Saturday, 13 June 2009

Of Breaking Bad Season 2

Breaking Bad is easily one of the strongest shows on television at the moment. What's even more amazing is that it comes from a channel for which this is only their second original. It's also not their best show, that's Mad Men. For a channel to have one show that is good is extraordinary. To have two is absolutely incredible and is a feat only equaled by HBO who have created The Wire, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. Also True Blood (not the best show ever but DAMN is it fun).

Early last year I raved briefly about how I loved this show. In fact it made it in at number 10 on my favourite shows of last year. Honestly it could have gone a lot higher had it not been for the writers strike which meant that the show ended last year without a proper finale, instead ending on just another episode. However in a show this good 'just another episode' is of the level that most shows can only achieve when they write an amazing episode, let alone a finale. However Breaking Bad did get a full season, in fact it got 6 episodes more than last season and wow did the show make good use of these episode, crafting an amazing season of television.

Last year we got introduced to Walter White (played astonishingly well by Bryan Cranston) and his struggle with cancer. We also got a few larger than life moments, which whilst being handled incredibly humanly, were still a bit too 'television', stuff like the blowing up of a building using chemicals and the acid bath. However we also got plenty of more human moments such as Walt struggling whether to kill a drug dealer which created one of the best episodes of all round television last year. This year dealt a whole lot more with these moments. Walt becoming jealous that he isn't being recognised for bringing money to his family because of where the money is coming from or just the bickering between Walt and Jesse solidifying on of the best on screen relationships in any show currently airing.

The show deals with Walter White being diagnosed with lung cancer and then becoming a drug dealer to try and give his family a good life after he has died. However the show became so much more than that about half way through the season when a massive twist completely destroys what we thought of Walt's original motives. Whilst other shows have dealt with villainous characters and showed them to have likable traits (Walt seriously loves his family), this is the only show that portrays the full evolution of people like this. The show starts showing these completely selfless reasons and how they shape the man who it cannot be argued is 'evil'. It's a fascinating level of character growth and really comes to a head in the last scene of the penultimate which easily one of the most visceral scenes I've seen this year, along with the attic scene from Dollhouse. But the show doesn't need a sci-fi to make the story interesting, everything is completely realistic and could happen, although this being television does mean some things need to be embellished.

The biggest example of this would be the last shot of the season which had been built up all year. Whilst being completely out of left field it still feels realistic in context of the show despite being just a bit too out there. The twist is the perfect example of the damage that Walt is causing in this world and comes as a direct influence of the scene I already mentioned. Whilst it might seem to much of a coincidence to some people it is definitely a perfect way to end the season and I hope that they focus on it next season, along with the family issues that Walt has managed to create this season through his actions (two cell phones etc.)

The acting on this show is incredible. Like Dexter, Walter White is the main attraction of the show but as the show has grown the other actors have had plenty of time to flex their muscles. Whilst Bryan Cranston can hold a scene with little more than a facial expression (the scene on the sofa in the finale), Aaron Paul as Jesse has come along to be one of the most all round likable characters on television and at times can rival Cranston's performance, especially in the episode 'Peekaboo' which in my eyes was the perfect episode of the season, having some of the tensest scenes and showing that even though Jesse has always been 'street-wise' he really isn't suited to the life of crime that he apparently feels he is obliged to feel.

The show leaves you craving more, as everything comes crashing down around them, you want to see somewhat at least some of them come out of this better. We want to see Jesse come out of this on top and whilst we as an audience are made to like Walt because he is doing what he is doing for a good cause, the show will have to inevitably end with him dying (although that being said the show has never gone down the obvious path). Throughout the season we got great teases as to what was going to happen by seasons end and it wasn't anything at all like we imagined.

Breaking Bad is one of the best written, best directed and best acted shows on television at the moment. I know I recommend a lot of shows but honestly at this point in time my two biggest recommendations are Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Lost is a firm favourite but it is Breaking Bad and Mad Men which just show how amazing this medium can be. Bryan Cranston is an acting god and is given so much to do with this character and the writing is perpetually top notch. The show is realism grounded in fantasy and it never takes the obvious option when it comes to story telling. There isn't a wasted second in this second season as the choices that Walt has made finally begin to have an affect on his real life away from his life as a drug dealer.

Overall the second season of Breaking Bad is a massive improvement over Season 1 which was fantastic to start with. The way the story is told through these 13 episodes is incredible and by seasons end what seemed at start as a neatly wrapped package is now blown to the four winds as we start next season not only dealing with the repercussions of the scenes fantastic last scene and the confrontations that will inevitably stem from Walt's choices. Breaking Bad still stands head and shoulders above most of the current television landscape and receives my highest possible recommendation 9.5/10

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