Review of “Cancer Man” 01:04
I love inaugural seasons. There’s an unharnessed passion behind the writing and the acting that makes the first go-round such a thrill to behold. This is especially true with the hit AMC series, Breaking Bad.
In the first few episodes, including the fourth installment titled “Cancer Man,” so many dramatic developments occur that much of the plot serves as nail-biting entertainment. It’s difficult to look away for even a split second.
Our leading man, Walt (a consistently brilliant Bryan Cranston), can no longer hide the damaging effects of the cancer that is eating away his lungs. At a family BBQ, Skyler (Anna Gunn) puts an ultimatum on the table and Walt gives in, confessing his bleak diagnosis. The shock is palpable.
Imagine being Skyler in this situation. Not only is she dealing with a pregnancy, but now she finds out that her husband is dying of lung cancer.
The revelation gives Walt some much-needed wiggle room; he can now play the sympathy card, rather than the murderous drug-dealing card.
“Cancer Man” shows Walt’s obvious love for his family, more so than in other episodes. When Skyler recommends he visit with the top oncologist in the field, he hesitates, not because he wants to give up, but because he’s not sure if the family can afford the treatment.
These scenes of familial strife (and familial love) make Walt a well-rounded character. Sometimes when he’s cooking meth with Pinkman (Aaron Paul), the seriousness in the air can almost be cut with a knife. The DEA, including Walt’s brother-in-law (Dean Norris), may catch them. The drugs may explode. The dealers may turn violent. It all makes for some intense television.
But that’s why having Walt’s family become a pivotal part of the show is so necessary. Skyler and Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) ground Breaking Bad in reality. Everyone needs to pay the piper and head home. Walt can’t simply get what he wants when it comes to dealing drugs. It would be too easy, too few obstacles to overcome. He needs difficulty; it’s the only way to test himself.
Conversely, Pinkman goes through his own soul-searching. In “Cancer Man,” he heads home to the family that has continued on without him. He has a younger brother and caring parents, but they are all tired of his druggie ways.
Some of the scenes with Pinkman at his house are touching. When he sets the table for the family, it’s almost as if nothing is wrong. But as these story arcs go, drugs eventually enter the picture. In a few quick moments, Pinkman is kicked out, relegated to the same destiny as the kitchen trash.
“Cancer Man” continues Breaking Bad’s excellence. We come to know our two main characters, both their strengths and weaknesses, by getting to know their two respective families.By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com
Created by Vince Gilligan
Starring Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris and RJ Mitte
Click here to purchase Breaking Bad: Season One on DVD.