‘Breaking Bad’: Shards

Breaking_bad_212It’s all plenty impressive to engineer a climactic plot twist with a fragment of a broken sandwich dish. It’s something else to have that fragment channel the emotional burdens of a desperate, dying man.

By the way, the broken dish is not pictured in this first photo.  That’s merely an image of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) cleaning up the acid-dissolved remains of a dead crystal meth dealer at the start of Sunday’s episode, while the dealer’s partner sat Kryptonite-locked to a pole in the basement below.

Yeah, AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is a dark show. 

In fact, it’s dark enough that even though it’s played out in suburbia, it eschews the hip irony such a description usually implies. Nevertheless, far from being too dreary to watch, “Bad” is energizing in they way it continues to carve out intense rewards for the handful of viewers tuning in. (Actually, Sunday’s episode drew a few hundred thousand viewers more than evening counterpart “The Wire” on HBO, but let’s not split hairs here.  Most of the country is not watching.)

Following a week’s hiatus to avoid competing with the Feb. 4 Super Bowl, “Bad” resumed its ingenious acceleration of good guy Walter’s descent into a criminal and moral wasteland by having him hold someone captive. Then, after spending the better part of two episodes showing Walter become, ever so naturally, the victim Shards of a kind of reverse Stockholm Syndrome by sympathizing with his prisoner, “Bad” once again flipped the story on its ear, all in the form of that missing shard of broken plate that proved he couldn’t cop out from the ugly reality of his situation.

So now, White Walter (calling him by his last name seems too impersonal at this point) is not only a meth dealer, he’s a killer. And though he can choose to justify his actions by knowing that his prisoner would have killed him given the chance, we can gather that it’s not going to be easy for Walter to sleep at night. Not to mention the fact that Walter’s family has circled around the truth, all but forcing Walter to pop his small bubble of secrecy about his lung cancer and drug dalliances.

Throw in a cameo by the always welcome Jessica Hecht, and “Bad” emerges from under the radar as too good a package to ignore.

For viewers seeking out the best television on Sundays, the first stop is “The Wire.” But is the same group of people already opening their TVs up to “Breaking Bad,” or do “Wire” fans need to discover this show as well?

— Jon Weisman

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  6. Bob Timmermann says:

    Does Jessica Hecht specialize in playing “girlfriends the protagonist thinks fondly of but cannot have?”

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