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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > Drugs > TV > Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season + The Complete Second Season (2008 – 2009/Sony Blu-ray Sets)

Breaking Bad – The Complete First Season + The Complete Second Season (2008 – 2009/Sony Blu-ray Sets)

 

Picture: B+     Sound: B+     Extras: B-/B     Episodes: A-

 

 

Breaking Bad is all too good.  I can say that it is hands down one of the best dramas to ever appear on television.  The series is absolutely wonderful as it outdoes most modern films with its incredible level of depth.  Breaking Bad lays it all out on the table from the very beginning to engage audiences on one mans journey through life.  Walter White (two time Emmy winner Bryan Cranston) has been running through the motions of life with no true purpose.  He is a high school chemistry teacher and a carwash cashier in Albuquerque, New Mexico who has seemingly been content being a fly on the wall.  Life throws a wrench in the works for Walter White when he is suddenly diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.  Never having smoked a day in his life and presumably done everything by the book, Walter is consumed by disbelief, sadness, anger and a cavalcade of other emotions that have left him lost.  The series is downright jaw dropping as we join Walter in each twist and turn that life delivers.  Breaking Bad is a pleasant surprise for television as we are treated to a vibrant and flavorful series that impresses more and more with each passing episode.

 

The series quickly breaks out as in the first episode we experience a man feverously driving through the desert in an RV in nothing but his underwear and a gas mask.  Not before long we find out this man is Walter White (Bryan Cranston).  As the RV comes to a screeching halt (in a ditch none the less)  we are left with 3 unconscious men in the back, Walter White collapsing out the side and an RV covered in broken glass and liquid.  As Walter tried to regain composure to the mystery situation at hand sirens are heard approaching in the background; Walter quickly grabs a video camera to record one final message to his family.  After recording the message, Walter readies himself with gun in hand as he seems ready for one final showdown with the forces that are drawing nearer.  The scene suddenly jumps ahead in time, only to reveal the result of that initial confrontation later on.  Essentially the events leading up to that gun blazing moment are chronicled as described above, with honest, innocent Walter discovering that he has incurable lung cancer.  His whole way of life is challenged and he is left wondering what will happen to his wife, handicap son and unborn child once he is gone.

 

In a life changing event, while doing a ride along with his brother-in-law and DEA hero Hank (played by Dean Norris), Walter experiences the profitable side of crime in the form of Crystal Meth.  On the DEA ride along Walt discovers that a former student of his, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), is a Meth maker/dealer and Walt soon proposes that they go into business together.  Though hesitant at first Jesse eventually agrees to partner up with Walt and not before long the two are ‘cooking’ (slang for making Meth) in a lab on wheels; the aforementioned RV.  Jesse’s street savvy demeanor combined with Walt’s genius level chemistry knowledge makes the team up seem all too perfect; but the too good to be true situation is just that.  Not before long the drug-tastic duo find themselves in over their as the world of Crystal Meth is much more complex and dangerous than they had originally planned.

 

The griping series takes us down the dark and dangerous rabbit hole of the drug world.  Walter set out to save his family with his morally questionable endeavors, but in the end may instead be setting himself up to lose it all.  With his life having passed him by as he played it safe, the dangers that drug production have infused make him feel all too alive (whether he admits it or not).

 

Breaking Bad is startlingly excellent.  I find myself screaming at the television as I am on the edge of my seat.  Each episode is better than the last and always leaves you wanting more.  Bryan Cranston is the heart and soul of the series with Aaron Paul not far behind.  Cranston’s performance is consistently stunning and he deserves every bit of the praise he has gotten for playing the complexly tatter and torn Walter White.  The series is not simply about crime and Meth, but rather tells the tale of a family that is on the edge as they deal with life, death and everything in between.  Just as they ready themselves for a great loss the unpredictable nature of life keeps them and us as an audience guessing.  Just as wonderful as Cranston and Paul, the supporting cast are nothing to dismiss either as they are vital to the series success.

 

I would love to reveal more, but in all honesty I would be giving away too much.  Breaking Bad is a series that not a single episode can be missed, as each and every moment is crucial to its development.  Since this is a two season review I can at least say that the series gets impressively better, but concurrently flows seamlessly between episodes/seasons.  Collectively it is one huge tale with no end in site; and that is a good thing.  If you have not gotten into Breaking Bad yet now is the time.

 

The technical features for the first two seasons are amazingly well done, keeping inline with many other Sony Blu-ray productions.  The picture on both seasons is presented in a 1.78 X 1; 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer that for the most part focuses on earth tones in the New Mexico backdrop, but concurrently splashes the scene with bursts of saturated color that grab the viewers’ attention.  Overall, the picture quality is excellent and handled well, with only the brighter outdoor scenes demonstrating a bit too much grain; but with the New Mexico atmosphere it is questionable whether this was a purposeful decision or not.  Whereas I mention the grain, the pictures sharpness and detail pop and frame, though not always perfectly.  The blacks are deep, inky and often utilized for the darker moments the series emphasizes.  The sound is equally impressive in its 5.1 DTS Master Audio that knows when to play it cool and when to come out with guns blazing.  The dialogue is crisp and ambient noises are plentiful as they give the series a nice level of atmosphere and depth.  This coupled with excellent directionality makes for a pleasurable audio experience.  The balanced picture and sound only make the series all the better and a great reason to own these Blu-ray sets as they are a quality example of what TV on Blu-ray should be.

 

The extras on the First Season include the following:

 

Audio Commentaries; Deleted Scenes; AMC Shootout; Screen Tests; Inside Breaking Bad featurette; Breaking Bad on AMC commercial.  The commentaries are on the Pilot episode and ‘Crazy Handful of Nothin,’ both of which are only mildly entertaining though they offer a fair bit of ‘television academia’ for those who like that kind of stuff.  The deleted scenes add nothing much to the series, but the featurette Inside Breaking Bad is an impressive and in depth look at an even more impressive series.  As for High-Def extras, Breaking Bad Season One offers are not as engaging as they offer a shorter behind the scenes promo and a photo gallery that are collectively boring.

 

The extras on the Second Season include the following:

 

Four Audio Commentaries, which are better than the two offered on the First Season but are still a tad chaotic though you can tell the cast/crew truly love their work and each other.  The deleted scenes remain unimpressive, but once again a 46minute featurette on Inside Breaking Bad makes for a pleasurable experience as each episode’s crucial elements are dissected and discussed.  A second ‘Behind the Scenes’ featurette is broken into 11 parts that explore how the series is put together from beginning to end.  Other features include a Gag Reel; Better Call Saul Commercial; Cop Talk with Actor Dean Norris featurette; Walt’s Warnings (viral marketing campaign); Webisodes; Photo Gallery.  The only High Def extra here is Writers’ Lab featurette that shows how the series writers break down Breaking Bad onto flashcards to construct scenes in a logical manner.

 

In the end, I am overwhelmingly impressed with Breaking Bad. It is one of the best series on television today and most definitely one of the best television dramas of all time.  If you have been waiting for that one breakout series, Breaking Bad is it.

 

 

-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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