Jun 25, 2018

[TV] Breaking Bad: Season 4 Review

Our efforts to work through the unique storytelling experience that is Breaking Bad has brought us here to the fourth and penultimate season as things move inexorably towards the end. The lines between good and evil blur even further as Walter's tragic journey seems to attract more problems than it is able to solve.

The fourth season is where you can really taste the end around the corner and yet remain uncertain as to what form it's finally going to take. There are still so many plots to resolve and characters in play and yet there's also a clear sense of things escalating to a point that you know things are reaching a point of no return.

And I suppose that all ties into why this show is so good and why it is so celebrated. You knew form day one that Walter is a tragic hero. He cannot walk away from all this a winner given all the bad choices he's made and all the lines he has been made to cross. But here we are reaching the end of things. But we're not quite there yet.

Synopsis: Breaking Bad is an American drama series created by Vince Gilligan for AMC. The show holds the Guiness World Record for being the most critically acclaimed show of all time apparently.

The season begins with Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) still being held by Victor (Jeremiah Bistui) and Mike (Jonathan Banks) in the lab. By now Gus should know about the death of Gale (David Costabile), the assistant that he had hired to shadow Walt and learn his cooking method in order to replace Walt if needed. But now that back-up plan is gone and Gus can't possibly be happy with that turn of events and how it will impact his enterprise.

And that really sets the tone for this season as Walt spends more and more time trying to figure out how to balance his interests with that of Gus. At the same time external pressure from the Mexican cartels continues to pressure Gus into allowing them to exact revenge on Walt regardless of how this will impact their supply of Walt's signature blue meth.

What I Liked: For most of the seasons we've seen Walt largely getting buffeted around by circumstance and doing his best to respond to all the different challenges thrown his way. This season marked a significant turning point as I see it as we witnessed him making much harder choices in life and pretty much embracing the fact that he is a criminal and thus maybe the usual rules don't apply anymore. And what this results in is quite the season finale that had built up over the course of the many different episodes.

At the same time we have his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) now fully aware of Walt's criminal activities and eventually getting more directly involved. The other challenge they face is of course what to do with all their earnings and how to get it into circulation without arousing suspicions. And you have Hank (Dean Norris) still in recovery due to his injuries in the prior season but also determined to figure out who had killed Gale and what this might mean for his on-going investigation into Heisenberg, Walt's criminal alterego.

What Could Have Been Better: Their efforts to give Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) a decent storyline were pretty weird in this season including the whole back and forth about getting him a car. I generally understand why things ended up that way but in the long run it just wasn't all that fulfilling compared to everything else that had gone on.

And I sort of wanted to learn more about Gus's past, which we got a bit more of  look at in this season. Given the central role he had played in things, it would be been nice to get to know him better or maybe even explore his day-to-day operations outside of Walt delivering the drugs to him. Sort of a wishlist item but of course we won't' get to see that now.

TL;DR: Breaking Bad is a powerful show with a intriguing characters and a well thought-out plot. This fourth season brings us very close to the end of things and so it's time to start clearing the board of players. Thus the season gets a solid 5 ways things get even more complicated for Walt and his family out of a possible 5.

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