The pilot of Breaking Bad, for me, was like a breath of fresh air. I was coming off of "The Shield" finale, and I knew that Lost and 24, two shows that I grew up with, would be ending soon. Therefore, I turned to two separate shows to keep me grounded: Dexter and Breaking Bad. Dexter is great, don't get me wrong, but this show just grabbed me in a completely different way.
First off, the show seems to take ideas that are boilerplate for dramas or for television shows period and flip them on their head. We get the typical "show something exciting at the beginning and go back a few weeks to show how it happened!" which is one of the oldest tricks in the book. However, Breaking Bad does it with such energy and vigor that it's hard to complain about it. We meet Walter White, a Chemistry teacher who just turned fifty and suffers from inoperable lung cancer.. but he hasn't told his family this. His life seems to be one dull moment after the other, and we learn that he was once involved in research that lead to a Nobel prize.. from that to this? It seems like a depressing step down, but Walt does what he can. His wife is pregnant with their second child and his first son has a mild case of cerebral palsy.
So what does he do? After watching his DEA brother-in-law take down a few bad guys at a meth lab, he decides to put his chemistry skills to good use. With the aid of one of his former students, Jesse, he begins cooking meth, presumably for money to help pay for any operation or chemo bills. From here, we get an incredible build-up, from an innocent chemistry teacher to a guy who has nothing to lose and is willing to break the law, or "break bad," for a chance to get money for him and his family. It's the usual anti-hero set-up, as the protagonist prepares to do things we wouldn't normally do but he still cheer for him.
The episode is incredible for a pilot, setting up future plots, establishing background (at least minor background) for certain characters and giving us incredible performances all around. Bryan Cranston is amazing here, and he won a well-deserved Emmy for this episode. Aaron Paul also proves himself to be a great actor too. As for the supporting characters, I would call them the weakest part of a nearly perfect show, but as someone who has already seen the show, I can say that the characters get better over time.
Just watch the way the episode unfolds and the way we lead up to that eerie and incredible first and final scene. This was just a taste of what was to come in the future for the show.