The Washington Post

Why ‘Breaking Bad’ deserved to win every Emmy it did

From Bryan Cranston's steamy kiss with Julia Louis-Dreyfus to the never-ending jabs at Matthew McConaughey, The Post's Emily Yahr highlights the top moments from this year's Primetime Emmy Awards. (Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

Last night’s Emmys proved to be both out of touch and repetitive as yearly winners such as “Modern Family,” “The Amazing Race” and actor Jim Parsons once again swept the awards. Twitter was buzzing (though with much less enthusiasm than during other awards shows) with people annoyed with the results and with the unadventurous television academy.

But the one winner basking in praise and unironic accolades was AMC’s slow-burning “Breaking Bad.” The show, which premiered in 2008 and ended in the fall of last year, cleaned up in nearly every category, winning prizes for writing, lead actor, supporting actor and supporting actress, as well as the coveted best drama series title. It wasn’t the first series win for any of the actors (Bryan Cranston was accepting for the fourth time, Aaron Paul for the third and Anna Gunn for the second), or the show (its second in in a row). So, why were its repeat wins less distasteful to the masses? Simply: because it’s awesome.

Though acknowledged from the start for its superb direction, its popularity was not immediate. The series’ slow progression from cult hit to out-and-out cultural phenomenon mirrored the characters’ evolution. More than 10 million people tuned in for the series finale.

In a plot unlike any other on television — cable or otherwise — Bryan Cranston as Walter White gradually grows from a mild-mannered chemistry teacher struggling to support his family to the ruthless kingpin of a blue-meth empire. But more importantly, he does it realistically. As White becomes a believable supervillain, the audience finds itself constantly torn between wanting him to die and wanting him to succeed.

Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul, has repeatedly been called the heart of the series. This deeply flawed character was lovable even while committing his cold-blooded murder (…but he didn’t want to kill him, you guys! He was crying when he shot him!)

From Bryan Cranston's steamy kiss with Julia Louis-Dreyfus to the never-ending jabs at Matthew McConaughey, The Post's Emily Yahr highlights the top moments from this year's Primetime Emmy Awards. (Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

Most people who don’t watch the series tell me “gore isn’t their thing” or they can’t handle “that kind of violence.” Yes, it is a bit gratuitous. We probably don’t need to see a disintegrated body falling through a ceiling or a decapitated head placed on top of a turtle. But violence is not the show’s main attraction, rather it is the result of the decisions Walter White makes as the man behind a drug industry that he abhors but relies on financially to help his family survive.

For “Breaking Bad,” there’s no “oh, the first season is slow but you’ll get into it” or “don’t watch the third season, it gets weird” watercooler talk that surrounds other popular shows. The series is an exhilarating ride from start to finish, a complete and intricate tale woven with performances that inspire screaming at a television set (or computer screen. This is 2014, after all.)

As The Post’s very own television critic Hank Stuever noted, despite outcry for nearly every other win, “we can all agree that ‘Breaking Bad’ remains the best TV show in a decade and deserves this last, long victory lap.”


Read more:

Three suggestions on how the Emmys can be fixed

Seth Meyers vs. Jimmy Kimmel: Who was the real Emmys host?

Robin Williams, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and more moments that you missed

Read the full list of winners

Givhan: Pushing products on the red carpet

Billy Crystal pays tribute to Robin Williams

Full recap of the 2014 Emmy Awards

Amy Poehler is Beyonce and everything is wonderful

Caitlin Moore is a features digital editor for The Washington Post, specializing in pop culture.



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Ron Charles · August 26, 2014

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