Face Off: ‘Breaking Bad’ vs. ‘Homeland’

By August 13, 2013
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Roughly two weeks ago, I began seeing rather irate tweets from a friend of mine who had just decided to start watching “Breaking Bad” from the beginning. It didn’t take long to see his disdain for the show, stating that “Homeland” is by far superior. Then again, he bashed “Orange Is The New Black” only after watching the first half of the first episode, so I guess we have to consider the source, right?

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Still, this comparison got me thinking. How does one truly put the two in the same ring to box it out over which really is the better program? First off, I’m just going to state here that this comparison is slightly unfair since they are two completely different genres, but this friend of mine started dancing on my proverbial mine field. Secondly, “Breaking Bad” just began the final eight episodes of the show and “Homeland” is about to return for the beginning of its third season. The ages of the shows may also weigh in comparisons since there is no set end yet for the Showtime series. Still, since the actual timeline of “Breaking Bad”‘s story is roughly 2 years and “Homeland” seems right along that same sort of timeline, this may ultimately cancel each other out.

THE DANGER

When “Breaking Bad” began, Walter White was a normal family man living a hum drum existence. And then the cancer struck. Something about this life event turned into a watershed moment of sorts for Mr. White. This health crisis and his looming demise led to a breakdown of sorts which ultimately led Walt down the path to cook and distribute the best damn crystal meth found by anyone anywhere. Soon, his pride took over and the drive behind Walter White’s quest changed from providing for his family after he was gone, to a simple Scarface-ian quest for absolute power and respect. The danger in “Breaking Bad” has come from all sides – from Tuco Salamanca to Gustavo Fring – but the catalyst is Walter White and his downward spiral transformation into Heisenberg. The danger here is not only the crystal meth, the cartel activity surrounding the product, and the lives destroyed in its path: the danger here is Walter White himself.

“Homeland” follows the CIA’s Carrie Mathison as her crazy theories point her to POW Nicholas Brody and his possible ties with a terrorist organization whose soul purpose is to wipe America off the map. The show’s power lies in its writing, the performances of the actors and the unanswered questions that lead to every episode’s cliff hanger ending. Soon, Brody gets involved in politics and quickly rises the congressional ladder, all while becoming a rather viable Vice Presidential candidate. A Vice Presidential candidate/family man/broken Marine connected with one of the most dangerous men in the world? The danger here may seem outlandish or farfetched, but in “Homeland”‘s post-9/11 world, the possibility of an outlandish terrorist attack is very real and the potential victims are numbers that even Heisenberg’s blue meth could never reach.

1 point goes to “Homeland”!

“Homeland” – 1 , “Breaking Bad” – 0

The Supporting Characters

Some of you may not be aware that the character of Jesse Pinkman was never meant to live past season 1. Really ponder that story possibility as Pinkman has become as much a part of the fabric of the “Breaking Bad” story as Walter White. The roles of both characters have changed throughout the seasons and now it seems Jesse is the one with good intentions, haunted by past choices. He’s the light to Mr. White’s deep darkness.

Oh, and also – bitch!

http://youtu.be/u1ffJtn9gjU

“Homeland” also has a Saul, but Saul Berenson is nothing at all like Saul Goodman. Hell, Goodman isn’t even a real Jew! Saul Berenson is a powerful man, but he is also a lonely man. He is a sort of father figure to Carrie and has seen her through some really bad times. In “Homeland,” Saul takes on the role as the voice of reason, pretty much echoing the thoughts of the audience as we watch the story unfold.

Given the story & character development, the winner here is Jesse. Saul Berenson is definitely a complex and engaging character to watch on screen and Mandy Patinkin does a great job, but Jesse Pinkman taps into a childlike empathy that adds to the many layers of his character. Aaron Paul deserves the Emmy, hands down.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw this in here.

1 point goes to “Breaking Bad”!

“Homeland” – 1, “Breaking Bad” – 1

Disturbing Characters Are Disturbing

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Carrie Mathison has struggled with severe bi-polar disorder since the age of 22. Clare Danes has done a brilliant job in cementing Carrie as one of the most undoubtedly crazy protagonists on television today. Every episode contains at least one moment where the viewer anxiously watches as Carrie struggles to function in a world that doesn’t seem to relate to her disease, nor believe her constantly correct theories. In this reality, Mathison is a loose canon who goes rogue more than once. She’s had electro shock therapy and has had sex with a possible terrorist, all in the guise of keeping America safe.

