Why Breaking Bad is definitely worth rewatching 10 years later


In a celebration of Breaking Bad’s 10 year anniversary, the cast reunited for this week’s EW weekly cover. Is it time for a rewatch? We think so.

Breaking Bad was, quite literally, ground-breaking television and it’s 10 year anniversary seems like as good a time as any to re-watch the show. Here are a few reasons why Breaking Bad was so great, and why it’s the right time to revisit it now.

Cinematic television

Breaking Bad was fundamental in showing the world what the small screen can actually achieve. Before Breaking Bad, there were only a handful of television shows which really encompassed the terms cinematic or high-end. In addition to the obvious (Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, The Wire) was The X Files — a show where a young writer by the name of Vince Gilligan got his big break. Gilligan, having written some of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the show, became the showrunner of Breaking Bad. The rest, as they say, is history.

Gilligan’s knowledge of character, narrative, suspense and visual storytelling meant that Breaking Bad had all the markings of cinematic television right from the very start. Utilising techniques usually reserved for cinema (intricate cinematography, complex narratives and characters which float in the grey area of morality) reserves Breaking Bad a seat at the head of post-modern television’s table. 10 years later, with a roster of high-end TV dramas touted at Amazon, Netflix as well as your regular channels, it’s worth rewatching the show that arguably popularised the art of high-end TV.

Complex characters

Unlike the vast majority of TV dramas that came before it, Breaking Bad doesn’t rely on any single character to be its likable protagonist. Every character in the show is in flux throughout. Walt begins as a “good” person but descends into an underworld that he couldn’t have ever conceived of. Jesse inverts Walt’s journey, starting off as a stereotypically “bad” character but triumphing over his demons by the end. This is a very simplistic view, though, as Breaking Bad never puts its characters into either box.

Every character in the show has believable motivations. Their backstories are fleshed out so well that the audience understands every one of their actions. There is also very little handholding. Audiences are left to work out their own feelings on characters rather than being coerced into identifying with a specific protagonist. Though Walt is sympathetic throughout most of the series, there are other characters whose narratives seem at odds with Walt’s who are equally compelling and interesting.

Well written characters are worth very little without the actors to bring them to life. Bryan Cranston won a well deserved four Emmys for his portrayal of Walter White. All of the performances in Breaking Bad are remarkable across the board, from the main cast to supporting actors.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) – Breaking Bad _Season 5 – Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Breaking Bad’s influence and reach

Another fantastic reason to begin a rewatch (or a first-time watch) now is to see just how many TV shows Breaking Bad has influenced. The complex and morally ambiguous characters can be seen in shows like House of Cards and The Walking Dead. Fargo, Mr. Robot and How To Get Away with Murder all deal with particularly unreliable protagonists or main characters — a hugely important aspect on Breaking Bad, particularly as Walt becomes less and less reliable for the audience as the series goes on. Then there is Ozark, which is perhaps the most obvious Breaking Bad-style show. Of course, it’s without much of what made Breaking Bad so great.

Plus Breaking Bad is such a legendary status within popular culture that it has been parodied and referenced by many other shows. The Simpsons and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend took a stab at it, and its been parodied countless times on SNL. Breaking Bad may just be the most referenced show out there, and a rewatch will undoubtedly bring up moments that have been long forgotten.

Breaking Bad also set a precedent for popular television shows airing on Netflix at the same time, or the next day, as on their parent channel AMC. Five years later, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Jane the Virgin, Riverdale and many more shows are following in Breaking Bad’s shoes.

Is Breaking Bad still relevant today?

Many things may have changed in the last 10 years, but the social issues raised in Breaking Bad are still (sadly) as relevant as they were back then.

The premise of Breaking Bad rests solely upon a chemistry teacher who is unable to pay his medical bills to combat the cancer he is diagnosed with. A long-running joke is that if Breaking Bad took place in Canada or the UK, it would only be one episode long and would end with Walter being given free treatment because… health care! In light of the repealing of Obamacare in the States, the issues that Walt and his family face over their monetary status is more relevant than ever

Similarly, the way in which some fans reacted to Skyler White when the show first aired is also thrown into a different light in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp. Anna Gunn received death threats, abuse and vitriol for her role as Skyler in the series, with some fans seeing Gunn and Skyler as interchangeable. Rewatching in 2018, it’s easier to see how Skyler took a lot of the hate on Breaking Bad (from other characters and fans alike) because she was an independent, strong-minded woman who wasn’t scared to stand up for herself.

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TV may have moved on rapidly, but Breaking Bad is definitely worth a rewatch to celebrate it’s 10 year anniversary. It is definitely worth a first-time watch if you’ve somehow never seen it at all. Good luck avoiding spoilers!