Lured by the potential of a former X-Files writer, I tuned into the first installment and let the first season stack up on my DVR – only to delete it when the DVR got full.
I didn’t quite connect with what Vince Gilligan and company were trying to do in season one. But with seasons two and three generating such a huge buzz, I decided to give the show another try. Like the product at the center of this show, I was hooked, binging all of season three in the weekend leading up to the debut of season four and then breathlessly waiting each new installment as they aired.
Part of the Breaking Bad experience wasn’t just watching the episodes, but reading Alan Sepinwall’s critical analysis of each installment. In fact, I’d argue that watching Breaking Bad without Sepinwall’s analysis, insight and thoughts wouldn’t have been as rich an experience.
And while the original reviews of each installment are easily found using Google, you can read all of Sepinwall’s thoughts on this pivotal television series in his new book, Breaking Bad 101.
In his forward, Sepinwall notes that he edited some, rewrote others and kept some pretty much close to as written at the time of the original episode’s airing. Re-reading these reviews reminded me of the high points and the points in between for Breaking Bad. The show built to huge moments by giving us those “in between” moments that many crime shows or movies would gloss over. What it left us with is a show that could wring tension out of Walt and Jesse trapped in an RV with Hank closing it while it also showed us the slow descent of a mousy guy into a self-deluded master criminal.
The great part about Breaking Bad 101 (besides having the reviews collected in one central location) is that Sepinwall doesn’t spoil future installments, seasons or developments. The book can be used if you’re coming to the show for the first time (though you may be tempted to peek ahead. Let me implore you not to. Breaking Bad is best enjoyed a chapter at a time without knowing where it’s all going to play out) or if you’re looking back on the show again. Sepinwall includes some interviews with the creative forces behind the show, looking at pivotal episodes and developments in the story of Walter White, but the real meat is the analysis. Each chapter reminded me of just why I grew to love this show and why it proved to be so incredibly addictive. In fact, the book made me want to go back and re-watch not only pivotal episodes and moments again, but the entire 62 episode run.
Breaking Bad is one of the best television shows ever made. And this companion to the show only makes it better. It reads like a lost extra from the DVD or Blu-Ray box set.