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STUDIO: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 610 minutes
- Extended episodes, deleted scenes, extended and alternate takes, and a gag reel.
- Cast and crew commentary.
- Eight featurettes.
- 21 Episodes of Inside Breaking Bad.
- And, because you demanded it, Gale’s Karaoke Video and “Better Call Saul” Commercials.”
Breaking Bad shatters expectations with another fourteen fantastic episodes.
Bryan Cranston returns as the world’s most dangerous middle aged meth cook, Walter White; Aaron Paul “Yo, bitch”’s his way back on to the screen as Jesse Pinkman; Giancarlo Esposito charms as the world’s most likable friend chicken and drug lord; Dean Norris returns as hotheaded DEA agent Hank; and Anna Gunn goes, once again, underrated as Skyler White.
Does Breaking Bad need to pitch anymore? Well, if you need one. High school chemistry teacher turned meth cook learns that, sometimes, cooking meth and killing people isn’t all its cracked up to be.
It’s probably best to get the hyperbolic praising of Breaking Bad‘s fourth season out of the way. It’s as good, if not better, than all of the show’s preceding runs. Hell, it’s as good, if not better than almost all of TV’s preceding runs. A slow burner filled with tense dialogue, fast paced action, and well orchestrated investigation, showrunner Vince Gilligan expands Breaking Bad‘s mythology to logical, yet surprising ends, creating actions that are never without an equal but opposite reactions. Season four keeps the show on top and takes it deeper in different, quieter ways.
Breaking Bad opens with a huge blow to Walt. He saves Jesse’s life by having his young cohort take out Gail, Walt’s season three lab assistant. However, after returning to Fring’s laundry-disguised meth lab, the proprietor of Gus Fring’s Fried Chicken and Methamphetamine emporium shows them who’s boss, kills one of his cronies, and puts Walt and Jesse back to work. Walt, now nothing but a low level employee, lives under the fear that he will meet the merciless side of a box cutter and ruin his chances for absolute power.
Off the bat, season four starts strong. Walt’s burst of confidence, which drove the tail end of season three, runs out shortly into “Box Cutter.” Gus’ reversal leaves him noticeably weakened, and his attempts to regain power drives the season. Yet, his fear and uncertainty strike a different chord on the show. No longer a man with a plan, Walt tumbles into confusion.
Meanwhile, following a run-in with the cartel, Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank, sits helpless in his wheelchair, forcing him to rely on his wife, Marie, for the most intimate human functions, a service he comes to resent. Plus, Skyler takes a bigger stake in Walt’s dealings and opens a car wash to help launder the overwhelming amount of meth money, a job she’s not prepared for. Each character remains powerless, making their feeble attempts to rise from the muck Walt put them in all the more compelling.
Powerlessness runs throughout each of season four’s connecting threads. Walt spends the first four episodes in a confused, frightened frenzy. He’s lost, emasculated, and passive. Despite his desire to keep her far from his dealings, he lets Skyler strong arm her way into the burgeoning family business. At the lab, he’s watched by cameras and given a single direction: cook. Gus won’t speak to him; Jesse, shellshocked from his first coldblooded murder, won’t speak to him; and Mike can only muster a tired “Walt, what are you doing?” in almost every interaction. Gillian turned Walt from our very active protagonist to whimpering mess devoid of any agency.
Jesse goes through a different transformation, one that is surprisingly more engaging. Riddled with guilt, Jesse descends back into a world that he can control and turns his house into a drug den, opening his doors to the clients he cooks for. He carelessly lurches from bed to work, settling into a life as a lackey. His life looks like the last scene of Requiem for a Dream, and he doesn’t seem to mind. Jesse’s apathy defines him, disturbing his tenuous relationship with Walt, but helping his one with Gus.
Hank’s helplessness takes more physical manifestation. Bound to a wheelchair and on leave from the force, he resigns to rock collecting and badgering Marie about wanting Cheetos not Fritos. Heisenberg, Hank’s white whale, got away, leaving his landmark case in flux. Or so he thinks.
Each of the leads on Breaking Bad undergo a great transformation in season four. Left shaken, if not broken, by the events of the past three seasons, everyone rests with one eye open. But it is this sudden uncertainty that Gilligan grabs the viewer, because it is when they act the most cautiously that everything seems to fall apart. Each episode captures their slipping sanity in compelling ways, whether that be framing Walt’s head in the crawlspace, so that it resembles an asylum cell, or the jumpcuts when Jesse goes go-karting.Breaking Bad frames its narrative with an engrossing artistry that visualizes the characters turmoil.
Breaking Bad is a cut above the rest. The show never ceases to surprise, with much of the character conclusions reaching logical, but wholly unforeseen heights. Each actor sells their performance with the urgency necessary to keep the shows breaking speed and pulsating score moving. By the season four finale, the line between TV and film is once again challenged, with Breaking Bad standing taller than most of the movie’s released in 2011. Breaking Bad is one consistently one of the best shows on TV, and season four does not break the streak.
As a whole, the season four DVD is pretty extensive. Each of the four discs comes packed with special features, including commentary, previews, and documentaries. They are nothing more than behind the scenes fare, but it just so happens that going behind the scenes of the season finale is incredibly interesting.
The extended versions of the episodes seem to flesh out very little, but they do help build some tension. Each of the show’s climaxes start from quiet places. By having some extra time to expand on that, the show can be both more contemplative and explosive. There’s also a bit more violence, so that’s always fun.
The behind the scenes stuff is really where this set wins, though. Some of the techniques used to create the show’s most intricate scenes are generally fascinating. Much like the show’s fantastic plotting, the techniques used by the show’s directors remain some of the most logical, yet surprising.