When people talk about the all time great episodic television dramas, shows like “The Sopranos,” “The Wire,” “Mad Men,” and “Deadwood” tend to be the ones that come up. This writer’s favorite, though, is AMC’s “Breaking Bad.”

 

No show is as enthralling, engaging, riveting, and emotionally exhausting on an episode-to-episode basis. The performances, the writing, the production, it is all perfect.

 

At the center of the show is Bryan Cranston as Walter White, the cancer-suffering high school chemistry teacher turned methamphetamine cook, who is both the protagonist and eventual antagonist of the saga. His moral and ethical struggle is what creator Vince Gilligan is most concerned with, as the series is really about Walter becoming the proverbial “bad guy” — hence the title.

 

There are great supporting characters as well, such as Aaron Paul in the role of Jesse Pinkman and Anna Gunn as Skyler White, but Cranston is obviously the star of the show. This is by far the best role of his career thus far. There was never a moment where it was hard to believe that this man really was Walter White. He completely sold it in each episode, and you would be hard pressed to find a better performance by an actor on television.

 

In terms of dialogue, and especially storytelling, “Breaking Bad” is in a league of its own. Major beats come at you at just the right pace, with nary a dull moment to be found throughout the entirety of the six seasons.

 

The production and direction of the show ground you in this world and give a real sense of place. The show is filmed entirely on location in Albuquerque, N.M., and it feels totally authentic. Some serious filmmaking talent went into producing this show, the sort of which can rarely be seen on television.

 

There are a few episodes that stand out as expertly executed. Rian Johnson’s “Ozymandius” in season five is by far the best episode of the series, and may be the best episode of any series in the history of television.

 

“Breaking Bad” is something you need to watch. If you have not seen it, you’re missing out on a masterpiece and a cultural icon. It is pulpy, gritty, entertaining, and always fun, but never without real emotional heft and narrative complexity. There is hardly a weak season in the bunch.

 

Have you seen “Breaking Bad?” Let’s talk in the comments, or you can find me on Twitter @TuckerPoikonen.