In his autobiography Palm Sunday, Kurt Vonnegut talks of his rejected masters thesis in anthropology. In it, he defined a method for charting the overall emotional state of a story along a time axis. If good things happened to the characters, the line would be positive; bad things, negative. He charted various stories and tried to draw conclusions. He was excited that the stories of Cinderella and Jesus charted the same.
Kafka's "The Metamorphosis" started at zero and then quickly trailed off to minus infinity. That's what I thought of as I saw Walter White, high school chemistry teach, celebrate his 50th birthday to the news he has terminal lung cancer despite never smoking. He's working in a car wash to make ends meet, his wife is pregnant, and high schooler Walt Jr. has cerebral palsy. Walt's brother-in-law is a DEA agent, and during a ride-along, sees a former student escape from a window. He lets him go, and later determines he'll get rich by making and selling crystal meth with him.
I figured I'd like this show--I was a big fan of Bryan Cranston in "Malcolm In The Middle". But this show is on a completely different level. So far the first two episodes have been some incredible absurdist comedy, and the brilliant plan to sell drugs has taken a dramatic detour.
You can watch the first two episodes online, and watch the third one this weekend. You'd especially like it if you know someone who's a chemistry teacher (I'm talking to you, yesthattom.)