I’ve been resisting Breaking Bad. But John the Baptist is a pusher of the program, in the same way that so many of the characters are meth dealers. Just like them, he was sure if I just had a little taste, I’d get hooked. Finally, on the cusp of the Fifth Season, it worked. I finally cracked open the Seasons One through Four box set that he’d loaned me and started watching. I won’t say it was an instant love affair. If you aren’t familiar with this AMC series, it’s got an interesting premise: a sadsack high school Chemistry teacher learns he has terminal and inoperable lung cancer. To provide for his family, he needs to make a lot of money fast. He teams up with one of his slacker, drug dealing former students to become a meth cook. His product is super pure — because unlike most meth cooks, he’s an actual Chemist — and he gets drawn further and further into the scary world of big time international drug cartels. As I said, there isn’t much of anyone to like here. Not the Chem teacher, not the loser student, the nagging wife, the weird kleptomaniac sister-in-law or the large cast of meth heads, tweakers, losers and low level dealers. I stuck around for the excellent writing and the imaginative use of Albuquerque landscapes (which are characters in themselves).
The great thing about the series is how excellent writing can get you to sympathize with the most unsympathetic characters. While I never really got invested in the central characters, peripheral characters starting showing up who were oddly compelling — a cold as ice Chilean who fronts a large meth dealing operation behind a fast food fried chicken chain, a seen-it-all, no-nonsense hit man and cleaner named Mike, a weird and wacky karaoke singing, clean-eating vegan meth cook and a pitbull-like and profane DEA agent. I guess what attracted me to these particular characters is that — oh sure, they have to kill people now and then — but they are consummate professionals. Believe me, that quality is hard to come by in the meth world.
Not that I know that much about the meth world. But I did just drive through a hotbed of meth action — at least if you can go by the billboards — around Carson City Nevada. So, again, I can’t exactly claim to be an expert in the meth world. But I do have a few suggestions for series creator Vince Gilligan. Most of them involve terriers. These I humbly submit.
1. Everyone involved in organized crime should have a terrier. A lot of people get wasted in this series — and I don’t mean just on drugs. People sneak up and shoot them by popping out of shrubbery, doorways, crawl spaces, etc. when least expected. If everyone had a terrier, there would be no surprises. Because a terrier would give an early warning system with loud high pitched yapping. I can’t believe I’m even having to suggest this pre-emptive measure. It’s so obvious, people!
2. The Smooth Fox Terrier is the perfect pet for a meth head. Hey, all I know about meth is what I see on TV, but it seems to make people hyper and obsessive and mile-a-minute vocal. Sort of like terriers. If you are going to do meth, do you really think you should inflict yourself on a poor laid-back Labrador? At least have a dog that is naturally cranked. Or better yet, take a lesson from a terrier and learn how to amp it up without the chemicals. You could save a lot of money.
3. Embrace the nose. One of the disconcerting things about the series is how one of the main actresses had major facial surgery somewhere between Season Three and Season Four. Originally, she had a nice long patrician nose. Sort of like a terrier. It made her strikingly different from every other button-nosed starlet and uniquely beautiful. Somewhere along the way she had it shortened and her lips puffed out and who knows what. She looked better with the nose. Take it from a terrier, a long nose is a definite beauty asset. Do NOT change. Really, would a Smooth Fox Terrier get surgery to look like a Pug? No. Follow that wise lead.
4. Terriers are natural criminal badasses. One thing that becomes clear in this series is that the way you survive and negotiate the high-stakes, high risk world of big-time drug dealing is to have an attitude as large as you can make it. Doesn’t matter how big you are or what kind of heat you are packing, attitude trumps all. In one scene from Season Four, one character, armed with nothing but attitude, just walks out into cross-fire from various cartel goons. The goons flee. That’s terrier. In spades.
Which brings me to a suggestion for Vince Gilligan beyond this current season, which is rumored to be the last. Why not have a follow up series cast entirely with terriers?
Here’s the scenario: two terriers, disgusted with the quality of commercial dog food decide to cook their own kibbles in an underground lab — say in a certain wine cave in Sonoma. Naturally, the big pet food conglomerates come gunning for them. Now, here you’ll need to reference your nearest bag of dog food. Notice how the bags always feature Labs and Cocker Spaniels and other docile types? Well, even multi-nationals aren’t prepared for Terrier-Tude. Our terrier duo ends up cornering the market in kibbles and taking out all challengers with terrier teeth and attitude.
Potential? I think so. And there won’t be any problems in identifying with characters and coming to terms with anti-heroes. Because terriers are heroes we can all get behind. Mostly because it’s too dangerous to be in front of them blocking their way.
Excuse me while I fire up the video camera and start shooting a pilot. I think we have a winner here.