Complete Third Season
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © AMC
Reviewed by Will Harris
reaking Bad” feels like one of the most realistic series on television, but the only way to fully appreciate that realism is to start at the very beginning – Season One, Episode One – and just keep on watching ‘til you catch up to where the show is today: on the precipice of starting its fourth season. It’s not that you can’t appreciate the show if you pick up the proceedings at some other random point, but doing it that way doesn’t do justice to the profound efforts of series creator Vince Gilligan to let his characters evolve – and, boy, have they evolved since Season One, Episode One.
Season Two closed with a mid-air collision which effectively came about as a result of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) letting Jane (Krysten Ritter), the girlfriend of his partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul), choke to death on her own vomit after getting high on heroin. (Jane’s dad, you see, was an air traffic controller, and when his grief over his daughter’s death got the best of him while he was on the job… ka-boom!) Season Three picks up not terribly long after these incidents, with Walt back at work as a high school chemistry teacher and Jesse in rehab. But Walt’s marriage is in a shambles, thanks to his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), having learned little about what her husband is doing behind her back but deciding that, at the very least, she can no longer trust him to tell her the truth. Meanwhile, Walt’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), is on the lookout for the manufacturer of a virulent strain of blue meth that’s rampaging through Albuqerque…who, as it happens, is Walt. Go figure.
Gilligan regularly falls back on a standard description of Walt’s character transformation over the run of the series, saying that he’s on a journey that will take him from Mr. Chips to Scarface. By the time Season Three ends, there’s little question that he’s easily hit the halfway point of this conversion, but there are major shifts in the balance of power in both his professional and his personal lives. At home, Skyler finally hits on the secret that Walt’s been hiding from her, creating a completely new dynamic between them, one which results at first in infidelity but later in a surprising sense of camaraderie. With the meth manufacturing, Walt furthers his collaboration with local illegal pharmaceutical impresario Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), but Gus’s lack of respect for Jesse results in teaming Walt with a new partner named Gale (David Costabile). Jesse, meanwhile, gets out of rehab and attempts to go it alone and tries to make meth while staying straight, a task which would prove challenging for anyone but is especially so for the weak-willed Jesse. Plus, as all of this is going on, Hank is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder while a couple of cousins are on a violent hunt to find and kill Heisenberg, a.k.a. Walt’s semi-secret identity.
Even though “Breaking Bad” started out as one of the most fascinating and enthralling series on television, it somehow still manages to get better and better with each subsequent season, intermingling the stories of these characters’ personal lives with the action and drama of the drug trade without ever making the events feel anything less than completely real. In addition, it isn’t afraid to experiment, as evidenced by the already-legendary episode entitled “Fly.” From an acting standpoint, it’s hard to pick an MVP for Season Three, given how strong everyone’s performances tend to be, with Gunn getting more meat to work with than ever before and her onscreen sister, Betsy Brandt, being allowed to turn Marie Schrader – Hank’s wife – into someone who does more than just shoplift and stick her nose into other people’s business. Similarly, Norris’s work in the second half of the season is phenomenal, turning the loutish Hank into a guy you really want to root for. It’s no wonder, of course, that Cranston and Paul pulled Emmys for their efforts, but let’s not forget the awesomeness that is Giancarlo Esposito, whose work as Gus Fring reveals a man who could out-act most prime-time performers without ever saying a single word, so powerful are his eyes and his body movements.
In point of fact, there is no better show on television than “Breaking Bad,” but Season Three is the best “Bad” to date. Although it offers a wild emotional ride that may leave you shaken, it’s one you won’t soon forget.
Special Features: Paying back the fans for their devotion, the bonus material on the Blu-ray is fantastic, including audio commentaries on nine of the 13 episodes which at various times include every major member of the cast except for Giancarlo Esposito. (That’s okay, though: the better to maintain his character’s mystique.) Also on the set are a slew of featurettes of varying lengths, including “White Heat: Cranston on Fire,” “Pizza of Destiny: Cranston’s Greatest Shot,” “Silent but Deadly: The Brothers Moncada,” “Team S.C.I.E.N.C.E.,” “The Music of ‘Breaking Bad,’” “Hit and Run,” and “AMC News Visits the ‘Breaking Bad’ Writers’ Room.” There are also a multitude of episodes of “Inside ‘Breaking Bad,’” mini video podcasts for every episode, deleted scenes and unused footage, a gag reel, and the hysterical “Better Call Saul” commercials. In other words, it’s a treasure trove of awesomeness for fans.