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Breaking Bad: Season 5.2

Breaking Bad: The Final Episodes

He Said, She Said Review Site

What She said:

She

I have a feeling this review is going to be fairly brief.  I mean, what is there to say?  Breaking Bad is hands down the best, most well written and executed television show in the last decade, and most fulfilling is the fact that it managed to stay exemplary all the way through to the end of the final episode.  Just one week prior, the world was abuzz over the heinous and lackluster series finale of Dexter, and one had to wonder if Breaking Bad was going to follow suit.  But rest assured, Breaking Bad ended with as much grit, dark humor, and drama as it had in all of its previous 5 seasons.

So, let’s start by quickly going through the general storyline for season 5.2.  First of all, if you’re just joining the series now, don’t be an idiot.  Please go back and start from the beginning.  By coming into the show at the end you’re just selling yourself short.  And now on to the spoilers…  Hank is now fully aware that Walt is Heisenberg.  As is Hank’s personality, he cannot let this go.  There is so much at stake, so he begins track Walt.  In the meantime, Walt’s cancer has returned, and he’s continuing treatment.  When Walt realizes that Hank is on to him he confronts his brother-in-law and tries to subtly intimidate him.  Hank isn’t giving up, though, and so the two are at odds.  Hank knows he needs to build a strong case, and so he secretly begins trying to obtain evidence.  He tries to talk to Skyler, but she stays mum.  He then turns to Jesse Pinkman, who is slowly having a mental breakdown.  Jesse also doesn’t give Walt up initially, but when Jesse realizes that it was Walt who poisoned young Brock with the ricin cigarette, he spirals into a rage.  Instead of fleeing town, Jesse decides to work with Hank.  Walt realizes that Jesse is vulnerable and tries to reach out to him, but Jesse finds Walt unforgivable at this point.  

Breaking Bad: Season 5.2

Things between Walk, Jesse, and Hank come to a head in grand shoot-them-up fashion, and it involves a bunch of crazed skinheads related to the infamous Todd.  It won’t take you long before you’ll want to see Todd’s smug face lifeless.  He’s such a creeper.  But anyway, things come full circle, and Walt goes into exile.  Until he finally taps into his inner-Heisenberg and returns to Albuquerque for his final revenge.

The plot is, overall, pretty linear and straightforward.  Of course, you’ll have to be pretty well familiar with the series and its many twists and turns through the years to pick up on everything.  Season 5.2 has no shortage of action and drama.  There are plenty of highly tense situations, and people are dropping like flies left and right.  Truly, no one is safe in the final season of Breaking Bad.  I was starting to wonder if they might even kill off the baby.  The increasing death toll leads up to one of the best finales in television history.  I mean, there was nothing particularly substantial about it.  It didn’t change the genre or anything.  But the writers managed to tie up almost every loose end, even ones that you weren’t even thinking about.  

And I think this is a broader reflection of the strengths of this show—really, really great writing and character development.  Walt is a super complex character, and we watch him evolve over all five seasons of the series.  Likewise for Jesse.  As a spectator to this, your allegiances are constantly changing.  Every character seems wonderfully human, not contrived, and the acting of Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul is so superb that you’ll truly believe them as the characters they’re playing.  What fantastic performances.  Cranston and Paul are absolutely spectacular, bringing raw emotion, anger, and pain to Walt and Jesse.  Both of them deserve awards for season 5.2.  They don’t just cry, they exude true torture in their tears.  It’s really amazing to see something of this caliber, and to see if on television, not the big screen.  I almost forget that Cranston was once Hal on Malcolm in the Middle, another great, but very different show from years past.

So, we know the acting is great and the writing is absolutely amazing.  Beyond that, the cinematography, lighting, sound…practically every aspect of the show is also top notch.  Breaking Bad does not feel like a TV program.  It feels like a gritty movie, or, dare I say, even real life.  The way it is shot tells the story as much as the script, and it’s mind blowing that AMC was able to assemble such a cast and crew to make this perfection possible.  

I should quickly mention that season 5.2 still does have some of the dark humor that made the earlier segments of the series so memorable.  As the show moved along, it did become more and more serious, but all is not lost.  

Overall, season 5.2 makes Breaking Bad as good as ever.  It’s hard to imagine a show actually going out on top, but this one truly did.  It didn’t fizzle out or become weak over time.  Breaking Bad stayed tightly written and well-acted throughout, and actually gained momentum as the show moved along.  This made these last few episodes wholly satisfying and I’m thrilled to be able to endorse the series.  Hey, I even have a Breaking Bad tshirt in my closet.

