Sony // 2013 // 375 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Jason Panella // June 19th, 2013
All hail the king.
"Just because you shot Jesse James doesn't make you Jesse James." -- Mike
Former high school teacher and cancer survivor Walter White (Bryan Cranston, Argo) may have "won" at the end of the fourth season, though the meth-cooking life is anything but easy-going when the fifth season begins. Albuquerque's drug distribution chains are in shambles, Walt's partnerships with Jesse (Aaron Paul, Big Love) and Mike (Jonathan Banks, Wiseguy) are strained at best, and the DEA -- led by Walt's tireless brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris, Total Recall) -- are on red alert. Plus, Walt's wife Skylar (Anna Gunn, Deadwood) has finally decided to fight back against her husband and his growing empire. It's not easy being the king.
In previous seasons, AMC's Breaking Bad did a great job of rationalizing Walter White's increasingly evil choices. Every poor or wrong-headed decision Walt made was "for his family." But with meth kingpin Gus Fring dead and his operation in tatters, Walt's desires have moved beyond safety and security to something just as primal: Power. In the past, Walt may have taken or ruined lives because he felt he had to. Now we have a Walt who does these things because he can. Walt has come a long way from the days when he tried to stockpile just enough money for his family to survive on when he got the bad news about his cancer. Now Walt thinks he's invincible and plans on proving it to everyone. It was a whole lot easier sympathizing with the former, but it's still unbelievably captivating television.
The fifth season heads into its darkest territory yet, while still sticking to the same formula. There are fantastic montages, great gallows humor, and some of the show's absolute best set pieces (including a daring heist that's one of my all-time favorites). After spending four seasons (and barely one year in the show's timeline!) on a nearly constant defensive, Walt is on the attack; and woe to whoever stands in his way. Jesse has always been an important part of the show's central equation; the former addict alternately serves as Walt's surrogate son, punching bag, blame magnet, or even the show's moral compass depending on the episode. It's that final role that gets seriously refined in Season Five, though, and the relationship between Walt and Jesse is more tragic than ever. As always, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul are incredible as Walt and Jesse. The real standout this season, though, is Jonathan Banks as Gus Fring's former enforcer Mike Ehrmantraut. Banks was a consistent scene-stealer in previous seasons, but he steals the entire season this time around.
It's worth mentioning that Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season feels a little incomplete, mainly because it's half of the final season. This especially plays out on the home front, where some story arcs featuring Skylar and Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte, Spring Breakers) feel rushed or unfinished by the time the eighth episode wraps. But this is just a minor frustration; Season Five is still Breaking Bad in top form. It might be the show at its most bleak, but there's enough black comedy and good storytelling to keep everything on track.
Sony's release sports an above average 1.78:1 standard definition widescreen presentation, as well as an excellent English Dolby 5.1 Surround track (the set also has a stereo French dub). These three discs are packed with tons of extras, which is where the collection really shines. All eight episodes feature full commentaries by cast and crew; some are absolutely chaotic, but all are great. Additionally, Season Five features the following bonus material:
* "Inside Breaking Bad" (86:56) -- 19 short episodes that dig into the behind-the-scenes details of each episode. They're uniformly great.
* Nothing Stops This Train (15:37) -- An extensive exploration of the train heist depicted in "Dead Freight."
* Chris Hardwick's All-Star Celebrity Bowling (10:59) -- The Nerdist team versus Breaking Bad on the lanes.
* Writers' Room Timelapse (8:36) -- A fun look at how Vince Gilligan and his writing team hammer out an episode.
* The Cleaner: Jonathan Banks as Mike (8:15) -- Essentially Banks's reflection on playing Mike over the past few seasons.
* Exclusive scene: "Chicks 'n' Guns" (8:12) -- A short scene filling in one of the narrative gaps in "Gliding Over All." Also features a behind-the-scenes short (6:57).
* Extended scenes (6:47) / Deleted scenes (5:06)
* Jesse Plemons Audition Footage (3:21) / Laura Fraser Audition Footage (4:08) -- Audition tapes from two new members of the supporting cast.
* Gallery 1988 Art Show (3:34) -- Video of a gallery's premiere of Breaking Bad-themed art.
* Gag Reel (3:16)
* Prison Stunt Rehearsal (1:29) -- Throwaway short that shows extras practicing one of the final episode's big scenes.
This is the beginning of the end. Strap on that chemical hazard suit and hold on.
Review content copyright © 2013 Jason Panella; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 375 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Gag Reel
* Official Site