Sony // 2009 // 615 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // March 24th, 2010
"We've got rot."
Judge Clark Douglas has done a thorough job of setting out the premise of Breaking Bad in his reviews of the first (DVD) and second (Blu-ray) seasons of AMC's top-notch series. He also provides a solid rundown of the extras in the Second Season collection. Therefore, for the purposes of this review, I'll provide some of my thoughts on the 4-disc, 13-episode Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season.
The overarching theme of the second season, and perhaps the series as a whole, comes to the fore in episode 10, "Over." It is in this episode that Walter White (Bryan Cranston, Malcolm In The Middle) discovers "rot" in the base of the his house. Walt tells his son (RJ Mitte) that to save the house he needs to "cut it out and start fresh." He proceeds to work on the problem tirelessly while remaining completely oblivious to the nuisance his work imposes on the family.
"Over" is a brilliantly written episode, full of symbolism and multiple interpretations. The prominence of rot is, of course, a reference to the lung cancer destroying Walt's body. It must be cut out for him to survive. However, rot is visible all over. Walt's relationship with his wife, Skylar (Anna Gunn, Deadwood), is disintegrating as his lies catch-up with him. His relationship with his son is slipping away because of neglect. Thus, Walt spending hours saving the physical structure of his house from rot while his family decomposes before his eyes is loaded with irony. Yet, these examples are really just touching the surface.
The most important decay is to Walt's soul. It is a phenomenon Walt is becoming numb towards. It is also an occurrence that is more deleterious than his cancer. He is no longer a dying, mild mannered, desperate man trying to provide for his family. It used to be that Walt was a good man seemingly forced by bad luck to do bad things. The show presented itself as a dark comedy about a man out of his depth. However, things have changed. Bleakness is crowding out the humor. Walt is on his way to becoming a ruthless and amoral criminal; willing to kill and hurt, willing to aid and abet criminal activity, and, most shocking, consciously deciding not to act morally (i.e., Episode 12, "Phoenix").
Indeed, by the end of the season, Walt is directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of dozens, if not well over a hundred people, by way of murders, drug overdoses, and, most significantly, a chilling mental breakdown leading to disaster (i.e. the catastrophic climax of Episode 13, "ABQ"). Further, his actions have led to the psychological scarring of others, including his brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris, Evan Almighty). Additionally, Walt's business partner, Jesse (Aaron Paul, Van Wilder), is having his own soul crushed; increasingly, Jesse is unable to cope with the horrors of criminality resulting from Walt's ruthless pursuit of rapid wealth accumulation.
And so, Walt is becoming unrecognizable. He is no longer identifiable as a decent man fallen on hard times. The change in Walt's nature is made all the more significant by revelations about his battle with cancer. These changes require a rethink of Walt's decided course of action to provide for his family going back to very start of the series. The conclusion from this re-examination must be that the end never justified the means. A good person cannot do bad things without becoming a bad person in the process. Walt's decision to manufacture meth was a critical error in judgement. As a result, he is no longer a good person, husband, or father. He is not a hero (in fact, he is sporting a devilish goatee by the end of the season). He is a liar and a hypocrite. He is a destructive force that damages all who come into contact with him.
The performances from the show's leads are exemplary. It never ceases to amaze me that Bryan Cranston was once Dr. Tim Whatley on Seinfeld and Hal on Malcom In The Middle. He is a truly a great actor and worthy of all the praise he has received. The rest of the actors are superb as well. They all have multiple opportunities to shine.
The anamorphic transfer is solid with nothing to complain about. The 5.1 surround audio is similarly without flaws.
There is a cornucopia of quality extras spread across the four discs: commentaries for four episodes, deleted scenes, a Season One recap, featurettes galore, webisodes, a gag reel, music video, photo gallery, the "Better Call Saul" commercial, and a Season Three preview. The only thing missing is the "Writers Lab" extra, which is exclusive to the Blu-Ray edition.
Breaking Bad is great storytelling, featuring a remarkable evolution of narrative that is intelligent and believable. When the series started, the question was whether Walt would be able to provide for his family and/or survive cancer. There are new questions now. Regardless of his health, will Walt continue to rot morally or can he save himself? Is it too late for redemption? Will someone put a violent end to Walt's alarming ways? Will Breaking Bad turn out to be a grand tragedy about a once decent husband/father who made a horrifically poor decision?
We'll find out soon enough.
Walt is piling up the crimes with alarming speed, but the series is innocent
of any wrongdoing. Not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2010 Roy Hrab; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 615 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Episode Commentaries
* Deleted Scenes
* Season One Recap
* Gag Reel
* Music Video
* Photo Gallery
* Season Three Preview
* Official Site