If “Breaking Bad” was set in Santa Fe?

Santafe.com - August 5, 2011

"Who, in Santa Fe, might be comparable to Walter, great good guy who goes bad because of circumstances? "

Three of my daughters are totally obsessed with the AMC TV Series "Breaking Bad," in which Bryan Cranston plays the part of Walter White, a chemistry teacher in Albuquerque who turns his focus toward creating crystal meth. I had first heard about it when it started three years ago, but wasn’t sure that it interested me.

Then my daughter, Maggie, got a guest role as a neurotic secretary on the program and I was introduced to it again. Once again, I let it slide, and then last month, my youngest, Nevada, told me that if I didn’t watch the first episode of Season 3, she wouldn’t speak to me for the rest of the summer.  She had just seen it and was blown away.  The next day I ordered that first episode, and was became instantly hooked.

For the last couple of weeks, my husband and I have found "Breaking Bad" to be, by far, the best thing available on television.  I’m convinced that Vince Gilligan, creator and head writer, is a genius, as is Cranston, the Walter White character.  How fascinating to watch a barely memorable chemistry teacher transform himself into an evil criminal who practically destroys everything he touches, but who also manages to be somewhat likeable.

Albuquerque is the perfect backdrop for the cast’s shenanigans, with its 1930’s Route 66 Art Deco architecture, varying neighborhoods, wide empty streets and rundown warehouses.  Not all of Albuquerque looks this way, mind you, but it has that colorful grittiness that is perfect for the show.  I love that about Albuquerque.

Then I got to wondering what "Breaking Bad" would be like if they had shot it in Santa Fe and what were the Santa Fe character comparisons that I could find to the present cast? It almost made me chuckle to think how badly Santa Fe might fare as the setting for BB.

First of all, Santa Fe is too pretty, too cute, too cultured, too touristy for that story. Can you just imagine Walter sitting in a booth at Tuneup, planning his drug deals, while eaters sipped their chai and munched on organic eggs and watercress?  Hank Schrader, angry, overweight DEA brother-in-law, would stand out like a sore thumb, careening around our tiny, wavy streets in his giant black SUV, chasing drug dealers.

Scenes in Santa Fe could be shot in other neighborhoods, far from the lovely historic Plaza, but, for some reason, film crews who film here seem to always go for the Plaza and the Eastside.

Then my mind jumped to the characters themselves.  Who, in Santa Fe, might be comparable to Walter, great good guy who goes bad because of circumstances?  Gee, that might fit quite a few local characters. For instance, our past resident and big guy governor comes to mind.  I remember him when he was first running for Congress, with his warm smile and friendly, unassuming manner.  What might have been the dramatic circumstances which changed him so?  Well, a climb up the ladder, for one thing, with our national top post in mind, and two terms as governor of a state with a rather loose style of accountability.  People surrounding Bill have fallen at a similar rate to those connected to Walter. And viewers and readers will stay tuned to see what their futures will hold.

In a New York Times Magazine article on "Breaking Bad," Vince Gilligan said that, in his show, “nobody gets away with anything … and that karma is the great uncredited player.”  That makes me think that Walter, though we may love him in some way, will finally pay a price for his fall from grace.  I wonder if Santa Fe’s local characters who have dabbled in criminal deeds will have the same fate.

There are other Santa Fe connections to "Breaking Bad."  Anna Gunn, who so perfectly plays Walter’s wife, Skyler, was a favorite student of mine at Santa Fe Prep a long time ago.  She studied drama at Prep under local drama teachers Nick (Wayne) Sabato and Freddie (Hollins) Johnson.  Even then, Anna showed great promise as an actor and has since had a very successful career.

The drug dealing, rampant on "Breaking Bad," is also an active institution in Santa Fe and drug use can be found in all levels of our local society.  Jesse Pinkman, played by Aaron Paul in the series, is a smart screwup who also takes the wrong path.  He goes to treatment, gets clean, but continues to make bad choices

And  how does this blog fit into ‘Chang’in Times’, the focus of my weekly writings?  I, too, adhere to Vince Gilligan’s belief that actions have consequences (constantly shown in "Breaking Bad"), and I think that, for some reason, karma is more obvious during these strange times than it has been in the past.  Almost daily, we see mistakes becoming more transparent.  Politicians who did desperate things are being exposed; educators who changed scores are being exposed; sports figures who doped are coming to light; sex addicts who can’t keep their pants on are getting their due; media figures who lied are losing their jobs … it goes on and on.  However painful to witness, I know that karma is the “great uncredited player” on the local and national stage – and that is a good thing.