Breaking Bad is widely regarded as one of the greatest dramas in television history. For many, Breaking Bad is the most exciting television show ever produced, a thrilling glimpse into one man’s downfall and the extraordinary characters he meets along the way. The show is filled with action, tension, and spectacular character development, ensuring that each individual episode is an exercise in quality filmmaking.
And while Breaking Bad is certainly exciting, it also finds time to tackle some serious subjects. The subjects often make for challenging and contemplative viewing, and they serve as a wonderful (and welcome) break from the relentless action. And as a warning, some of these issues may be sensitive topics.
Cancer is no laughing matter. Unfortunately, it’s at the very heart of Breaking Bad. The first two seasons make for especially tough viewing in this regard, as these are the seasons most acutely focused on Walter’s cancer and treatment.
The topic takes a backseat following Walter’s remission at the end of season two, but it returns with a vengeance in season five when Walt learns that he is terminally ill. Anyone who has had to deal with cancer may find Breaking Bad particularly challenging viewing.
Breaking Bad never shies away from the brutality of cancer. Of course, the show wouldn’t have much of a story without it, as Walter decides to cook meth to both pay for his cancer treatment and leave behind some money for his otherwise poor family.
And while some shows glance over the pain of chemotherapy, Breaking Bad certainly does not. Walter is often seen in great pain, both physical and mental, owing to his chemo.
Jesse is mainly portrayed as the comedic relief goofball, especially in the first two seasons. However, his drug addiction is never played for laughs – in fact, it remained one of the show’s most serious topics. Jesse has a debilitating addiction to meth – an addiction that nearly costs them the business arrangement with Gus.
Later in season two, Jesse develops a heroin addiction after trying it with his girlfriend Jane. Unfortunately, this leads to even more serious consequences.
The show doesn’t glamorize drug use, often showing the brutal consequences that drug addiction can lead to. One of the show’s most devastating consequences concerns the death of Jesse’s girlfriend, Jane. After a night of doing heroin with Jesse, Jane overdoses.
It makes for especially grisly viewing, and it was an entirely preventable, and tragic, death (one that also could have been prevented by Walt himself).
Breaking Bad was always great at showcasing utter despondency. Immediately following Jane’s death, her grieving father returns to work and inadvertently causes two airplanes to crash into each other. Jesse grieves Jane by running to a dilapidated drug house.
He is also never the same again, losing that lighthearted edge that he had throughout the first two seasons. Following Gale’s murder, Jesse breaks down and abuses drugs. These are just three of many examples of debilitating grief found throughout Breaking Bad.
Season two’s “Peekaboo” is one of Breaking Bad‘s most famous and beloved episodes, and for good reason. Jesse goes to Spooge’s house to demand his money back, only to find a dilapidated hellhole of a house. Worst of all is Spooge’s son – a sweet and neglected child who is forced to live in squalor with his meth-addicted parents.
The kid wakes himself up and watches infomercials on an old and static-y television, it being the only channel available on the broken TV. Luckily, Jesse is there to tend to the child, and he is eventually placed in the care of the authorities.
Breaking Bad begins in a relatively lighthearted fashion. While Walt and Skyler’s relationship has long passed the honeymoon phase, they are nevertheless a loving and supporting couple with another child on the way.
That quickly changes throughout the course of the first and second seasons, as Walt’s countless lies, secretive scuttling around, and utter lack of transparency drive Skyler to the edge. Their marriage completely falls apart, and it makes for particularly tragic viewing.
Like many TV dramas, Breaking Bad gets considerably darker as the story progresses. By the fifth and final season, Walt is an irredeemable career criminal hellbent on becoming a drug kingpin, and literal children were being murdered by the main characters.
At the end of “Dead Freight”, a young boy riding a bike through the desert is shot and killed by Todd, as he is witness to their train robbery. His body is eventually melted in various vats of chemicals – a horrifying reality that permanently drives a wedge between Jesse and Walter.
As dark as season five gets, it still finds time to focus on redemption. In many ways, Walter sees the error of his ways and attempts to make amends with those around him. He tries with Skyler, but this fails. However, he successfully redeems himself in the eyes of Jesse Pinkman.
He rescues Jesse from the white supremacists, and Jesse gives him a reluctant goodbye nod before he drives away. Maybe he’s not fully redeemed, but Jesse nevertheless acknowledges his sacrifice.
Lack Of Redemption
But just because people seek redemption doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get it. The ending to Breaking Bad is quite tragic, as Walt never redeems himself in the eyes of his family. He may forever be regarded as the boogeyman that caused their happy family unit to fall apart – not to mention being responsible for the death of Hank, beloved husband, brother-in-law, and uncle.
Both Skyler and Walter Jr. hate him, and he never even gets a goodbye with his son. It’s horribly sad, but also a direct result of his abhorrent behavior throughout the show.