Written by Ensley F. Guffey and K. Dale Koontz
“Say my name!” “They’re minerals. Jesus, Marie!” Or even the infamous “Yo, Gatorade me, bitch!” These are the now immortal words of the much beloved and sometimes hated characters on AMC’s critically acclaimed, hit television show Breaking Bad. I, myself, became enamored with the twists and turns that both the plot and the incredibly multi-faceted characters took. I was very pleased to find that after the Culture Smash Cast wrap-up-podcast of Breaking Bad, we were sent a copy of an episodic companion guide, Wanna Cook?. But when I saw the sheer volume of the book, I became a tad overwhelmed. And so, I did what any good writer would do. I took my best friend/sister to a local dive bar, bought us beer and wings, and read through the book. We discussed our favorite parts of the series and worked our way through the book, finding new tidbits of information, all while some meatheads tried to get our attention with talks of their trucks and how much they bench press. Which do you think we found more fascinating?
The book is laid out episode by episode, which is nice for anyone who is actually going through the book as they are watching the series… no spoilers. My sister and I, of course, started with the pilot episode to get a taste of what the book had in store for two fangirls. The guide begins with an episode breakdown, complete with the title of the episode, it’s air date, the cast, the episode’s writer and director, and a quote really summarizing the feel of the episode. You then get a quick plot synopsis. One of my wishes for this book is that in the table of contents, you would get a quick synopsis of each episode; it would have made finding certain episodes much easier.
As the episode guide goes on, you read a well written essay on the episode and what it means. They discuss everything from the cinematography to the actor’s performances and what it all means in relation to the story. Back to the pilot episode, I love how they discuss motifs and how they not only would repeat, but what they mean. One of the first motifs we see is Walt as he goes through the MRI machine, literally upside down to symbolize that his life has been turned on it’s head. The writer’s do an excellent job of pointing out the fun little Easter Eggs in there for you to enjoy without making you feel like a complete dunce if you missed a couple.
Also in the episode guide, we read about how the title of the episode came about, interesting fact, and “special ingredients,” which is a nod to Jesse’s earlier Meth cooking days when he would add his “special ingredient” of chili powder to his Crystal Meth. Our first special ingredient is focused on Crystal Meth, and how it’s formed and what it does to the body. I really didn’t understand much of what they were talking about, but it’s really good to have that information handy… you know, just in case Jesse Pinkman should show up at my door.
Not featured in this episode guide, but in numerous others is a section called “Speed Kills.” This includes a Body Count and Beatdown Count for those who want to keep track. I loved looking at the end of the entire series to see who had indeed killed the most people, and honestly it was quite surprising to see who came in 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place. I’m sure you can guess who came in first if you’ve seen the series. They also include little mini-chapters between episodes entitled “What’s Cooking.” My favorite was all about Skylar White, and the public hatred of her character. I really had no idea that so many not only had a hatred for Skylar, but also for Anna Gunn, who plays Skylar. The threats became so awful, that Gunn had to hire bodyguards to stay with her at all times. And I thought I was bad about separating fact from fiction.
The text is legit. Seriously, the guys have even included a bibliography, just in case you would like to either check up on their work, or if you’d like to venture down the rabbit hole along with them a bit more. Although, I wouldn’t consider this a viable piece of literature if they didn’t include a source list. I think that it’s a really great have for those who love the series or are just getting into it. I would like the table of contents to be a bit more user friendly, with a little synopsis with each one, but I can understand that they didn’t want to include that so that they don’t give the infamous “SPOILERS.”
There’s really not that much artwork in this book… not that it really needs it. I do appreciate the artwork that hints at the iconic images that the show has now become famous for. At the beginning of each episode, like a fairy tale takes the first letter of the first word and turns it into artwork, the writers take the first letter of the title of the episode and turn it into a Periodic Table symbol… just like in the opening title sequence. I also appreciate, when they have special segments that require another look, they use the Teddy Bear eye (made infamous in Season 2) to denote that section. It’s cute and funny.
There are some photos, but I was a little saddened to not see more. I know that this is a book based predominately on text, but I would have loved to have seen more photos… maybe even some photos that had not been released to the public. But all in all, the artwork was nice, clean, and paid great homage to the series.
This was a great read for my sis and I… it’s not for the faint of heart, and certainly not for those of you who don’t like to argue and dissect things to pieces. The entire book was very well plotted out, planned, and written. As a lazy American with a crappy memory, I would have loved a little more help in the table of contents to find episodes a little better, and some more photos, but honestly for the kind of book this was, I can’t ask for much more.
Overall (Not an Average) 9/10