After Breaking Bad: Five Dramas Worth Watching
It’s only been a week since Breaking Bad ended, but at least for me, it feels much, much longer. Far better writers than I have written at length about the finale, so I’m not going to waste time on that (okay, real quick: I liked it a lot. It did a good job of wrapping up various storylines in a satisfying way. And no, it wasn’t a dream, no supernatural deals with the devil were involved, or any other silly theories like that.). No, I’m writing because I’ve seen a lot of people since then bemoaning the end of Breaking Bad as the end of good drama television. While it’s true Breaking Bad is an exceptional show, the likes of which we probably won’t see again for a while, it’s far from the only drama on TV right now worth making time for in your week. Thus, I’ve put together a list of shows for Breaking Bad faithful to check out.
RULES: All of the shows I’ve listed are either ongoing, or planning new seasons or series in the future. The Sopranos is great, and well worth checking out, but these shows are listed because they give viewers a chance to discuss and react in real time, as they premiere. I also picked shows I think would appeal to this demographic. There are plenty of good shows not on here, from Orange is the New Black to Shameless, but these shows share at least some of the DNA that made Breaking Bad so appealing.
Current Season: 5
Common Elements with Breaking Bad: Western tropes, existential bleakness, meth
At first glance, Justified looks sort of like a darker, more stylish version of the types of shows that USA puts out: fun case-of-the-week stories with interesting, likeable leads. But even by the end of the first season, it starts to subvert those expectations, unafraid to throw some serious punches. Based on the writings of the late Elmore Leonard, Justified follows U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) as he returns to his childhood home of Harlan, Kentucky on a transfer. Raylan’s cavalier, modern cowboy attitude runs afoul of the local criminal element, including childhood friend turned Neo-Nazi Boyd Crowder (played brilliantly by Walton Goggins). Each season of Justified builds on the last, creating a dark, vivid world and blurring the lines between right and wrong.
House of Cards
Current Season: 1
Common Elements with Breaking Bad: Manipulative male lead, stylish cinematography
I wrote at length about House of Cards when it first arrived on Netflix, and while my feelings towards it have cooled to some extent, I still think it’s a good choice for Breaking Bad fans. Kevin Spacey’s Frank Underwood doesn’t do through the same kind of compelling transformation as Walter White, but he’s still extremely fun to watch. I feel like House of Cards would benefit from a bit broader approach in writing its characters, rather than keeping them primarily as foils to Underwood, but there’s still plenty to like about Netflix’s first foray into original programming. David Fincher’s directing, specifically, is electric, and the show does a lot of cool stuff with music, sound editing, and cinematography. The entire first season (of at least two, at this point) is up on Netflix, which I’m sure most Breaking Bad fans are no stranger to.
Current Season: 3
Common Elements with Breaking Bad: Deception, emotional vulnerability, strong female leads, car crashes
Homeland, the story of brilliant but unstable CIA analyst Carrie Matheson (Claire Danes) and her investigation of recently returned POW Nicholas Brody (Damien Lewis), can be hit or miss. The end of the second season, specifically, started to strain the suspension of disbelief more than a little. But when the show is on, it’s on. Like Breaking Bad, it’s often less about “would this scenario actually happen?” and more about “How would grounded, psychologically realistic characters react to these situations?” Danes and Lewis both give performances of a lifetime, and Mandy Patinkin deserves a nod as well, as Matheson’s CIA mentor Saul Berensen. The third season premiered two weeks ago (on Sunday, at 10 PM, close enough to Breaking Bad’s old timeslot that your schedule is still probably clear) and knocked it out of the park, and the second episode did not disappoint. One quick note to fans who primarily liked watching Walt yell at his terrible stupid wife: Homeland includes a couple of complex, driven female characters, who sometimes make decisions you don’t agree with. If you can’t deal with that without calling them swear words, you should probably skip this show. Also, stop reading this blog, and don’t ever talk to me again.
Network: BBC One
Current Season: Series 3 just wrapped up, with an eye for another series or movie in the future
Common Elements with Breaking Bad: Ethical ambiguity, infidelity, inventive and scary ways of murdering people
Luther is a British police drama that stars Idris Elba as DCI John Luther, a man who struggles to bring people who commit unspeakable murders to justice without sinking to their level. It’s stylish, well-constructed, and dark as the devil’s coffee. Despite being a handsome, imposing figure, Elba never loses the sense of being a regular person. When Luther struggles with tragedy (which is relatively often, just a heads up), you see the pain of a human being, rather than superheroic play-acting. The show is rife with powerful moments and strong performances. Being a BBC series, it’s actually closer to a mini-series: the first two seasons, which are on Netflix, are ten hours total, with another four episode series than came out this past summer. It’s quick (although anything but painless) enough to watch over a week, and despite Elba’s burgeoning movie career, he’s said he’s looking to do either another series or a film sequel in the future.
Game of Thrones
Current Season: 4
Common Elements with Breaking Bad: Schemes, villains you root for, poisoning
Okay, yeah, this one is almost a cop-out. I’m sure you’re probably already watching Game of Thrones, because everyone and their grandmother has told you how amazing it is. But if on the off-chance you somehow haven’t gotten into it yet, I just want to be one more voice vouching for it. It’s compelling, well-written, well-acted, shot in beautiful and exotic locales, et. cetera, et. cetera. Don’t be scared off by the huge cast of characters, or the high fantasy setting. It’s as accessible as Breaking Bad, mainly because it focuses on the same core ideas: Family. Honor. Revenge. Safety. It actually might be more relatable, given the sheer variety of characters and character types. This means that the warning I had to Team Walt jerks in the Homeland section is still in play, but I know that you, dear reader, are nothing like them. Game of Thrones is currently shooting its fourth season, giving you plenty of time to catch up, and given the copious amount of source material and rabid popularity, I imagine it’ll be on the air for a good long while.
Okay, so what did you guys think? Did I make some good recommendations? Are there glaring omissions? Let me know in the comments!