August 19, 2013 12:00 PM

Breaking Bad

AMC, Aug. 11, 9 p.m. ET/PT |

DRAMA

Who is Walter White, this hollow, awful man at the heart of Breaking Bad? As the show’s final episodes begin, he is confronted with the possibility that he’ll be exposed as a drug-cooking criminal mastermind – and he seethes like an animal poked in a cage. He’s disgusting. And yet, as played by Bryan Cranston, he’s one of the most riveting, daring dramatic characters ever – one who changed the entire notion of a TV hero. How? He has none of Don Draper’s dissolute sexiness to lure us. None of the bitter wit of Steve Buscemi’s Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire. And virtually no family backstory to make us understand his psychological roots: We have his history of cancer, his disappointing teaching career, his hunger for money. For an audience, he exists almost as pure motive and pure action. He’s a series of desperate, improvised gestures—to save his family, to destroy his enemies, to cover his tracks, to dispose of obstacles, especially when they are people. This is dire but believable, even oddly relatable. He’s a man who, given the chance to do evil, did so and grew to like it. Unless creator Vince Gilligan goes all Russian novelist on us and redeems him, that will be White’s epitaph.

Kris

Syndicated, check local listings |

TALK

So far, Kris Jenner’s talk show feels like an infomercial in need of a product to shill. She and her celebrity cohosts clap and cheer through stale segments on exercise, makeup and cooking. If you’re of the Kardashian clan at this moment in time, the world is your oyster. Why settle for being a barnacle on the TV schedule?

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