After the way Weeds has dissolved into complete and utter disappointment, I had assumed that there were no other shows like it out there that could refuel my interest in such a quirky story setup. I mean how interesting and in how many combinations can they make an average-joe-starts-to-sell-drugs scenario interesting? Well, apparently there are several as Breaking Bad is as brilliant and entertaining as the early seasons of Weeds. Now getting ready to start its third season on AMC, Breaking Bad has amassed a collection of fans (and Emmy’s) to its name and with the cliffhanger ending that we left season two on, it appears that we’re going to be in for another exciting and unique season.
Popular water-cooler drama about an unremarkable and uncharismatic chemistry teacher, Walter, who discovers new passion in his life after he learns he has terminal cancer. Now that they’ve launched their drug business, there’s no turning back for Walt and his young partner, Jesse. Using Walt’s knowledge of chemistry to cook up high-grade methamphetamine to pay for Walt’s cancer treatments, the pair is thrust into a netherworld of murder, mayhem and the twin threats of exposure and arrest. Amid suspicions about her husband’s fidelity, Walt’s wife Skyler faces an unexpected pregnancy and a grim financial outlook that forces her back to work for a boss she once threatened to sue for sexual harassment. The prospect of leaving his family penniless catapults Walt headlong into the deal to end all deals, elevating his reputation in the eyes of criminals and cops alike, but bringing him and Jesse to the brink of disaster while potentially making them rich beyond anything they could have dreamed up.
I hadn’t seen the first season of this show prior to getting this second season to review, but I immediately went back to check it out after only a few episodes into this season. While I wasn’t lost in the story having not seen the first season, I liked the characters and scenario so much that the idea of skipping an entire season of it seemed to be quite a waste to me, so I paused my viewing of season two to go back and watch the (very) short first season (it was so short because only seven episodes were produced before that fateful writers strike occurred). I’m glad I did as it not only gave me more background on the characters, but made the dissension of one of them into a drug-addled state all the more dramatic.
The film itself isn’t completely focused on being staid, as there is quite a bit of levity to break up the sequences of seriousness. It’s not quite as humorous as Weeds early seasons were, but it has enough humor in it that it doesn’t overwhelm the viewer with some of the more depressing and morbid elements that the series puts in the viewers face. This is especially true towards the end of the season, as everything seems to cluster up and explode in Walter’s face…everything from a new baby to the loss of his partner in drug making and the eventual rehab that his partner is put through. There is a lot of suspicion and intrigue that goes on throughout the season and it quite honestly was just so amazingly well written and executed that I find it hard to believe I hadn’t heard more about this show. I mean, sure, it won Emmy’s but so do a lot of other shows I don’t get time to watch. But…man, this is just really good.
There were some dull moments, admittedly, mainly the repetition of the same tense drug fueled scenarios that drive the show. But when Walter began to walk away from such things, then that too got dull, so the series has a very delicate balance to strike so that it may remain as entertaining as it was at the start. Which honestly isn’t a hard thing to do—as I mentioned before the premise of the show is rather unique and is different enough from Weeds that it doesn’t feel like a copycat of sorts. Plus the stakes in Breaking Bad are a great deal more serious—with the way that Weeds has gone lately, it’s become more of a soap opera with everyone acting rather selfish in it. Breaking Bad, if it can be imagined as such, is a more morale tale about a man doing wrong so that he may do good for his family. Of course that does come tumbling down towards the end of this second season, so we’ll see if that remains true in the third as well.
Overall if you’re in the market for another show to watch (I wasn’t…but too bad, I guess), then do yourself a favor and check out Breaking Bad. It’s not quite as astonishingly sharp and original as AMC’s other original series (Mad Men), but it’s almost as hard to stop watching. From the unique mixture of chemistry that infuses the show (not only in the drug making, but the situations in which they employ the use of other chemicals to get out of situations [although that was admittedly limited compared to the amount of that they tossed into season 1]) to the characters themselves, Breaking Bad is a Highly Recommended show to check out. It may not be for everyone, but with the third season set to premiere on March 21st (and the first and second seasons now out on both DVD and Blu-ray), you’ll have time to check it out for yourself to decide.
Sony releases Breaking Bad: Season Two on DVD in a basic thinpak/slipcase setup. The season is spread across four DVDs (the Blu-ray release is only three) and as can be expected from a modern production the video and audio quality is quite fantastic. Very clean and clear and quite enjoyable through all twelve episodes. It does have a darker color palette than most shows so that means everything isn’t quite as brightly lit as one would expect (no, not even hospital rooms) but it’s a tone that just works for the show overall. Audio too is a solid DD5.1 mix, although there admittedly isn’t a lot of surround or LFE work to bother with.
Extras for this season are surprisingly wealthy and include:
Cast and Crew Commentaries
Inside Breaking Bad – 13 Featurettes About The Making of Each Episode
Season 1 Recap (1:31)
Walt’s Warning Featurette (2:46)
“Negro y Azul” Music Video (3:25)
“Better Call Saul” Commercial (0:50)
11 Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
Cop Talk with Dean Norris
Gag Reel (3:52)
6 Breaking Bad Original Webisodes
Season 3 Sneak Peek (2:20)
Vince Gilligan’s Photo Gallery
The majority of the extras are short, as you can see. Even the individual featurettes or episode-specific featurettes barely grace over a couple minutes in length, so while there is a lot to click through when it comes to the menus, there really isn’t a lot to watch overall. In fact I’d say you’ll probably spend most of your time just navigating around the episode-specific deleted scenes or featurettes, but if you enjoyed the show as much as I did then it’s a small price to pay for a glimpse into the making of the episodes. Plus there are the commentaries (four total) to keep you occupied as well, so it’s not like all of the extras are brief. Overall I’m quite satisfied with the package Sony has provided—although I’m not sure whether it’s Sony’s doing or AMC’s, as the Mad Men sets are pretty robust in extras too.
Overall a Recommended set for a very, very good series. I’m eagerly anticipating the start of the third—even if my current TV viewing schedule is crying “Uncle!” to get me to stop adding shows to the docket.
Breaking Bad – The Complete Second Season is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.