The terrifying life lessons of Breaking Bad


The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation, we are told, and Walter White had it worse than most: an Albuquerque high school chemistry teacher with cancer, a nagging wife, a handicapped son and a part-time job in a local car wash. Then with one leap he was free: his chemistry knowledge enabled him to make the purest crystal meth in the market and suddenly he was through the looking glass, making a fortune as a drug dealer.

But Breaking Bad, the American series that has become a huge cult on both sides of the Atlantic and which begins its final series next month, does not romanticise its theme of metamorphosis: if White’s prior life was dismal and doomed, his new one is garishly hideous and far more frightening. For stuck times, when most of us alternate between lamenting the rut we are in and dreading the alternatives, this is philosophical entertainment of a high order.