One of the best shows on TV since The Wire, Breaking Bad brought about the transformation of Bryan Cranston for idiot father in Malcolm in the Middle, to an unassuming chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. In the five series as Walter White he makes the transition from wanting to provide security for his family after his gone by a one-off crystal meth drug cook, to dealer, schemer, and eventually killer. The show is very well acted and, like the Wire, has some great set scenes, some unexpected shocks, a strong storyline and characterisation, and black humour. My only criticism is that the female characters in the film, while well-acted, are just not very interesting, although Hank Schrader’s wife has some good scenes and lines.
10. Jesse Pinkman
Walt White’s bag man is initially rather uninteresting, but as the series develops the ups and downs of their relationship grows ever-more interesting. A loser and drifter, Pinkman begins to see new opportunities for satisfaction outside of recreational drugs and becomes a substantial and important force in the later series. Arguably his most shocking scene is to kill Gale, that avoiding Walt’s execution by Gus, because Gale and Walt are the only two people who can manufacture Blue Sky Crystal Meth to the required standard.
9. Hank Schrader
At first your inclination is to write off Hank as a dumb-ass bull-in-a-chine shop Albuquerque cop, but when the cards are down he can pack a punch and give as good as he gets. He’s also a persistent and determined detective who at the end of Series 5, while sitting on the loo, makes the connection between Walt Whitman/Walter White and the crystal meth manufacture and distribution. However the brutality of it all gets to him, and he’s shown as not as a hard-as-nails kick-ass dude, but someone who bears psychological scars from the attempts on his life.
8. Gale Boetticher
A real oddball, this over-polite slightly effeminate chemist learns the meth trade from Walt White and eventually is asked to take over the production of crystal meth. He’s a vegan nerd who likes Thai music and karaoke and it’s hard not to feel some sympathy when he’s bumped off in his own flat.
7. Brandon Mayhew: “Badger”
(On the left) is a mate of Jesse and with Skinny Pete helps to sell Blue Sky at a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. A bit of a turnip and regular drug user, he nevertheless helps Jesse out a few times in the series.
6. Mike Ehrmantraut
Rough and ready ex-Philadelphia cop, Mike is a fixer, hit-man and bodyguard who works for Gus and occasionally Saul. He has an uncomfortable and doomed relationship with Walter White that eventually ends with Walther shooting him for not giving him the names of Gus’ associates.
5. Tuco Salamanca
One of the first heavy villains you come across in Breaking Bad, he’s a drug-whacked psychopathic drug King Pin, prone to violent outbursts and craziness. He captures Walt and Jesse and prepares to kill Jesse and make Walt produce crystal meth in a new superlab in Mexico. However Jesse escapes and wounds him, and Hank arrives on the scene to finish him off.
4. Saul Goodman
A sleaze-ball lawyer with awful fashion sense, Saul Goodman is a superb comedy character in Breaking Bad. His appalling TV adverts (“You’d better call Saul”),dodgy deals, and brilliant un-pc dialogue are a joy to witness.
3. Hector Salamanca
Also known as the “ting ting” man, this character is about as scary as it comes, despite being crippled in a wheelchair and attached to a respirator, and exudes menace. Never speaking since his stroke he communicates only by a simple bell on his chair. One ting is yes, two tings, no, and a lot of mad tinging means he’s seen someone trying to poison his cousin with ricin! Is instrumental in finally exiting Gus from proceedings in a memorable scene.
2. Walter White
Without a doubt Bryan Cranston’s finest moments. He plays the transformation of Walter White from mild-mannered teacher to ruthless businessman and drug boss with skill and verve. All of the five seasons centre around Walt and during his “Heisenberg” phase becomes genuinely a disturbing character- a million miles away from the coughing terminally ill teacher/car wash assistant we see at the start.
1. Gustavo (Gus) Fring
Also known as the Chicken Boss. We first meet him as the Chilean proprietor of a tex-mex fried chicken fast food joint, Los Pollos Hermanos where he is polite, well-mannered and one would think, nothing beyond what he seems on the surface. But no. This is a major Player in the drug cartel and that cold politeness and clipped vocal delivery begins to exude menace and not civility. When he despatches his second-in-command, Victor, it is unexpected and shocking. By far and away, the best fleshed-out baddy in the series, the scenes with him in it are mesmeric.