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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad: Season 4

What She said:

She

I cannot hide my love and respect for Breaking Bad.  I think it’s the best show on tv since the completely undervalued Battlestar Galactica.  Of course, it follows the trend of abbreviated television seasons separated by incredibly long chunks without, which is frustrating.  But this latest run gave us a delightfully fulfilling 13 episodes without interruption.

Things pick up with Walt and Jesse still working for the man, Gus.  If you’ll recall, Gus runs a meth superlab and what started as a wonderfully lucrative production agreement between the guys and Gus turned into a scary situation with their lives in peril.  It’s a total power struggle, and Walt is his own type of control freak, and so he doesn’t want to be at Gus’ total mercy.  Plus, he’s smart.  He knows that Gus will only keep him and Jesse around for as long as he needs them.  So, Walt begins plotting a way to overthrow (ie: kill) Gus.  At the same time, Jesse becomes conflicted between his allegiance to Walt and his newfound power with Gus and crew.  Meanwhile, Skyler, now fully aware of everything going on, decides that her and Walt need to better cover their tracks and begin laundering the new income.  They claim that Walt has a gambling habit, hit it rich, and they together buy a car wash to launder the money through.  They’re sort of pulling the sheets over Hank’s eyes so the DEA doesn’t figure out what’s going on.  Hank continues his slow and painful recovery from his gunshot wound.  But he makes substantial progress over the course of the season.  Psychologically, however, things do get a bit dicey for Hank.  It seems he’s lost without his work.  Walt Jr. begins to drive as well.

So those are the basics of what happens in Season 4, but that’s just really the tip of the iceberg.  There’s lots of rivalry, tension, blood, and humor.  The show seems to become smarter, better made, and more intriguing with each season, which is both refreshing and essential.  Essential because we continue to move further from the original premise, a man dying from cancer doing something illegal but for the sake of his family.  Walt is no longer just doing things for his family—the cancer has sort of taken a backseat for him—and he’s not doing a little illegal, he’s doing a lot illegal.  The show is aware of this and handles it well.  Breaking Bad has tight storylines that compliment its characters well.  And that’s what the show is, one big long character study.  Over the course of its four seasons, it hasn’t become bogged down with too many faces and personalities.  The central cast has remained largely the same, and it utilizes reoccurring figures to remind us of its roots.  The show shines with its funny and ironic dark humor.  And not the kind of dark humor that’s just sort of nasty and unfunny.  The kind that makes light of a bad situation, that reminds us that these characters are real. 

Breaking Bad continues to improve upon itself with a solid ensemble cast and memorable performances.  The best acting and storyline on tv.

Thumbs up.

What he said:

He

When we first met Walter White (Bryan Cranston), he was your average guy. He was a high school chemistry teacher working two jobs to make ends meet. He’s pretty miserable and is kind of a spectator in his own life. If that wasn’t bad enough, then the poor guy gets cancer.

Through a series of events, he inadvertently bumps into a former student named Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). Jesse is a junkie and something of a small time drug dealer. This gives Walt the idea of using his smarts and Jesse’s connections to come up with a creative way of paying for his cancer treatments (and also leaving something for his family when he’s gone).

That was a long time ago though and Walt is cooking meth for an entirely different reason now. Long gone are the days of dealing with street-level dealers and addicts. Also gone are the days where Walt “has to” cook, because he no longer has cancer. Now he cooks because he wants to, because he needs to. He’s driven by perfection. He likes cooking the perfect batch of meth and he likes getting paid for it.

His high quality product has brought him into business with local fast food owner and drug lord Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposite). Gus too is driven by perfection, which is why Walt’s addict partner Jesse is a problem. It is that relationship that has brought this once budding business relationship crashing down to the ground.

Ironically enough though, most of this season is spent with Gus attempting to turn Jesse against Walt. Having apparently gained the upper hand in last season’s finale, Gus – in a way only he can – quickly show the guys whose really in charge. He decides to really stick it to Walt and attempt to turn Jesse against him. Walt and Jesse both agree that it’s only a matter of time before Gus turns on them. Meanwhile, Gus begins to discover that Jesse is something of a valuable asset and he actually wants him around now. This makes Jesse feel useful and he begins to rethink Walt’s plan. This ends up driving a wedge between Walt and Jesse exactly like Gus intended. However, Jesse remains sympathetic to Walt and makes it clear to Gus he will not work for him if any harm comes to his former teacher.

Back at home, Walt’s wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) is now in on the whole thing. After initially being disgusted over what he does, she quickly gets on board, as the money is just too good to pass up. This forces them to come up with one hell of a cover story for how they got so rich so quick. We also discover that despite claiming to not want any part in all of this, Skyler has quite the knack for weaving tall tales. She’s all too happy to not only take part in these lies, but also take charge; much to the chagrin of Walt’s lawyer Saul.

Things become even more complicated as more parties become involved. This unfolds in a dark, dramatic, and very funny way that only Breaking Bad can pull off. The show manages to successfully meld together elements that seemingly wouldn’t work well toegether, yet they do. You will find yourself laughing hysterically one minute and absolutely horrified the next.

It’s really hard to talk about the parts of the show that are good, because there’s just so much. The acting is top notch. It’s easy to point out Cranston and Paul’s performances; because they are top notch, but there’s so much more beyond that, I want to cover them all.

For example, the guys who play Saul and Mike (Gus’ hitman) are freaking fantastic. Not as large a role as some other people, these guys do everything they can with the screen time they are given. There’s some really good stuff going on here.

Or what about the guy who plays Gus? WOW is the first word that comes to mind, especially this season. He’s still the calm, cool, collected guy we met a few seasons back, but wow-oh-wow did we see what this guy was really made of this year. He is one mean MFer.

I could go on for this for hours and I haven’t even really touched on the main characters.

If you like a good crime drama with some dark comedy thrown in, then Breaking Bad is for you. It is a top-notch show.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on October 23, 2011.  

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