By the time of season four of Breaking Bad, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) have been in the meth game long enough to not make rookie mistakes. Now they’re in the big leagues (making much bigger mistakes), and they’re working under the thumb of Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), who has a placid exterior and no problem acting as a cold blooded killer. It’s the best season of the show, and one of the best seasons of television ever. Our review of the Blu-ray of Breaking Bad season four follows after the jump.
We start in the aftermath of the murder at the end of Season three. Jesse is ruined, and Walter is doing his damndest to keep things together. He knows that he has the best formula for Crystal Meth, and the minute someone can replicate his work he’s a dead man. The season starts at an impasse. Jesse barely shows up to work, and Walter is trying to keep Gus from killing him when Jesse’s given an assignment with Fring’s bag-man Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). Walter’s nervous that Jesse going to be killed, but Gus knows Jesse too well, and once Jesse shows that he’s capable he becomes reengaged with the world.
Gus also thinks that Jesse can replicate Walter’s formula, which means that it’s now Jesse who could control Walter’s fate. Both have sworn to Gus that they can’t work without the other, but both have animus that goes deep. And then there’s Walter’s wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) who’s looking to buy a car wash to help the family launder money. They need a front and the old owner is a jerk, and won’t sell to Walter or his wife. Walter’s brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) is recuperating, and he’s asked to look into the meth organization. When Walter gets a bit drunk and egotistical, he reveals that there’s probably more behind the recently closed door the local cops have found. Hank’s wife Marie (Betsy Brandt) has been dealing with Hank’s recuperation by creating fake lives for herself to deal with her pressure.
And then there’s the Mexican cartel… and the greatness that is Walter’s lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). What’s amazing about this season is that we’re so deep into it, the fear of getting caught and the daily headaches of guilt are no longer superficial. When the show started, everything was hanging by a thread, and it could be tough to watch because of that sense of the characters balancing on a razor. Though the show has set a target for completion (Season five will be two-part season, and its last), so perhaps that makes it less tense, but for this season everything become a chess game, which is emphasized by its conclusion. It’s a battle to stay alive for Walter and Jesse, and they’re playing against Gus Fring, who’s outsmarted them every step of the way. Gus is great at turning the two against each other and making stealthy decisions that prove fatal.
But as the fourth season wraps up, we see how Gus is also walking his own tightrope; he’s obviously as cool as they come, and when the final pieces fall into place for the season, it’s breathtaking. This season is a sustained bit of writing, and it’s amazing how each episode functions as a building block. There’s no sense of stand-alone’s – we the audience are too deep in to it to want easy cliffhangers. Creator/writer/director Vince Gilligan’s work here comes close to rivaling The Wire’s, and though it may not go as deep into the fundamental problems of America, it definitely has a lot to say about human nature and more.
Sony’s Blu-ray presents the series on three discs, with every episode in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS-HD 5.1 Surround master audio, with transfers that look as good – if not better – than the HD broadcast versions.
Disc One has the first five episodes. Episode 1 “Box Cutter” comes with a commentary with Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Giancarlo Esposito, producer Melissa Bernstein, Editor Skip Macdonald, and co-producer Diane Mercer. It also comes with two alternate/extended scenes (2 min.). Episode 2 ‘Thrity-Eight Snub” comes with a commentary by Aaron Paul, Betsy Brandt, Bernstein, music supervisor Thomas Golubic, director Michelle MacLaren, and writer George Mastras. Episode 3 “Open House” comes with a commentary by Brandt, Bernstein, writer Sam Catlin, Golubic, and director David Slade. It also includes one extended scene (2 min.). Episode 4 “Bullet Points” comes with a commentary by Gilligan, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk, Bernstein, director Colin Bucksey, and writer Moira Walley-Beckett. Episode five “Shotgun” comes with a commentary by Gilligan, Cranston, Paul, Jonathan Banks, MacLaren, composer Dave Porter and writer Thomas Schnauz. It also has two deleted scenes (2 min.).
Disc Two has the next five episodes. Episode 6 “Cornered” comes with a commentary by Gilligan, Cranston, Paul, Banks, writer Gennifer Hutchinson, producer Stewart Lyons, and cinematographer Michael Slovis. It comes with an extended scene (3 min.). Episode 7 “Problem Dog” comes with a commentary by Gilligan, Paul, Anna Gunn, Brandt, RJ Mitte, producer Peter Gould, and associate producer Andrew Ortner. It comes with a deleted scene (2 min.) Episode 8 “Hermanos” comes with a commentary by Gilligan, Cranston, Paul, Mark Margolis, Steven Bauer, director Johan Renck and Slovis. It also features an extended scene (2 min.) Episode 9 “Bug” comes with commentary by Gilligan, Norris, Christopher Cousins, MacLaren, Bernsein, Schnauz and Walley-Beckett. It also features a deleted scene (4 min.) Episode 10 “Salud” comes with commentary by Paul, Mitte, Esposito, Bauer, Gould, Hutchison and MacLaren. It features one deleted scene (3 min.) and an extended scene (5 min.). Also on disc two are five “Inside Breaking Bad” (22 min.) that walks through each episode on the disc.
Disc three houses the final three episodes of the season. Episode 11 “Crawl Space” comes with a commentary by Paul, Norris, Odenkirk, Cousins, Porter, Walley-Beckett and director Scott Winant. It also offers a deleted scene (1 min.). Episode 12 “End Times” comes with a commentary by Gilligan, Cranston, Esposito, editor Kelley Dixon, Schnauz, and Walley Beckett. Episode 13 “Face Off” comes with a commentary by Gilligan, Cranston, Paul, Gunn, Esposito, make up effects guru Greg Nicotero, and visual effects producer William Powloski.
Also on disc are the remainder of “Inside Breaking Bad” (40 min.) for the three episodes on the disc and eight additional pieces on the season as a whole and certain big scenes and elements of the show. “Inside the Explosive Finale” (23 min.) walks through what amounts to thirty seconds of screen time, but possibly the most important thirty seconds of the season. It’s followed by “The Sets of Breaking Bad” (9 min.), and ‘The Invisible Driver’ (4 min.), and “The Family of Breaking Bad” (4 min.) offers behind the scenes footage about the making of the show. There’s two fake ads for Saul Goodman (2 min.), which are pretty gunny, then there’s video podcasts for all thirteen episodes (129 min.), and it’s followed by a gag reel (5 min.). Cast-centirc “Cast Chemistry” (6 min.), set and costume design-centric “Color Me Bad” (5 min.) offer more general commentary, while ‘The Science of a Hit Show” (6 min.) gets Gilligan to talk about his inspiration and the character’s development. ‘Superlab Tour” (3 min.) and “The White House” (4 min.) walk through two of the film’s primary sets, and bonus trailers are also included. There’s a lot to pour through here.