TO WATCH To see why Bryan Cranston won the Emmy for best actor with
his Walter Mitty-cum-Tony Soprano portrayal of Walter White.
CATCHING UP "Breaking bad" is a colloquialism from out West that means
"going bad," or breaking the law. Walter H. White, a high school chemistry
teacher in New Mexico who had to wash cars to make ends meet, discovers he's
got terminal lung cancer, even though he never smoked. No life insurance, to
speak of, so to provide for his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn, "Deadwood")
and son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), who has cerebral palsy, he starts a meth lab
with a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, "Big Love").
Walt decided to amp up the operation in the first-season finale, but to get
a key ingredient - methylamine - he and Jesse stole a 30-gallon canister from
a chemical supply company. The final product was sampled by crazed Mexican drug
kingpin Tuco - harrowing portrayal courtesy of Raymond Cruz, of "The Closer."
Stuff was so potent that after sampling, Tuco went really crazy and killed one
of his associates.
WHAT HAPPENS SUNDAY The episode is entitled "737," as in "$737,000," which
is how much money Walt decides he needs to get Skyler set up and two kids
through college. With the new and improved meth production line, Walt figures
he needs to work only 11 more weeks to make that wad. Only problem: He and
Jesse witnessed the Tuco murder. Drug agent/Walt brother-in-law Hank (Dean
Norris) has videos of Walter and Jesse's chemical company heist, and while
watching the comical figures on film struggle with the methylamine barrel - he
has no idea who they are - observes: "Hope we catch 'em before the boys from
Juarez do." Uh-oh.
As for Skyler? She's getting suspicious. Uh-oh, again.
BOTTOM LINE Comparison with Showtime's "Weeds" is justified (and pretty
commonplace, too) but "Breaking Bad" is a far darker and more bleakly funny
show; it's also a better one, with a compelling core mystery. Who is this
shrouded, conflicted, strange man, Walter H. White? A brilliant, sensitive
fellow? A loving (indeed, lascivious) husband? A stone-cold killer? Evil? Good?
Each of them, and Cranston brings it all home. Meanwhile, what a supporting
cast. There's a scene Sunday night between the two seasoned pros, Norris and
Gunn, that's flat-out stunning. "Breaking Bad" is extraordinary, and if the
rest of the season matches Sunday, an Emmy nomination for best drama seems