Breaking Bad: Season 4
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Breaking Bad: Season 4

Blu-ray

DVD

Traditionally, the central character of a story, especially one serialized on television was a ‘good guy’, someone that consistently exhibited socially beneficial characteristics. Sure, there are instances where the rough and able detective is more than willing to break some of a person’s rights, not to mention a few bones in the pursuit of justice there was always the ‘ends justifying the means’ argument that could be postulated. Even then the character was intrinsically on the side of the angels ultimately working towards the greater good, just slightly in the grey area of the law. Then several years ago with the rapid proliferation of cable networks we started to see TV dramas featuring characters that were innately evil as the hero, or perhaps better stated as anti-hero of the series. From the exploits of s team of crooked cops on ‘The Shield’, the bloody murders of a serial killer on ‘Dexter’ all of sudden we were tuning in our televisions as faithful fans about shows centering on criminals. The one major factor that muddies the moral water surrounding these series is they are among some of the best examples of television drama we have ever seen. One example would seem like an unusual premise for a television series, even one on the more permissive venue of cable has now released the Blu-ray and DVD of its fourth season; ‘Breaking Bad’. You would most likely consider it incredulous if someone told you millions of people would become diehard fans for a series about a man making a fortune preparing crystal methamphetamine nut over the last few years AMC has proven the detractors wrong with a series that continues to garner critical and popular acclaim. Repeatedly ‘Breaking Bad’ is hailed as one of the best shows the medium has ever seen and with good cause. The writing is exceptional, the direction impeccable and the acting plums emotional depths rarely seen anywhere. I admittedly had my doubts when I first started to watch. AMC had just begun to provide original programming and many, including myself had reservation as to whether this once old movie network could successfully challenge the twin giants; ‘HBO’ and ‘Showtime’. Before that premier episode was done I realized I was watching something special, something that redefines the television experience. Now, four later they are still commanding that position.

The best method to get the audience behind a character who is basically a criminal is by surrounding him with several mitigating circumstances. This can work well to take the edge off the criminal aspects of his persona and permit the audience some emotional justification for cheer on the person. Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was an average American. He taught high school chemistry in a suburban school and went home to his loving wife and handicapped son. Then his world collapsed; his doctor informs him he has terminal lung cancer. Like an increasing number of citizens Walt is not financially prepared for the cost on his under insured condition or to ensure the means to provide for his family after he dies. Add to this his wife’s pregnancy and you have the perfect storm of distress. A theme that is guaranteed to set the stage for emotional intensity is to take a reasonable and plunge him into the most unreasonable circumstances possible. No one can state with any certainty how they would handle the cards Walt was dealt. For Walt he felt the only way out was to use his knowledge of organic chemistry to cook the highest quality meth the street has ever seen. He intended to just do this for a short time in order to staff away enough money for his family and get out dying in peace. The plan sounds almost noble but once again circumstances conspire against him. You just can’t cook pharmaceutical grade crystal meth without the ‘professionals’ in manufacture and distribution noticing. Soon Walt finds himself wanted by drug cartels and the Drug Enforcement Agency running for his life.

The last four years has changed Walt. To a significant degree Walt lost some of his moral high ground as the situation hardens him more than he ever thought possible. In remission from the cancer and with is marriage teetering in the verge of dissolution he has to fight the criminals after him with the ruthless precision they demonstrate. Walt’s resourceful, methodical mind now has to devise a way out of a quagmire that deepens every moment. His cooking assistant, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) is now a valuable cook in his own right threatening Walt’s safety by replacing his function. Even his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) is pulled into the illegal family business helping Walt launder the ill gotten gains by laundering through as cart wash they purchase. To show how desperate these people have begun Walt asks Jessie to kill Gale Boetticher (David Costabile), the chemist hired by the cartel to try to duplicate Walt’s ultra pure recipe and techniques. Being the only one that cam produce the ‘Blue Ice’ is the only card Walt has to play in the game. Several of the villains take center stage in this season. One is Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), a general contractor, advisor and wet works man for the local boss. At one point he takes Jessie under his wing so to speak forming an odd relationship. Perhaps the most interesting character here is Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). His cover is a fried chicken franchise but he is one of the most calculating and dangerous men in the series. His cunning and dedication to succeeding places him the evil hall of fame. His stores are the front for one of the largest meth distribution network in the Southwest. When it seemed he was to be ‘retired’ by the cartel he carefully planned to turn the tables on them. he poisoned an expensive drink to kill the entire assembly of cartel members, in order to prove the beverage was pure Gus drank from it poisoning himself. This was all part of the plan. He took something previously to slow the effect and had Mike nearby to take him yo a well paid doctor standing by to save him.

Posted 05/31/12

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