Breaking Bad is far and away my favorite American television series, very narrowly edging out The Sopranos, The Wire, and The Shield. It’s the epitome of tight writing and characterization; outstanding cinematography and color/lighting design; and (crucially for me) it has enough comic relief to break up the tension, but not enough to ruin the tension. Anyway, I just love it, it’s the most badass show ever, and it has so many great characters.
My favorite, though, would have to be Lydia. She’s such a good antagonist. (The show is constantly playing with shifting around the definition of ‘antagonist’, another good thing about it) but just from the perspective of Walter she is generally an antagonist, because her actions make trouble and complicate the storyline. She’s authoritiative but vulnerable; attractive without being sexualized; and you know just enough about her back story to make her interesting, but not enough for her to stop being mysterious.
During the final season, I was totally hoping that she and Walt would wind up together - even though Walt was a completely despicable bastard, I felt bad for him in the sense that he was really, really, really good at his job but had no affirmation of that skill from anyone because he had to keep it hidden. Lydia was the one person (well, other than Jesse) with whom he could actually share that pride in his meth-cooking abilities and actually be appreciated for it. This would have been too dumb and cliched of a direction for the show to take, so I guess I’m actually glad they didn’t do it, but it was the logical path for the characters to follow in my mind’s eye, at any rate.
Close second to Lydia would be Todd, for exactly the reasons described in this article. He was an interesting blank-slate of a character whose only objective in life was seemingly to serve his superiors and do a good job for them. It’s like, all he wanted to do was to do whatever was asked of him and do it really well. (I don’t think he was a psychopath, as many have suggested - possibly a sociopath, but his shooting of the kid on the dirt bike was clearly motivated by Jesse’s instructions that nobody could ever know about the train heist.) Also Jesse Plemons or “Meth Damon” is just awesome - we’ll definitely be seeing a lot more of him in the coming decades.
If you’re asking about people I liked, I’d say Walter Jr. Skyler was pretty likeable too. I often wanted to backhand Walter (and not because he was cooking up meth) and felt more sorry than warm towards Jesse.
Oh, and Mike, he was cool. I’m not sure we would have hit it off but I respected him.
Characters I thoroughly enjoyed as characters, Jane. I wish they hadn’t offed Jane. She added a lot to the dynamic.
Jane for purely lustful reasons. OK, not really, she was a relatively minor character (other than the ripple effects she ended up causing). I can see a case to be made for Todd and Saul. I liked Hank despite his flaws. Tough guy, trying to do the right thing. Had a bad stretch when he was recovering from being shot but all because he really needed to be back in the game. Good uncle to Walt Jr… yeah Hank was a good guy. Unless I’m forgetting something, Hank’s second in command was pretty stand up as well.
Todd was an intriguing if not sympathetic character. As far as we know (or as far as I remember) he was brought up in a hard core criminal family and had his own code (“Nothing personal, just business”) as he shot a total innocent. I was happy to see him go like he did but sort of felt he knew it was part of the game as he died.
Saul, no question. And Better Call Saul is a great follow up to Breaking Bad. For a relatively minor character, he was the spice that put the show over the top for me. Although my love of Mr. Show might have biased my opinion.
But story wise, I was really impressed with Hank’s transformation from a dumb jock bully cop brother in law to a complex and ultimately sympathetic character. Really foiled Walt’s descent nicely.
Saul is my favorite character (and I think Better Call Saul is at least as good, if not better , than Breaking Bad.) He’s just such a lovable bad guy. Mike, Hank & Jesse are a tie for second. I didn’t like Hank at first but he grew on me.
Really, the only character I didn’t like was Jane- she didn’t deserve to die like that but I wasn’t sorry to see her go.
Dead-eyed Todd was a character I didn’t love but when he had the Lydia oh Lydia ringtone, that made him almost human.
Mark Margolis is who you are thinking of. Also one of my favorites in a cast full of favorites. Skinny Pete, Badger, Tuco, the Killer Cousins, all those character actors who made this a truly astoundingly good series.
Todd was definitely human. Actually, with the character of Todd, as explained in that article I linked to, the show cleverly subverts the trope of “dead-eyed” psychopathic killers who are (obviously) a dime a dozen on lesser shows. Todd is, like, the most loyal servant of all time. Whatever you want him to do, he will do, with respect and deference; it doesn’t matter how evil it is, he’ll carry out the task in the same soft-spoken obedient manner. And not just that, he actually makes an effort to impress people. From his very first scene, when he’s still working for the exterminator/burglary ring, he alerts Walter and Jesse to the presence of a hidden camera in the house. He refuses to take money from Walter after his first time cooking the meth, insisting that he doesn’t want to be paid until his skills are up to Walter’s standards. When he starts working with the genteel and mannered Lydia, he immediately adopts a preppy style of dress. For fuck’s sake, he actually apologizes to Andrea before shooting her to death.
In an extremely fucked up and upside-down way, Todd is, like, the most “together” character on the show.
I like characters with a lighter side, like Hank, Jesse and Saul. I have mixed feelings about “Better Call Saul”, though; I feel like they went back and forth too much between “unrepentant wacky shyster” and “trying hard to be a respectable lawyer”, at least in the first season.
First seasons of shows generally deserve to be cut a little slack since they’re just figuring things out and experimenting with what works and what doesn’t. I still thing B.C.S. is one of the only good spinoff shows ever created, and certainly the only one from a major dramatic series that was actually able to hold its own, at least that I’m aware of.
Walt. Other than the snoozefest that was “Fly” pretty much all of Walt’s character development was spot on. Walt’s journey was the core of the show and it was never less than enthralling. (“Fly” aside.)
Tough choice but I’m going with Saul Goodman. He was a believably decent guy who made a lot of questionable decisions and simple mistakes that led down a destructive path. He is an ordinary flawed person I could identify with. He was also hilarious in a very dark universe.
It’s really hard not to pick Mike, Gus Fring, or Lydia. All superb and somewhat mysterious characters capably played by great actors. Jesse was a great proxy for the audience. I know I’m really in the minority here but I even like Skyler well enough.
I will say that I never thought Walt was that interesting a character. He was a great protagonist in that his actions created the moral dilemmas for essentially everyone else on the show but he was not that interesting himself. His competence was rarely called into question so I rarely worried if his plans would work out for him in the end. It wasn’t too hard to predict his behavior because his colossal senses of self-importance and entitlement and his skin-deep concern for his family or Jesse meant that we always knew he was going to do whatever bolstered his power over whatever was going to be best for them. Only in the end when he was facing imminent death would he do something that looked externally like a sacrifice for others. In reality, he was building up his legend and legacy when that was all that would be left of him.
I had forgotten about Hank’s inessential wife. She was basically a prop to give Hank a personal life and a plausible tie to Walt without going for the hackneyed “brother against brother” bit. It worked well enough to be forgiven. It might have been just as good for Walt and Hank to be coincidental neighbors but we would always have asked why he wouldn’t just move away.