I don’t have cable, so I can only watch Breaking Bad on DVD. By the time I received the first disc of season one from Netflix, season two had just concluded. So while I knew a little about the premise, and that the show had won multiple Emmys, nothing prepared me for the pilot.
The episode starts with a cold open – a pair of men’s khaki pants fly in slow motion into the air across the desert. Then a big Winnebago speeds down a dirt road followed by police sirens. The man driving is wearing nothing but socks, shoes, white briefs, and a gas mask. We see that in the back of the van are materials for chemistry materials and two unconscious men who may or may not be dead. The driver crashes the RV into a pile of sand and stumbles out. Then, he puts his shirt on, pulls out a camcorder, and videotapes a goodbye message to his wife and son. Finally, as the sirens get louder, he aims a pistol in the direction of the cop cars, the opening credits roll.
The next forty minutes are a flashback of the events that led Walter White (Bryan Cranston), an average, middle-aged chemistry teacher, to this point. We learn he’s a chemistry teacher who works nights to support his pregnant wife and teenage son who has high functioning cerebral palsy. Days after his fiftieth birthday, he visits a doctor who diagnoses him with inoperable lung cancer. Overwhelmed by the thought of leaving his family with medical bills, he accidentally runs into a former student (Aaron Paul) who is now a drug dealer. The two form an unlikely partnership to make fast money cooking crystal methamphetamine.
The pilot episode of Breaking Bad might be the most interesting and unpredictable forty-five minutes of television I’ve ever seen, rivaled only by each following episode. When I receive a disc in the mail, I watch all three or four episodes in one sitting and rush back to the mailbox hoping the next one will arrive by the next day. Season three just premiered on AMC, but I just started season two on DVD. I have no idea how much longer Cranston and the creators are going to be able to keep this up, but I’m staying with them.