Thumbs up.

What he said:

He
Breaking Bad: Season 5.2

I can think of several of hour-long dramas I have watched and really liked over the years. I remember parking my ass in front of the TV every Saturday evening to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation. I remember doing the same for Quantum Leap on Wednesday nights.  Boy, that was a fun show. Speaking of fun, there’s Firefly, which I finally sat down to watch for the first time in the last year or so.  LOST and Dexter had a cult-like following and I was one of their followers. Even with their flaws, I still had to see both shows every week.  And Battlestar Galactica – oh Battlestar Galactica – how I love thee. What a truly fantastic show. It’s one of the best television shows in years and probably one of my all-time favorites. 

But Breaking Bad is just so…wow! I mean, what else can be said about it? I have never seen something that clicked on all cylinders the way like this show did. The show is borderline flawless. The acting is top-notch, the story is written so tightly it’s hard to come up with loose ends or plot holes, and the visuals are striking.  It’s an incredibly dark – and often depressing – show, yet manages to be really damn funny at times too. There are some absolutely gut-wrenching scenes in this show. There is stuff that shocks you, legitimately bothers you, and sticks with you for days.  But the thing is, you can’t turn away and in fact you find yourself wanting more. Then the next thing you know, they do something insanely funny. Creator Vince Gilligan has managed to take things that don’t belong together and blend them perfectly.

Breaking Bad: Season 5.2

Walt, Mike, and Jesse had a short, but productive, run as meth manufacturers. After Walt (Bryan Cranston) killed Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), Mike and Jesse were ready to call it quits. With Gus gone, they thought that was the right time to get out of the business. But Walt viewed this as an opportunity. He sees the situation as Gus being out of his way rather than no longer having a resource available to him. He also sees this as the opportunity to control his future, which is something he always wanted.

That’s where Lydia came in. Lydia is an amoral, ambitious, and very nervous – which made for some pretty funny moments – woman. She (Laura Fraser) is a high-level executive at a company named Madrigal Electromotive. Madgrigal is the parent company of Gus’ cover operation, Los Pollos Hermanos. She provided Gus with the methylamine and equipment he used to build his meth business. When Gus was out of the picture, the guys went directly to her. She provided them with what they needed to keep cooking.

The DEA eventually notices the missing methylamine, so they are forced to acquire it elsewhere. Walt, Jesse (Aaron Paul), Mike, and new guy – and completely psychopath – Todd rob a train carrying methylamine, and use it to continue to cook. Lydia continues to help them distribute their product overseas while one of Gus’ competitors helps them sell it locally.

After making a ton of money, Jesse and Mike (Jonathan Banks) decided to finally bow out. Walt reluctantly does as well due to increasing pressure from his wife Skyler (Anna Gun), but not before taking care of some business. Walt and Mike never got along, but Walt had enough after their most recent fallout. His ego gets the best of him once again and being concerned over the authorities finding Mike and connecting the two of them, Walt kills Mike, and has all of Mike’s men killed too.  Todd brings in his Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) to help with this. Jack uses his connections to white supremacist gangs in prison to handle the job. When Walt and Jesse retire, Todd, Jack, and his gang take over the business and begin working with Lydia.

After a little while, Lydia grows unhappy with the product Todd (Jesse Plemons) is producing. Walt is a scientist and has the skills and knowledge to produce a more potent drug. She tries to lure Walt out of retirement. Walt refuses. He doesn’t want to jeopardize his family any more than he has and has seemingly gotten away with it all. He sees no reason to go back into business.

Breaking Bad: Season 5.2

That is until his brother-in-law and DEA big wig, Hank, realizes that Walt is the mysterious Heisenberg he’s been chasing last year or so. Hank is in shock after his realization. Once he gathers himself, he recognizes that although he knows Walt is his guy, he doesn’t have much proof. He’s also embarrassed all of this was going on right under his nose. Hank (Dean Norris) has to decide how he is going to bring Walt to justice with so little proof and without jeopardizing his career. If that isn’t stressful enough, Walt quickly realizes that Hank knows, and the cat and mouse game begins. The tension is through the roof in these final episodes.

Meanwhile, Jesse has had a complete emotional breakdown. What Todd did never sat well with him (and rightly so). He was the only one who wanted to kill Todd, while Mike and Walt were willing to let it go. Unlike the other two men, all the money they made never helped Jesse forget the situation. He begins to unravel and behave erratically.  He begins to show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This gets Walt’s attention and Walt being who he is decides Jesse has to go. So not only is he busy trying to stay one step ahead of Hank, he has to deal with Jesse, who risks exposing his criminal activities. Like I said earlier, the tension this season is through the roof. This show keeps you on the edge of the seat from start-to-finish.  

