Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/783/17540
TV review: Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad is an American TV mini-series which has now ended. It was only available on cable TV and DVD, and the final season on DVD will not be available in Britain until November.
But it recently won Emmy awards in America and was much praised by media pundits, some calling it almost Shakespearean in its story lines.
Its basic plot is of a high school chemistry teacher who develops lung cancer and seeks to pay for chemotherapy and radiology treatment by producing the illegal drug crystal meth in a laboratory.
Set in Albuquerque city, New Mexico, it follows the chemistry teacher Walter White in his new life as a drug producer and later drug distributor.
His original idea was to raise enough funds to pay for his medical treatment and - if the worst comes to the worst - leave enough money to ensure his family's survival without debt if he dies.
TV pundits characterise the series as a moral tale of the descent of somebody who starts off with high ideals of looking after his family to someone who gradually becomes 'inherently evil' as he begins to dominate the drug trade in the US south-west states.
Walter White's brother-in-law happens to be head of the local drug enforcement agency and, until the last season, does not realise that Walter is now the drug trade's Mr Big in his jurisdiction.
The series shows graphically that the 'war on drugs' is being lost on a massive scale. The drug users are shown in general (but not exclusively) to be at the very bottom of society.
Until Walter White comes along, production of the drug has been in the backrooms of drug distributors in the most unhygienic conditions.
Walter makes the drug under stringent commercial laboratory conditions ensuring its purity for the user, so his product becomes extremely popular.
Hardly commented on at all by the critics is that the medical treatment to counter cancer is available if you have the money.
Walter White's new wealth allows him access to the best treatment available (each trip to see his consultant costs $6,000).
As a result his cancer goes into remission. You have to ask what sort of society gives only the most extravagantly wealthy the possibility of a course of treatment that allows this killer disease to be forced at least into remission.
White is fully involved in mass production and distribution of the drug by the time his cancer is in remission.
In his new role of drug kingpin, he enters the full gamut of murder and mayhem that this entails, not just bumping off potential rivals but also innocent bystanders including a child.
Albuquerque city is shown as one of distinct economic and social contradictions. Walter lives in a nice middle class area but, in general, his customers live in slums.
Some episodes show the relationship between the southwest USA and its nearest neighbour, Mexico, including the relationship with the drug cartels.
In general the series is well worth seeing and enjoyable even if the contradictions remain uncommented on by most TV pundits.
In The Socialist 9 October 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party review
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news