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As mentioned earlier, Nicholas Brody is an American POW who returned from war after being held capture for 8 years. During those 8 years, he was tortured and broken completely. During this time, the terrorist Abu Nazir took Brody in and cared for him. This process brainwashed Brody and rebuilt him into the man we meet at the beginning of the series. Nicholas Brody is a family man who returns home changed, and to watch Damien Lewis’ depiction of a man trying to pick up the pieces and acclimate back into society is enough to make him deserving of last year’s Emmy. However, to witness the monster he had been transformed into and see the inner conflict this character constantly seems to embody also makes him one of the most empathetic and disturbing characters on television today.

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I can’t think of any other television show, past or present, that shows one man’s downward spiral descent into madness as brutal and honest as “Breaking Bad” has. What started as what some perceived a dark comedy in season 1 has delved deeper and deeper in the character deconstruction and reconstruction of Walter White into Heisenberg. This transformation of Mr. White is not just a brilliant character study, unmatched by any other show, it’s also a peek into the human condition, and an examination of a family slowly falling apart.

When speaking of disturbing characters in the “Breaking Bad” world, one obviously needs to give a shout out (shout out?) to the Salamanca family. Enigmatic and fascinating, this cartel family consisted of:

Tuco Salamanca

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Tuco is one hot-headed and extreme bad guy. He stole meth from Jesse and instead of returning it or paying what he owed him, Jesse got his ass kicked and ended up badly beaten in the hospital. Walt stepped up as Heisenberg and made a lasting impression on Tuco, thus starting an unlikely business relationship with the man…but that did not end well.

Hector Salamanca  

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Hector is Tuco’s uncle, and he is silenced due to a stroke. However, that doesn’t stop him from being even more dangerous than his nephew. Throughout the series, he wanted Walt dead for Tuco’s death. But luckily for us, he hated Gus Fring more.

The Cousins

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Leonel and Marco Salamanca are, believe it or not, even more dangerous than Hector or Tuco. These silent killers seem to be constantly moving towards their goal of killing Walt or Hank and are featured prominently throughout season 3.

Gustavo Fring

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One of the most powerful methamphetamine dealers in southwestern United States, Gus Fring is also the owner of the fast food chain Los Pollos Hermanos and a laundry facility – both of which are fronts for his illegal operation. Giancarlo Esposito pulls off quite a performance here, so much so that it’s really difficult seeing him in any other role anywhere without thinking he’s going to murder everyone in the scene he is in, no matter what. Nominated for an Emmy for his performance in 2011, he won a 2012 Critics Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor In A Drama. It’s a well deserved win as Gustavo Fring is one of the most maniacal villains to grace the television in some time.

1 point goes to “Breaking Bad”!

“Homeland” – 1, “Breaking Bad” – 2 

Accolades

When it comes to awards received, “Breaking Bad” has garnered 6 Primetime Emmy wins, 3 Saturn Awards, 1 Golden Globe, 1 Writer’s Guild Of America Award, 2 SAG Awards, etc. When you calculate all the awards the show has received over the past five years (not counting what they may win this year) the total is 47.

“Homeland” has received 4 Primetime Emmys including Best Outstanding Drama Series, The Golden Globe for Best Television Series, Emmys for both Outstanding Lead Actor and Actress, 2 Critics Choice Awards, 1 SAG Award, etc. When tallying all the awards “Homeland” has won, the total comes to 28 (again not counting this year’s ceremonies).

The numbers don’t lie and “Breaking Bad” comes out on top.

1 point goes to “Breaking Bad”!

Homeland – 1, Breaking Bad – 3

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I have to point out again that Vince Gilligan’s series is in its final 8 episode run and “Homeland” is just hitting its stride. Many will agree that “Breaking Bad” is still the best show airing on television today. With the additional time on the air, the production is ahead of “Homeland” in character development, story, and awards earned. However, it seems quite evident that as soon as the final episode run is over, “Homeland” has a chance to snatch the crown from Heisenberg’s head and reign supreme on the small screen. We shall see how it plays out soon enough as season 3 of “Homeland” is set to premiere on September 29th, 2013 on Showtime.

http://youtu.be/iXOUIsu-E0Q

Which of these two shows do you think is the best? Sound off in the comments below.

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Aside from throwing words onto your screen here, he has written for the likes of FEARnet, Examiner, Dread Central and MTV Movies Blog. And yes, he was Percy on VR Troopers.