One of the things I loved about this season – particularly the second half – was the irony of Walt’s downfall. Walt and Jesse get filthy rich, finally walk away from the meth-making business, yet they are closer than ever to getting caught. They were up to their eyebrows in criminal activities, and after finally deciding to walk away, that is when things start to unravel. And how it all begins is such a fluke too. Hank has to take a dump and just so happens to grab the book that gave him the clue about Walt’s secret identity. It’s the little things like this that make this show so brilliant. Sure, the acting is great, as is the story, but the level of thought and detail that goes into this kind of thing is unrivaled. I have never seen anything crafted so specifically and carefully.

And that’s not to say the acting isn’t absolutely fantastic, because Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul as good as ever in the final season. Walter White continues his devolution from a loving, caring family man – and generally harmless human being – into a criminal mastermind and arguably evil person. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I believe there was a time he was scared he was going to die and truly wanted to ensure his family’s financial future, but that all went away when Walt went into remission and kept cooking. It was all about ego at that point and Walt even admits that in the finale. But what really turned me against Walt was when he sided with that sick SOB Todd.

Breaking Bad: Season 5.2

Speaking Todd, Jesse Plemons was absolutely fantastic as this disturbing individual. I thought he was just going to be some throwaway character, but boy did he play a large part in this final season. He is so incredibly creepy there are no words to accurately describe it. One minute he acts as if he has the manners of a choir boy, the next he is putting a bullet in the head of a totally innocent person (and it doesn’t even bother him)! Kudos to Mr. Plemons for that truly frightening performance.

Meanwhile, you’ve got Jesse, who starts out the show the worse of the two main characters. Walt was some well-meaning guy and Jesse was some junkie. But as time goes on, you come to find out that Jesse can’t handle the world they are in, while Walt embraces it. Things that would bother normal people – like the death of a child – bother Jesse, while Walt excuses and justifies it. It’s very interesting that the character who started out as the worse of the two main characters actually ends up being the more decent human being.

Things get really hairy when Hank finds out who Walt is and Walt knows it. Walt is pretty much at the point in his criminal career that there isn’t a lot he won’t do. But one thing he wants to avoid is hurting his family. Hank quickly develops a hatred for Walt when he realizes his brother-in-law was running a very high-level drug business under his nose. Walt doesn’t want to go to prison, but he doesn’t want to hurt Hank either. The rivalry between the characters wasn’t a long one, but it quickly escalated DEFCON 1. First there is the shock and the mini nervous breakdown. Then it quickly turns to anger. Dean Norris was excellent at showing the range of emotions Hank went through in such a short time.

There are so many good performances in this show it is amazing. Anna Gunn is great as Skyler, whom sometimes you sympathize with and other times you hate. My heart broke for Walter Jr. as he finds out who his father really is. RJ Mitte turns in a very authentic and touching performance as Jr. AKA Flynn. Bob Odenkirk continues to entertain as the highly amusing, but extremely immoral and unethical lawyer, Saul Goodman. Can’t wait for the spinoff! Betsy Brandt really shines with the increased role this season as Marie too finds out about Walt’s dual identity. I can’t forget about Todd’s Uncle Jack and his crew of psychopaths. You would think a group of characters who were introduced in the final season wouldn’t have much of a lasting impression, but boy did these guys make me genuinely hate them and quickly too. Like Todd, they were disgusting people. This wouldn’t be possible without top-notch performances. I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Laura Fraser as Lydia one more time. She is such a quirky, funny, but unlikeable woman. Like some of the show’s later villains, she left a lasting impression. There really isn’t a weak performance in the show. I could go on for hours, but I think you get the point.

Watching Breaking Bad was an experience.  I’ve seen some good shows over the years. I’ve seen some shows that might not have been the best thing ever made, but I truly enjoyed them. Breaking Bad is both. It is a high-quality entertainment. Everything about it is well-done. The drama was intense, the humor was dark – but funny – and performances were world-class. Vince Gilligan created a very stylistic, engaging, and memorable show. I am hard-pressed to find a show better than Breaking Bad. People often say, “Oh this is the best fill in the blank I have ever seen”. For once, I think it’s actually true.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on October 4, 2013.  

Breaking Bad: Season 5.2

 

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