Photo: Ben. Leuner/AMC

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Breaking Bad (AMC, 2008–2013)
Broke chem teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) receives terminal diagnosis; fears for family's finances; uses smarts to make (lucrative) meth with former student, drug dealer Jesse (Aaron Paul).

The Point
None of us know what we're capable of. Over five seasons, Walter goes from squeamish dweeb to hardened, porkpie-wearing, cartel-quashing kingpin. Terrifying trajectory is show's lifeblood.

Cultural Touchstones
Walter's wife, now aware of his scheme, laments grave danger he's put himself, family in. Walter's growled, chilling response: "I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot.... I am the one who knocks."

If You See Only One
Start with pilot; if you're not thoroughly intrigued, we'll be stunned.