Skip to main content

Anytime a television show becomes extremely popular, people want to know why. What is it about Breaking Bad that makes some super fans and critics call it the greatest television drama of all time? The answer isn’t as simple as you’d think.

There have been many popular television shows over the decades, but never one quite like Breaking Bad. And that’s a part of the draw — the concept wasn’t another tired rehashing from an overplayed genre. Instead, Vince Gilligan’s epic drama about a high school chemistry teacher turned meth-making criminal mastermind was something brand new. In today’s world of endless remakes, creating a true original is harder than it sounds.

But there was more to Breaking Bad than just being unique. Here are a few good reasons why everyone is still talking about Breaking Bad six years later.

The transformation of Walter White

Comparing the Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from the first episode of Breaking Bad to the person he is by the finale is incredible. Though his character starts out with good intentions — after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, he wants to leave his family with money to survive, so he starts making and selling meth — the lesson learned is that power and greed can corrupt even the most innocent-seeming people.

Over the course of five seasons, Walter White gradually morphs from the show’s protagonist into Heisenberg — a power-hungry, corrupt, barely recognizable version of himself. By the end, he’s willing to stop at nothing, including murdering innocent people, to get what he wants. It’s a fascinating evolution to watch.

The dynamic between the two main characters

Here’s something most people don’t know: Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was supposed to be killed off in the first season of the series. But once directors saw the dynamic between Cranston and Paul, they knew that couldn’t happen. And now it’s impossible to imagine Walter White without Jesse.

For much of the series, White functions as a kind of father figure for Jesse, who’s battling his own demons. But the tension between these two is palpable and their relationship eventually sours. Watching Walt give up Jesse to the Aryans and essentially sign his death warrant is a heartbreaking moment.

Gustavo Fring is the villain we all need

It’s not easy to play a bad guy well. Make the performance too over-the-top and it seems unrealistic. But anything else runs the risk of not being evil enough.

Giancarlo Esposito takes the role of Gustavo Fring to next-level awesomeness by making him the beloved community member who’s hiding a terrible secret. Fring is the top guy in a Mexican drug cartel and is brutal in how he runs his business. But by brilliantly hiding in plain sight as a police supporter and local business owner, Fring is an enigma to almost everyone.

His character is one of the highlights of the show and it’s almost sad when he meets his tragic fate. In 2012, Esposito was nominated for an Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a drama series. He lost to costar Aaron Paul, who plays Jesse.

The show combined humor and darkness

Every good drama needs a few lighthearted moments. Breaking Bad delivers on all fronts, often flipping from comedic bits (who can forget the pizza on the roof?) to sincerely disturbing, graphic imagery. It’s all a balance that takes the viewer on a journey through so many deep emotions.

It was beautiful to watch

You don’t have to be an expert in cinematography and choreography to appreciate the above-average quality of each episode of Breaking Bad. The entire series captures a mood that’s difficult to put into words. When you’re watching, you’re in it. And it feels so good to be there.

‘Breaking Bad’ kept you guessing

Almost every episode of Breaking Bad has a cliffhanger ending in addition to several surprises along the way. It’s kind of fitting that a show about drug dealers making meth is so addictive.

There’s nothing predictable about the series, and keeping fans guessing is a huge part of the appeal. It’s television entertainment at its finest.

Easter eggs everywhere

In today’s well-connected world of social media, producers are likely to leave subtle clues in shows and movies hoping that fans will pick up on them. Breaking Bad was no different.

Show creator Vince Gilligan was constantly bringing back old characters and storylines in subtle ways that only the show’s biggest superfans would notice. It felt like a gift to notice these small, subtle details and encouraged more people to follow the show closely. Which they did.

‘Breaking Bad’ ended on a high note

Ending a show when it’s still massively popular probably isn’t an easy decision. But that’s precisely what Vince Gilligan chose to do with Breaking Bad. Rather than constantly coming up with new storylines (which he probably could have), the show ended after five seasons. The timing just felt right.

Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston
Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston | Kris Connor/Getty Images

And that decision was a brilliant move in the long run. Now the spinoff series Better Call Saul is earning awards of its own, plus there’s plenty of hype for the upcoming movie based on what happened after the finale. We’re all excited to see El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie because we never got sick of the show in the first place.

A series like Breaking Bad only comes along once in a lifetime. It makes perfect sense that so many people are obsessed.