Monday, October 10, 2011

Breaking Bad - Season 4

For the third straight year it seems that television can be broken down into two categories: Breaking Bad, and everything else. The show wasn't as filled as last year was with wall-to-wall insanity, taking more of a slow-burn approach to the story this time, framing the whole season as one big, terrifying game of chess. Walt wasn't quite as front and center as he'd been in the past, with his character frequently getting emasculated and sidelined, while allowing the other characters more of an opportunity to shine. With Walt not really understanding the consequences of what he forced Jesse to do last year, a rift forms between them, and Jesse ends up developing a bond with Mike that's one of the most interesting aspects of the season. We learn a lot more about Gus, both who he is and why he is to a force to be reckoned with. Skyler is forced to take a larger role in helping Walt cover his tracks, and starts to realize just what kind of mess Walt got them into. Hank is still recovering from what happened last season, and we get to see a lot of different sides of him over the course of these episodes, even if he's still hobbled by the end.

There's a lot of character development that occurs, and lots of false starts and pieces being moved into place for most of the season. People who are only into the show for its crazier side might be a bit disappointed in that. It's all worth it though, because eventually the tension that's been building all season between Gus and the cartel, and Walt and Gus, and Walt and Jessie explodes in the last four episodes, which all easily rank among the show's (many) best. People die, things explode, plot seeds that have been growing into plot plants get sown, and it's all done in the show's signature style, combining humor with harsh, occasionally otherworldly violence and a directorial flair that no other TV series even attempts. The show's still as good as it's ever been, and now that we know the ending is only 16 episodes away, it's hard to put away my excitement for what will hopefully be one of the best conclusions to one of television's best series. All the pieces are in place for something great, and I have confidence that this show's fantastic writing staff, cast, and production team will put it all together once again.

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