Cynical Optimist : What’s better, Breaking Bad or Sons of Anarchy?

Anarchism, then, really stands for the liberation of the human mind from the dominion of religion; the liberation of the human body from the dominion of property; liberation from the shackles and restraint of government.  Anarchism stands for a social order based on the free grouping of individuals for the purpose of producing real social wealth; an order that will guarantee to every human being free access to the earth and full enjoyment of the necessities of life, according to individual desires, tastes, and inclinations. — Emma Goldman

I’ve recently started watching the FX Original Series Sons of Anarchy. This, of course, only after completing four seasons of AMC’s Breaking BadAnarchy follows the Teller-Morrow family of Charming, California, members of the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original (SAMCRO). The series draws not only many character parallels to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but much of its storyline also. It’s written as if Denmark were a northern California small town and all its characters members of the motorcycle club.

Then there’s Breaking Bad, which stars Bryan Cranston as Walter White, a high-school chemistry teacher with lung cancer. To secure his family’s financial future, Cranston locates Jesse (Aaron Paul), a former student turned drug dealer, and starts cooking crystal meth. The show follows Cranston on a descent into depravity as he navigates street-level dealers, DEA agents, crime bosses and his own terminal illness.

Both television series, helmed by Kurt Sutter and Vince Gilligan respectively, pose moral questions instead of illustrating moral certainties. Nothing, as we are well aware of, is black and white. Anarchy beautifully captures the outlaw spirit that fuels many American subcultures, while Breaking Bad explores decisions and their consequences — chemical and interpersonal reactions. Characters like Cranston’s Walter White change radically, to the point where they may be unrecognizable at season’s end.

While I’m still only on the first (of four) seasons of Sons of Anarchy, it’s obvious the show is has a talented ensemble of writers, directors and cast members that elevate the material. Sure, I’m only four years behind – but better late than never, right?

For me personally, it’s hard to say which is the better show – Mad Men or Breaking Bad – but it’s clear they’re both in a league of their own. These two AMC originals easily comprise a Top 4 Greatest Television Shows list with HBO’s completed series, The Sopranos and The Wire. Next season will be Breaking Bad‘s last, while Mad Men plans to end in present day with a total of seven seasons. I can’t wait to see the continued evolution of Don Draper and Walter White, and I hope as I delve deeper into Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy that I find the story and its characters as equally intriguing.

Random Thought (And Spoiler): Did anyone else pick up on Breaking Bad‘s references to “The Dark Knight” in its fourth season? Walter White begins laughing maniacally at what would be considered bad jokes – he presses Jesse’s gun into his forehead while giving him a deceitful speech and later has a little fun with a bomb detonator – clicking and smacking it several times before it finally goes off. Then there’s Gustavo’s brilliant Harvey Two-Face moment… not to mention all those random parking garage meetings. Seriously, what’s up with that?

No speeches. Short speech. You lost your partner today. What’s his name – Emilio? Emilio is going to prison. The DEA took all your money, your lab. You got nothing. Square one. But you know the business and I know the chemistry. I’m thinking… maybe you and I could partner up. — Walter White

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