Quite possibly the most intense, and earnest, show on television at the moment, Breaking Bad had a lot to live up to coming into its third season. The first season of AMC’s hit drama series took audiences by surprise, when Malcolm in the Middle’s Bryan Cranston turned in a harrowing performance as science teacher-turned-meth cooker Walter White. Just when we thought we were getting a handle on what the show would entail week-to-week, season two upped the ante, making audiences sweat bullets during the last five minutes of pretty much every episode, with significant character development encompassing each installment.
It was all but inevitable that a show this good would have a slump season. There was just no way creator Vince Gilligan and his team of writers could come up with a season as surprising and satisfying as the first two. Until they did. My review of the spectacular third season of Breaking Bad on Blu-ray after the jump.
When we last left off at the end of season two of Breaking Bad, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was in a world of trouble. After unintentionally revealing to his wife that he had a second cell phone, which proved to be the icing on the cake that was Walt and Skyler’s (Anna Gunn) faltering marriage, his wife packs up and leave. Additionally, Walt’s reluctant cooking partner, junkie Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul) was reeling from the death of his girlfriend, which Walt may or may not be at fault for. To cap it all off, the plane crash that had been foreshadowed all season occurred right over Walt’s house.
Season three begins fairly soon after season one ends. Skyler is gone, Walt is alone, and Jessie is in rehab. In what comes as a bit of a shock to the audience, Walt finally admits to Skylar exactly why he has so much money, telling her he cooks meth, setting off some masterful development of their relationship throughout the season. We’re also introduced to two new characters, a pair of twin assassins (Daniel and Luis Moncada) who turn out to be the cousins of Tuco, who are on orders from their invalid uncle to avenge their cousin’s death.
The most significant new character introduced in season three is Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), the unassuming meth super-distributor who offers Walt $3 million for three months’ work, and protects him from Tuco’s cousins. Esposito’s performance is kind of fantastic, as he plays Gus with a soothing calm, almost passive-like. It’s only towards the end of the season that we start to see why the distributor is so feared and respected.
The character arc of Jesse is the most heartbreaking throughout this season, as he gets clean and tries desperately to begin life anew, only to be shunned by his family once again. He returns to cooking, but remains drug free. Walt’s selfish actions and efforts throughout the season climax in the season finale, forcing Jesse into a position that is the very definition of “between a rock and a hard place.”
Walt’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hanke Schrader (Dean Norris) also gets a nice arc this season, though his storyline becomes a bit tedious towards the end of the string of 13 episodes. After heroically taking down both of Tuco’s cousins in a shootout in the standout episode “One Minute,” Hank is severely injured and left unable to walk, with his paraplegic status in a state of limbo.
Scene-stealer Bob Odenkirk is back again as Walt and Jesse’s slimy lawyer Saul Goodman. He brings some much-welcomed levity to every scene he’s in, and actually plays a crucial role in the overall story-arc of the season.
The lynchpin of the third season is the superb episode “Fly.” Directed by Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom), the bottle-episode takes place entirely in the new cooking facility, with only Walt and Jesse onscreen for the duration. Walt is obsessed with catching a fly, but the subtext of the installment tells the audience everything they need to know about the emotional connection between these two characters. We wait with bated breath to see if Walt will finally tell Jesse about his involvement in his girlfriend’s death. In short, “Fly” is one of the best episodes of the series thus far, and shows the true talent of the writers and actors on this show.
The Blu-ray is presented in 1080p HD 1.78:1, with 5.1 DTS-HD sound. The disc includes all 13 episodes of the third season. Special features include three uncensored episodes, cast and crew commentary on nine episodes, deleted scenes and unused footage, a gag reel, seven behind-the-scenes featurettes, mini video podcasts with the cast and crew on every episode, “Better Call Saul” commercials, 20 episodes of AMC’s Inside Breaking Bad and a Breaking Bad family photo album.
All-in-all, the third season of Breaking Bad is outstanding. It’s funny, heartbreaking, and extremely intense, leading up to a season finale that builds and builds until you find yourself screaming at your television. Vince Gilligan’s little show about a science teacher cooking meth has taken on a life of its own, and has morphed into undoubtedly one of the best shows on television.