[Review] Breaking Bad – Summer 2011

MR. WHITE WON

Season 3 left us with the murder of poor, ol’ Gale Boetticher by Jesse (Aaron Paul) at Walter’s (Bryan Cranston) bidding.  So season 4 started off with an angry Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), mad at Walter for trying to usurp him and teaching that lesson to Walter in a hard way.

The most significant thing about this season was the breakup of our favorite meth lab duo.  Jesse was mentally reeling from post-traumatic stress disorder after taking Gale’s life and Walter was just too busy being paranoid to notice.

But Gus and Mike did notice and used that to their advantage.  He assigned Walter and Jesse separate tasks to keep them apart from each other and Mike ended up replacing Walter as a father-figure.  That was hard to watch.

And it was also hard to watch Walter going down this paranoid spiral.  I have to admit to not being a fan of Walter’s this season.  He was really losing it.  He basically abandons Jesse, when Jesse needs him the most and then goes back to Jesse to try and convince him that Jesse needed to kill Gus.

Walter creates a vial of ricin which Jesse hides in a cigarette.  At the most opportune time, Jesse is supposed to administer it to Gus.  Jesse gets chances but he’s reluctant to do it.  Another death on his hands, at Walter’s orders?  Can he handle that?  Especially since Gus and Mike are providing him with the mentally stability that he needs.

Dean Norris’ portrayal of Walter’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schroeder, is one of the most realistic portrayals in the show.  Having had first hand experience working alongside the DEA, yeah, I can pretty much say that they’re really like that.  For 4 seasons, he has constantly been this obstacle for Walter but Walter remains adamant about wanting to protect his family.  Last season, when the cartel put a hit out on Hank, he got caught in the crossfire and is currently recuperating.  It looked like Hank was out of the game and he wasn’t happy about feeling useless.

Until an old cop buddy comes to him about Gale’s murder case and he sees a connection between Gus and Gale.  Hank could never suspect Walter, but he does suspect Gus Fring, upstanding Albuquerque citizen, entrepreneur and friend to the DEA.  Hank starts putting the pieces together, even getting Walter to help him out by driving him around.  Walter warns Gus but only because he’s afraid for Hank.  However Hank’s getting too close to the truth and combined with the fact that Walter is repeatedly defying Gus’ strict orders, Gus fires Walter for insubordination and threatens to kill Walter’s entire family.

Giancarlo Esposito is so good as Gus that when he first appeared on Breaking Bad, I completely did not recognize him.  He is so different from any other character he’s played, especially as FBI agent Baer in The Usual Suspects and my favorite, Agent Giardello in Homicide: Life on the Street.  He’s so methodical and calculating in Breaking Bad.

And it shows as Gus always seems to have the upper hand.  Jesse’s knows enough to cook the meth own and since he’s driven a wedge between the pair, Jesse is on his side.  Plus, Gus has other, bigger things to worry about than Walter.  The cartel isn’t happy that Gus has cornered in on the meth business in Albuquerque.

The show goes back in time to when Gus had first approached the cartel with his business prowess.  He’s got his chicken restaurant which is starting to make a profit throughout Mexico and he wants to launder the drug trade through his business.  Win-win, right?

However, the cartel made an enemy in Gus that day by executing his brother.  “Hermanos” was my favorite episode this season next to the finale, “Face Off”.  It showed us the loss of a brother or brotherhood.  In Gus’ case, it was taken by force and in Walter’s case, it was his own doing.

I’ve got to hand it to Gus.  Yeah, I guess he had no choice because it’s the cartel but the guy patiently waited for over 20 years to avenge his brother’s death.  That’s one scary mofo.

The series is consistently excellent in the way it tells their stories through their lens.  I especially love how the camera shows us insignificant items at the start of the episode and it doesn’t hold any particular meaning until you finish watching the episode.

The season finale was definitely a winner in my book.  It was exciting, made you rethink who to side with and… for lack of a better word, explosive.

I think the unfortunate thing about this season was Walter’s spiral down.  I’m sure (or hoping) my opinion is going to change next season but we’ll have to see.  I can root for the anti-hero because I understand Walter’s need to support and protect his family.  However, the lengths that Walter goes through, playing mindgames with Jesse, doesn’t make me want to root for him.

And it’s not good for the show to have the audience lose faith in the main character.  He’s come a long way from the ‘I’m dying from cancer and need to support my family by making and selling meth’ person we’ve come to know .  The show is great as a whole.  This season of Breaking Bad compared to their other seasons is just mediocre topping off with a fantastic finale.  The 5th season will return next summer and it will be the final season for Breaking Bad.  Let’s see if Hank will find out about Walter’s secret life.

Rating

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