Breaking Bad was a great show and the character of Walter White belongs right up there with Archie Bunker and Tony Soprano in terms of all time great characters in the history of American television.
I give my props to Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in order to make it clear I am a fan of the show. All of the previous seasons are in my DVD collection and I will be buying the last season. Even though I was not a fan of the Jesse character at all and really wanted to see him dead I was pretty satisfied with the way the show ended.
However, Breaking Bad fans should not get carried away. While it was a great show probably in the top ten of television drams of all time it is nowhere close to being on the same level as The Wire, The Sopranos or Game of Thrones.
Why The Wire is Better Than Breaking Bad
Lets start with the obvious. Breaking Bad is not even remote realistic. The idea that a high-school chemistry teacher with cancer having only the aid of a spoiled junkie headcase could take down Mexican drug-cartels and major drug-organizations is patently absurd. The idea that a biker game similar to the Aryan Brotherhood could be organized enough to kill fifteen people in different jails at the same time is equally absurd.
The Wire was as real as TV could ever get. Indeed, people who don’t know anything about the subject matter of The Wire have watched it not just for entertainment: but for educational purposes as well.
Season one focused on the police and the Barksdale-Bell West Baltimore street organization. It showed the police not as heroic angels: but gave a realistic portrayl of committed yet flawed people working in an organization full of political cronyism, bad apples, and racial-division. The drug-dealers were shown not as villians: but rather as products of the neighborhood and culture they came from.
Hank Schrader was a great TV cop. He looked and acted like many cops I have known and is much more realistic than any prettyboy or yuppie looking and acting cop on CSI or Law&Order who catches the villian within forty-five minutes. I give Breaking Bad that.
In season two The Wire dealt with deindustrialization and labor-unions. Season three City Hall, urban politics and drug-policy. Season four public schools, foster-care and youth-violence. Season five the decline of the media and the major-dailies. All five seasons well-written, well-acted, and dealing with very serious subject matter in an entertaining yet informative manner. Quite simply not only the best TV show ever: but also the most important to the national conversation since All in The Family. The ratings only suffered in my opinion because there were too many black characters for the liking of much of white America.
Breaking Bad was well-written, acted and entertaining. Yet, it didn’t deal with anything important. Walt has cancer at a time the national conversation is centered on Obamacare and it is not even discussed. The Wire had many characters people loved. Outside of Walt who was universally loved on Breaking Bad?
Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad
Game of Thrones is a show where you can watch every episode five times and still not catch everything. Complex-writing, stunning visuals , great-directing and a large cast of superb actors. The viewer can get lost in the HBO show and books by George R.R. Martin. Game of Thrones is just deeper on every level than Breaking Bad. Imagine Walt getting killed in season one like Ned Stark was and the show still being a hit. Tyrion Lannister, Arya Stark, Cersei Lannister, Jon Snow and Danerys Targaryen are all characters with weight like Walt and all on the same show. And Gus or Todd on their worst day were not as evil as King Joffrey and Saul Goodman not as clever as Littlefinger or Varys ( or even Levy if we go back to The Wire). Nor was Mike as gangster as Stannis Baratheon or lethal as the Kingslayer.
Breaking Bad is close to The Sopranos (slightly ahead of Boardwalk Empire due to it’s weak third season). But lags behind due to not having as many interesting characters, being not as realistic, and not quite as developed a storyline.