On August 8th I wrote a DVD Flashback “Friday” review of seasons one and two of Breaking Bad, a show literally everyone I know had been telling me to watch for several years. I watched those seasons in less than a week.
Today, as I am beginning this review, it is August 16th and I have just finished watching season four.
I love this show like a junkie loves blue meth. My name is Jill, and I am an addict.
If you didn’t read my first review, go back and check it out here. If you haven’t seen Breaking Bad before, definitely go watch it and come back to read this when you’ve finished. There will be spoilers.
OK. I’m tempted to write about seasons three and four here, but the sake of blog post length I’ll split them up. So keep an eye out for a season four review in a few days.
Eloquent review, right?
OK. So season three picks up with the plane crash, Skyler leaving Walt and Jesse in rehab. Everything is a mess, basically. I loved seeing how everything came together following the plane crash – and I was relieved to see that the plane crash didn’t play any larger role than an interesting example of chaos theory.
Breaking Bad Season Three
In this season, Walt begins his working relationship with Gus. The meth lab RV is no more, now Walt has a state of the art, professional grade meth lab hidden underneath an industrial laundry facility. Brilliant. Gus is connected to the cartel Tuco was a part of, and convinces the cousins to kill Hank to avenge his murder instead of Walter. The bloody shootout in the parking lot was quite something, and Breaking Bad is often pretty over the top, but the whole thing worked beautifully – especially Gus showing up at the hospital, as the concerned community leader and donor. I liked what the attack did for Hank’s character. That guy could easily have been depicted as a caricature. A beer-belly sporting, macho cop. Which he is – but there’s always been more to him. He’s a character I didn’t expect myself to like, but I do. I like being surprised like that.
I also loved seeing Skyler eventually come to terms with how Walt has made his money and become an accomplice. Cooking up a story about gambling to sell to the family was smart, and something Walt himself probably should have already thought of.
The last few episodes are absolutely stellar. I love how Gus was able to pit Jesse and Walt against each other, it was like watching a very, very high-stakes chess match. I was never completely sure who was going to make what move.
Poor, (relatively) innocent Gale. He was the one who got Walt the job with Gus in the first place, and he paid the price dearly. The only way Walt could ensure his and Jesse’s safety was to make sure they were the only people who could cook for Gus, and that meant killing Gale. And for Jesse to have to be the one to do it, that was a perfect (speaking from the perspective of a TV viewer watching a character evolve) move.
Up until that moment, I was questioning why Jesse was still around and why Walt was so desperate to protect him. He seemed like more than a liability than anything else. But he’d also been somewhat of a moral compass on the show. His rage over Gus’s minions using a child to carry out a murder, his difficulty actually pulling a trigger himself, those are traits that differentiate him from Walt. Walt originally brought him in as the muscle, he was supposed to be the guy that knew the streets and could keep that under control while Walt simply cooked. But it turned out that Walt was far more capable of evil and violence and revenge than poor, messed up Jesse ever was.
(Jesse’s girlfriend in this season, whose brother is the little boy eventually killed by Gus’s people, is Epyck from Friday Night Lights. I always wondered what happened to her after she shoved Tami Taylor and got kicked out of East Dillon High. I guess she moved to New Mexico and became a meth addict.)
Leaving season three like that, I absolutely couldn’t wait to watch season four. Walt had outsmarted Gus, he’d kept himself and Jesse alive and working – but for how long? There could be no way that the three would simply go back to a harmonious working relationship. It was an outstanding cliffhanger.
Time Passing on Breaking Bad
I have very few complaints about the show, if any. But since I’ve been binge-watching the show, it’s crossed my mind how I would be contemplating this differently if I’d been watching all along. (I will start season five very soon, and I can barely comprehend the idea that I’m going to have to wait months for the final eight episodes to air.)
One thing I love about Breaking Bad, something I think really sets it apart from other shows, is the timeframe. It’s very short. Vulture.com did a great job breaking down exactly how much time has passed on the show. By their count, the first four seasons depict a time period of about seven months – and those episodes took about three and a half years to air.
It’s not that the show feels slow, at all. The point is that a lot of drama and character evolution is packed into a short, high pressure span of time. But one thing bothered me as we progressed through season three – how exactly did Walter White become the man we met at the beginning of season one? Walter is brilliant. A genius. He had a promising career at one time, and ended up teaching high school chemistry. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it’s quite clearly not where he’d meant his career to go.) I’ve been dying to know more about Walt, Gray Matter and Elliot and Gretchen since the show began. And in season three, we saw a flashback scene where Walt and Skyler, pregnant with Walter Jr., tour the house they now live in. Walt thought it wasn’t good enough, that they should get something bigger. What changed? I’ve watched these episodes within the span of only a couple weeks, and I’m frustrated that I don’t know more. I’m sure I’d be even more frustrated if I’d been watching over the course of a few years.
Still, the scene was a heartbreaking depiction of the joke of the American dream. Walt told Skyler “The only way is up,” and it ends up being the farthest thing from the truth. The baby Skyler is about to deliver will have cerebral palsy. Walter will somehow lose out on his share of a company that makes millions. He’ll teach high school and take a second job at a car wash. He and his wife will unexpectedly have another baby late in life. He’ll get a terminal cancer diagnosis. He’ll start cooking meth. Down, down, down.
Color on Breaking Bad
In my last review, I talked about how color is important on Breaking Bad. Knowing that before you start watching is great, because you keep a keener eye on the use of color and how it changes. In the first couple seasons, Skyler was always in blue and Walt, after becoming a drug dealer, was in green. This season, we saw the colors reversed – Walt in blue and Skyler in green.
I’m sure there are a lot of different ways to read into the changing color schemes. I found an interview with Vince Gilligan here that specifically touches on season three:
“We had Walt go into some blue colors this season. Which was previously Skyler’s color. We have Skyler going from blues into greens. The idea behind it is how they are moving apart. Rather than moving together. He is chasing her, thus he is moving into her blue color palate. She is going into something new. It all sounds like artsy-fartsy talk on my part. Hopefully not. We do put a lot of thought into it. It’s not in your face. As a viewer, hopefully, it’s subtle. It may be something you pick up on or not. Your appreciation of the show doesn’t in any way rely on noticing these things. But they are there to be noticed, none-the-less, which is up to the viewer to pick up on it or not. We do spend time thinking about this stuff. We do spend a lot of time thinking about the color palate of each character and what it means.”
As much as I enjoyed season three, I think I was even more enthralled in season four – stay tuned for that recap sometime next week. And of course, I’ll be catching up on season five soon and can’t wait to dissect those episodes with you guys.