Breaking Bad

TV review by
Anne Louise Bannon, Common Sense Media
Breaking Bad TV Poster Image
Morally ambiguous show is all about crime, iffy choices.
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 38 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 104 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this tv show.

Positive messages

Although Walt's actions are (at least initially) motivated by his desire to provide for his family, the show's take-aways are pretty grim overall. Good and evil are constantly muddled, bad things happen to "good" people for no reason, many characters do horrible things in the name of revenge, and there's no reward for doing the right thing.

Positive role models & representations

The main character is a terminally ill chemistry teacher who decides to make methamphetamines as a way to earn cash quick for his family -- you can sympathize with his motives, but his methods are questionable at best and rapidly deteriorate as the show progresses. The people who surround him inevitably get caught up in the repercussions of his decisions, often to their detriment. Some characters make racist comments about Mexicans.

Violence

Frequent graphic violence. Shooting and threats of shooting; other physical scuffles, beatings, and attacks; explosions (some with horrifying results); poisonings; accidental deaths. In one first-season episode, in an attempt to defend himself, Walt creates phosphine gas and poisons his attackers; later, the consequences are shown, and Walt and Jesse must dispose of one of the bodies -- which turns into a disgusting, bloody mess.

Sex

In one scene, a bare-breasted woman leans out a window, but her breasts are blurred out on the network version, but not on the DVD or streaming versions. Walt and his wife have some intense sexual encounters, but nothing graphic is shown -- it's all implied.

Language

Audible language includes words like "ass" and "bitch," while "f--k" and "bulls--t" are muted on the network version, but not on the DVD or streaming versions. References to male anatomy, including "dick" and "prick." A character flips some others the bird.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

The show revolves around making and selling illegal drugs; some characters are addicts. Walt is touted by the dealers as an artist for his skill at making methamphetamines. Also drinking and prescription drug use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Breaking Bad isn't intended for kids; its intense, morally ambiguous characters and storylines are a much better fit for mature audiences. The main character starts out as an essentially good person who's driven to extreme negative behavior (manufacturing methamphetamines and more) by depression and desperation; over the course of the show, his good side becomes less and less evident. There's a good bit of swearing (though "f--k" is muted on the network airing, but not on the DVD or streaming versions), frequent violence (sometimes extremely graphic), and some sexual content (a woman is shown topless, but her breasts are blurred on the network version, though not on the DVD or streaming versions).

User Reviews

Parent of a 17 year old Written byJgeorge December 13, 2012

Amazing Show!!

It tells us that meth is bad, cancer is bad, killing is bad and greed is a bad thing. Its never to early to learn that stuff
Parent Written byjst555 March 24, 2013

Be vewy, vewy careful

I am a 20 year old college student and I've recently watched a few seasons of breaking bad on netflix to see what the hype has been about (I know, late ban...
Teen, 16 years old Written byjon672 December 8, 2012

Brilliant television show, but know your child first.

Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television shows of all time, hands down. The plot is original, intelligent, riveting, and morally ambiguous. The character...
Teen, 13 years old Written byLu Bu December 9, 2012

its ok

it really could have been better. the plot of the show is so cheesy.

What's the story?

Walt White (Bryan Cranston) is a high school chemistry teacher working a second job to support his family: his pregnant wife, Skylar (Anna Gunn), and his teenage son, Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte), who has cerebral palsy. Desperately hard up for money and constantly put down by those around him, Walt reaches the breaking point when he's diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. He connects with former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to start making and selling methamphetamines in order to raise money for his struggling family.

Is it any good?

All of the characters in BREAKING BAD are flawed (many very deeply), and they all make mistakes and, sometimes, baffling choices. The line between good and bad isn't clear; in fact, nobody comes off looking particularly good here, including Walt's DEA agent brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), who's brusque and often insensitive. Some episodes move a bit slowly, while others have more momentum -- sort of like Walt himself, as he tries to cope with the mess his life is becoming.

Cranston's phenomenal performance is the best thing about the show. Forget the spacey, clueless dad of Malcolm in the Middle. Walt may be tired and beaten down, but Cranston manages to bring enough dignity to the man that it's possible to believe him when he's acting like an idiot and being socially responsible at the same time (such as when he narrowly escapes the bad guys, then tells his drug dealing partner, "We have to clean this up").

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why it's interesting to explore what happens when good people go bad. Is Walt's behavior justified? How do you think you'd react in a similar situation?

  • Do you think the media is the right forum to explore this kind of negative behavior? Why or why not?

  • What's the impact of these anti-heroes on the greater culture? Do kids who don't watch the show know who these guys are?

TV details

For kids who love drama

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