Netflix Review: Breaking Bad: Season 4

Breaking Bad – Season 4
Netflix Streaming
DVD | Blu-ray
Created by Vince Gilligan
Starring Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks
AMC / Sony
S04E01 First Broadcast: July 17, 2011

With the launch of the final fifth season of Breaking Bad on television, Netflix has finally brought the fourth season to the streaming audience, providing an awesome experience for subscribers. Season 4 of Breaking Bad, in my mind, is the superior of the series thus far; bringing Walter White’s journey to an incredible crescendo portrayed in an amazing performance by Bryan Cranston, and delivering some of the most compelling television with an explosive conclusion certain to satisfy the viewers and hardcore fans alike.

For the uninitiated, Breaking Bad follows the story of Walter White, a chemistry teacher who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Facing continual mounting medical bills without adequate insurance, White is forced to find a manner of making money to cover not only the expenses, but to leave some sort of financial legacy for his family.

Using his chemistry expertise, he teams up with former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) in manufacturing the purest crystal meth ever seen on the streets. After numerous turmoil and adventures, White and Pinkman find themselves in the employ of businessman Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), who is running the biggest drug dealing operation in the southern United States.

Season Four picks up at a major turning point for the main players in the story. A division is wedged between Fring and White, with an element of mistrust forming the basis of these problems – and setting the tone for the entirety of the season itself. While the authorities are getting closer to unveiling Fring’s operation, and getting dangerously close to discovering Walter White to be “Heisenberg”, the genius chemist behind the blue crystal; dangerous developments begin arising between Fring’s business and the Mexican cartels.

As the investigations and clashes escalate, Walter and Jesse find themselves in a battle they may not be able to win, with their lives possibly in danger. Walter must begin to rise above and beyond what his own expectations, and dig deeper into being able to determine his own destiny, as his relationship and confrontations with Fring come to a head.

Like with the first three seasons, Season 4 continues the thematic approach of examining choices. Every single scene involves a choice of some kind that a character or characters need to make. The thematic approach never changes, though there are some scenes that stand out not for the choice-aspect, but for the performances and delivery of lines. Bryan Cranston’s delivery of the line, "I Am The One Who Knocks" is shocking, and haunting, and painful. It’s stark and it cuts, and goes to show how brilliant an actor Cranston is (and producer and director for that matter – Cranston’s behind-the-scenes work increases in this season).

Aside from brilliant efforts of Bryan Cranston in this series, my other favorite role continues to be that of Mike Ehrmantraut, played by Jonathan Banks. Mike’s place in the scheme of things began to be that of Harvey Keitel in Pulp Fiction – he’s a professional who scrubs up mistakes. He has a dry wit that is highly amusing at times, but also a frightening detachment that makes him a complete badass as well. Since that time, he has evolved into Fring’s right-hand muscle man; and becomes an influential figure in Jesse’s life.

The writing of Season 4 continues the excellent standard established from the previous seasons, though with a catch”¦ The season deliberately drags at some points, with a frustrating slowness that is by no means a criticism, but clearly a premeditated design to bring the viewer into a lulled state, right up until the inevitable confrontation between White and Fring arises. The conclusion of the season feels like a series finale and not a season finale; it’s pretty damn intense.

In my previous review of the first three seasons, I mentioned the significance of the cinematography. There are many eye-catching shots throughout the series, which define its appearance and ambience. The camera work also employs what I nickname the “Bottom of the Barrel View” – where a scene begins with the camera at the bottom looking directly at the characters looking down directly into the lens. The practice is a staple and signature of the show, and absolutely brilliant.

I can sing praises infinitely for Breaking Bad, and I have little to criticize of the series, but there is one element that should be highlighted to new viewers: don’t start watching this season without having seen the previous three seasons. There are a ton of character and relational developments that occur in the earlier shows, with some incredible elements that do not have a payoff until the fourth season. There’s a lot of background information needed for Season 4, so start from the beginning.

I’m going to close this review with the same conclusion I made with the previous review of Seasons One through Three: “Breaking Bad is an extraordinary achievement for a television series. We are regularly offered sloppy work on TV screens, but every so often, a gem such as Breaking Bad appears that is not only of the highest quality, but is clearly a labor of love and pride by the creators of the show.

“In some ways, the series itself is analogous to Walter White’s blue crystal meth – the purest and best available, made by someone who has immense pride in the quality of the work. The ethical/moral ambiguity of the series and the intense focus on character choices will compel you to keep watching.

Breaking Bad is a must-see series that will keep you hanging on in anticipation for future episodes and seasons".

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5


1 Comment »

  1. Such a great series! And you’re right, season four is absolutely the best of them. And that is saying a lot considering just how amazing the first three seasons are.

    Comment by Dave3 — August 3, 2012 @ 8:26 pm

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