The fifth season premiere of Breaking Bad, titled “Live Free or Die” and written by show creator Vince Gilligan, was satisfying and tense and funny and witty and ruminative. Plus, magnets! Among other things, the opening hour was a caper film as good as any you can see at the movies.
The new ad campaign for the show positions Bryan Cranston’s Walter White as a king — the king of the hill; the drug kingpin; the Scarface at the height of his paranoia and corrupt power, shortly before he tilts face-down into a mound of cocaine and comes back up looking like a clown. We know the ads are meant to be ironic, but the series itself avoids such easy irony. It’s not letting Walter, or anyone else around him, get off that easily. Breaking Bad is playing it dead earnest; the show, like the characters inside it, is a trap.