Turns out “Breaking Bad” is an inadvertent argument for Obamacare.
Consider: If affordable health care had been available to Walter White when “Breaking Bad” began five seasons ago, this struggling high school chemistry teacher might not have felt driven to cook and sell crystal meth to avert financial ruin for his family after he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
On the other hand, there would have been no “Breaking Bad.” This would have deprived viewers of arguably TV’s most twisted, bleakly funny and just plain addictive series ever.
At 10 tonight on AMC, “Breaking Bad” returns for a run of eight episodes that pave the way to a final eight airing next year. By this point in its fast-evolving narrative, the formerly milquetoast teacher has morphed into a triumphant drug lord (played by Bryan Cranston) in tumultuous cahoots with his one-time slacker pupil, Jesse Pinkman (co-star Aaron Paul).
Last season ended – the rest of this piece is pretty much a spoiler, for any of you who are not up to date on the series – with Walt successfully assassinating Gus Fring, the reigning meth distributor in Albuquerque, to solidify his own rule.
Sunday’s episode picks up with the same phone call Walt placed to his wife, Skyler, moments after the monstrous Fring was blown up in last season’s finale.
“It’s over,” Walt tells her. “We’re safe.”
“Was this you?” she asks, the question catching in her throat. “What happened?”
“I won,” Walt growls with satisfaction.
Thinking about that scene – and how it dumbfounded Skyler – makes Anna Gunn, who portrays her, laugh.
“At that moment, a hammer comes down,” said Gunn, voicing what goes through Skyler’s mind: “We can never come back. This is a corner we can never un-turn. If Walt was involved with this guy Fring and had something to do with his death: Oh my God, we’re in trouble!”
Just one of many hitches to Walt’s victory dance: The Drug Enforcement agents (including, inconveniently, his own brother-in-law) are hot on the trail of the mysterious Heisenberg, which happens to be Walt’s drug-lord alter ego.
By now, Walt and his sidekick Jesse seem beyond any hope of ultimate redemption. The notching-up suspense of “Breaking Bad” now dwells on what manner of dread comeuppance they will suffer in the end.
In the meantime, no character remains so trapped, so caught between ordinary life and the underworld, as Skyler, Walt’s accomplice.
Initially, Skyler knew nothing of Walt’s involvement in the drug trade. Then, with her shocked discovery of what he was up to, she plotted to run away or turn Walt in to the cops.
But then she began her slide down the slippery slope. Applying her background in accounting, she hatched a scheme to take Walt’s drug money and (in a demonstration of the show’s mordant humor) launder it by buying a car wash.
A by-the-book drama would then have transformed her into an all-in Bonnie to her husband’s Clyde. Instead, even now as his partner in crime, she remains on the margins of his depravity.
“From the beginning, she has labored under limited information,” Gunn says during a recent phone conversation from her home in Los Angeles. “And she still doesn’t know how deep Walt is into this thing. But she knows this man is not just in it for the money anymore, that there’s something much bigger and deeper and darker drawing him in.”