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Calling all people who have the power to control Emmy nominations: Do not ignore this character's amazing journey.

By Gina Carbone
gina_carbone@comcast.net

I started watching “Breaking Bad” because Bryan Cranston kept winning Emmys over my boys Jon Hamm (“Mad Men”), Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”) and Hugh Laurie (“House”).

On top of that, the show kept landing on top 10 lists where critics fawned over the writing and acting and bemoaned the lack of viewer attention.

Fine.

But as much as I may have rented seasons 1 and 2 for Cranston’s Walter White, I am sticking with season 3 for Dean Norris as Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank Schrader.

Hank is by far the most likable, most developed and all-around “best” character on “Breaking Bad” season 3. The amount of believability and depth Norris has been able to give this role not only deserves a best supporting actor Emmy nomination — at the very least — Hank deserves a place on the list of best supporting characters in TV history.

Last night’s episode, “One Minute,” was Norris’ tour de force. The actual one minute aspect — Hank’s one-minute warning that the twins would be coming to kill him — was the most tense, taut, perfectly directed and edited scene in an episode of highlights.

Other highlights — Hank’s rage attack on Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), his elevator breakdown with wife Marie (Betsy Brandt), his quiet moment sitting with Marie on the bed.

Only Norris could take a character on such a wild arc from a husband’s wild panic, to a DEA agent’s rage, to sobbing shame, to quiet acceptance — all in one episode.

Hank is a good guy, but not a saint. He’s a real human being — a cocky but conflicted guy’s guy with real love for his wife and loyalty to his extended family. He started out as the brash comic relief counterpoint to nerdy chemistry teacher Walt, but he’s now suffering through a personal identity crisis.

Stress forced out Walt’s inner gangster — a role he is all-too comfortable with. Walt turned out to be a cool, natural badass. Whereas for Hank, his El Paso trauma forced the opposite reaction. When the heat came on, his fight-or-flight instinct was for flight. He still has post-traumatic stress attacks and couldn’t face going back to El Paso. But while in Albuquerque he still can’t control his extreme emotions. So who is Hank if he isn’t the heroic cop he built his life around?

Back to Walt for a minute. I’m starting to not quite believe him as a character. At first, he was doing what he had to do because he had terminal cancer and wanted to take care of his family. Now that his family has dissolved, Walt has kept going as a meth lord. What is his motivation now? He’s become so cold and so distanced from holier-than-thou Skyler (Anna Gunn) and poor oblivious Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) I can’t figure out what his end game is. It just seems a little too fast and easy a transition for him to become a cold blooded manipulator/killer. If he is still somewhat a sympathetic character he can’t keep digging this grave with no positive balance.

I need to see Walt’s likable side again. Remind me why I’m supposed to care about him — especially now that Hank is rising as the main protagonist. Jesse I never much cared about and his speech to Walt about how he would ruin Hank just made me roll my eyes. Whatever, “bitch.”

AMC has done well by Bryan Cranston and I don’t begrudge him his Emmys or Golden Globe nominations. But now it’s time to recognize how Dean Norris has taken the writers’ faith in him and rewarded it tenfold by molding an iconic character.

If you aren’t into “Breaking Bad” yet, it’s time to catch up. Start with Bryan Cranston and stay for Dean Norris. You’ll get addicted.

***

These are the upcoming “Breaking Bad” season 3 episodes, as copied wholesale from Wikipedia:

28 8 I See You May 9, 2010 (2010-05-09)
The family waits for news; Jesse covers at the lab; Walt worries that he and his family are in danger.
29 9 Kafkaesque May 16, 2010 (2010-05-16)
Skyler hatches a plan; Walt and Gus come to an understanding; Jesse pursues a new opportunity.
30 10 Fly
May 23, 2010 (2010-05-23)
Walt, obsessed with a contaminant, refuses to cook; Jesse tries to get Walt on track.
31 11 Abiquiu May 30, 2010 (2010-05-30)
Skyler gets involved with Walt’s business; Hank struggles with recovery; Jesse has a startling discovery.
32 12 Half Measures June 6, 2010 (2010-06-06)
Jesse strikes out against advice; Walt takes drastic action to intervene.
33 13 Full Measure June 13, 2010 (2010-06-13)
With Jesse on the run, Walt negotiates a bargain with Gus to provide for his and Jesse’s safety.

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