Monday, June 14, 2010

Breaking Bad - Season 3

It doesn't seem likely that this show could keep getting better, but that's all it really seems to do. Season three was my favorite, and it's put to rest my qualms with calling it the best show on TV. This was one of the best single seasons of a show I've ever seen, and made it completely worthy of the "best" title. Season one was brilliant but a bit shaky at times, and even season two had me waiting for scenes to end on occasion. But there was hardly a single moment this year that wasn't masterful, as it seemed to do nothing but blow my mind every week and continue to excel at every aspect. When Breaking Bad tries to be funny, it's hilarious. When it goes for suspense, it's unbelievably heart-pounding. When it aims poignancy, it's deeply profound. It wasn't perfect, but it's about as close as you could ever ask a show to get.

There are a few complaints that could be made. I know a few people had qualms with logical gaps and story pieces that were either dropped or not fully developed. But airtight plotting has honestly never been the show's strength. While gritty and grounded for the most part, it's not exactly what I'd actually call realistic. In truth, its greatness comes from the fact that its outlandish dramatic moments contrast with the harshly believable backdrop of an Albuquerque that's losing the drug war. It's larger than life without being obvious about it, and it gets away with all of the insane stuff it pulls because the characters are so good, not because everything about police procedure and the criminal hierarchy is right on paper. You could make an argument that they lost the characters a bit this year, and I'd just have to disagree.

But yeah, if you watch to be entertained and surprised each week, it's hard to find something better than this. The show has to accomplish a lot in not very much time, and it does a great job of keeping a breakneck pace while maintaining the show's deliberate mood and not going too far with anybody. Everything feels earned, and it makes the bigger moments all the stronger. The cast expanded this year, and the guys seeing more screen time do a lot to expand the scope and stakes of the show. Bob Odenkirk's Saul Goodman is the perfect slimy lawyer who seems goofy but actually has a good criminal instinct and will to survive, Gus goes from a real enigma to an imposing underground tyrant, and Mike really gets to shine near the end as a guy who just gets things done. Bryan Cranston was great yet again, but the real standout performance this year was Aaron Paul's. He really impressed me all season long, and he's pretty much the linchpin to the entire story arc. He featured a lot into the best moments, and the very end of the season will prove to be very important for his character indeed. It's definitely going to be a torturous wait for season four.

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