‘Breaking Bad’ has never been so good
TV Review | 5 out of 5 stars
Published: Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 4, 2012 07:09
It’s probably not fair to say that “Breaking Bad” is undisputedly the best show on television. After all, you could technically dispute it.
You’d just be wrong.
The fifth and final season of AMC’s critical hit reached new heights this summer, somehow topping last year’s mind-shattering finale. Viewers were left wondering where creator Vince Gilligan would take the show after Walter White (Bryan Cranston) “defeated” the infamous villain and drug lord Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and admittedly, some of us were worried.
Much of the show’s gleam came from having a truly evil villain to root against. Let’s face it: Longtime fans will never look at a box cutter the same way because of him.
Of course, there was no need to worry. Gilligan found a new villain, an even better villain, a villain that audiences have wanted to hate for years, but never had the chance to until now.
He found Walter White.
With the words “say my name” ringing in our ears, making spines tingle and selfish grins appear, Walter, aka Heisenberg, came full circle, taking on the mantle of meth drug lord he’s secretly sought for so long. Gilligan has said more than once that his idea for “Breaking Bad” was to “take Mr. Chips and turn him into Scarface,” and this season he finally managed to do it.
At the beginning, Gilligan’s goal seemed like some absurd fantasy. Walter was a polite chemistry teacher, a loving father and a loyal husband that only wanted to take care of his family. Yet after five seasons of meticulous plot development involving a cancer diagnosis, tested pride, death threats and simple greed, this transformation was really the only outcome that made sense.
So, a man audiences once loved slowly fell, becoming nothing more than a monster in the end, a monster that isn’t willing to let anything get in the way of his “empire.” And we’ve looked on, enjoying every wicked second of it.
Three Emmys later, audiences still have Cranston to thank for this. His performance as Walter White has been brilliant, making the ludicrous idea of a high school teacher “breaking bad” to cook meth seem all too believable. Since then, his evolution into Heisenberg has been so fluid that viewers have never had to question his actions.
That’s simply how “Breaking Bad” works; there are no loose ends. Everything makes sense. Every character has a motive, and every motive is backed by logic. Season five hasn’t differed from this formula in the least as it brings us, for example, an entire episode dedicated to the destruction of a laptop that could have incriminated Walter and his partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul). It’s all in the details, and they never miss any.
While the formula hasn’t changed, this season has taken the show in a new direction. As Walter put it, without Gus around “there is gold in the streets, just waiting for someone to come and scoop it up.” That’s exactly what he’s done. Now Walt is king, and with this role has come a whole new slew of troubles for him that have had viewers speechless, unknowingly clenching their fists by the end of every episode.
He couldn’t have done it without fellow cooker Jesse, though, and the fixer Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). The performances from Paul and Banks have been just as important in this season as Cranston’s, bringing a sense of morality to the madness that surrounds Heisenberg. Jesse’s evolution into an emotionally shattered man, desperate for a life of peace, has compelled viewers over the years and this season leaves us with a Jesse that has all but lost himself in the wake of Walt’s actions. As for Mike, seeing his role expanded has been a guilty pleasure. Never has a character been so simultaneously cold blooded and heartwarming, all while remaining so realistic.
This genius comes together thanks to the consistently polished scripts that the “Breaking Bad” writers continue churn out. Many procedural shows on TV today suffer from overused, bland and unspecific scripts, but “Breaking Bad” is anything but. Some of the lines seem so simple, but in reality are worded perfectly, and with the powerful actors they have delivering them, there couldn’t be anything more captivating to watch.
It all ends next summer, when season five picks back up and brings us to a conclusion viewers can only guess. If you’re not a fan yet, start streaming Netflix and catch up. By the time you hear the words, “I won,” you’ll agree it was for the best.