BluRay/DVD Reviews

BREAKING BAD: SEASON FIVE

By • Jun 16th, 2013 •

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Season four was out of control. The writers seemed to be flailing around for narrative threads, even though there was still, often, the sense that revelations and twists in these episodes had been carefully planted seasons earlier. But as examples of the lost bearings of the show, the flashy foolish lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) was given to hysterical speeches that suddenly felt annoyingly caricatured (which his character was always dangerously close to anyway), and Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the show’s protagonist, became so intensely unsympathetic and unlikeable that I often wanted to escape his paranoid doldrums and get back to Jesse Pinkman or Mike Ehrmantraut.

Season five is back on track. It’s sleek and lean, carefully taking up after the huge event of # four –the death of drug-kingpin chicken franchise owner Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito – one of TV’s greatest villains) – and poking holes in said success. I wonder if market research revealed that audiences were particularly warm toward the character of Mike (Jonathan Banks), because his screen time has been considerably beefed up, which is a joy. His contemplative, jaded, knowledgeable restraint, balancing such over-the-top cast members as lawyer Goodman, is constantly compelling. It’s fun to look back twenty-five years at his performance in 48 HOURS and notice the personality elements that would become the Mike we enjoy so much today.

The stylistic earmarks of the series are still in place – sudden shards of beauty, both landscape and cityscape, often presented in time-lapse, punctuate scenes as time transitions. Slow camera moves reveal important or ironic elements. The characters are lovingly dwelt on for the most part – it’s a slowly-paced show despite its powerful dramatic content which more than services the pacing.

Just as the Great Depression of ’29 gave rise to the Gangster genre – where the helpless public could identify with antiheroes who tread outside the law – so, in the wake of our recent recession, BREAKING BAD seems to offer another highly illegal way to thwart the system that has betrayed so many of us and to make oodles of dough. I can’t imagine, when the show finally runs out of steam, that it will end happily for all involved, but what a hard-edged dream fantasy until it does…

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