TV review: Breaking Bad’s finest hour

By Jared Baxter

After a yearlong hiatus, AMC’s Breaking Bad returns for its much-anticipated fourth season this Sunday, and with it comes a fresh batch of shocking moments for the series’ Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).

Created by X-Files writer/producer Vince Gilligan, Breaking Bad premiered in 2008 to critical acclaim for its originality, edginess and stark portrayal of the drug-dealing underworld. Throughout its three-season run, the praise, much in the same fashion as the show’s plotline, has continually ramped up with Newsweek, deeming the serial drama “TV’s finest hour.”

“Season four is definitely the biggest season we’ve had so far,” Paul said in AMC’s online preview. “I think our seasons get bigger, darker and much more intense as our series goes on—season four starts off at full sprint.”

For those unfamiliar with the series, the story revolves around middle-aged everyman and brilliant chemist, Walter White, whose seemingly boring life as a high school teacher in Albuquerque, N.M., is flipped upside down when he is diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Fearing for the livelihood of his pregnant wife, Skyler, and his teenage son, Walter Jr., who suffers from cerebral palsy, White resorts to the only quick-rich scheme his skills allow for—drug making, and in particular, crystal methamphetamine. He enlists the help of former student and current junkie Jesse “Captain Cook” Pinkman to assist him in the meth-dealing ways.

What spirals out of control from there involves a meth-cooking RV, a brother-in-law DEA agent, a strip mall criminal lawyer, the Juarez cartel and a South American drug lord posed as a restaurant manager— he’s known only as “The Chicken Man.”

“Season four is about Walt owning this new man, accepting that he is capable of doing these heinous things that come up throughout season four for him to survive,” Cranston said.  “There’s nothing boring about Walter White’s life now. Pride, ego, bravery: all those things are mixed in and comes out a certain color.”

Cranston, the once loony dad on Fox’s Malcom in the Middle, has turned his performance as the family man who breaks bad into an award-winning machine, earning three consecutive Emmy awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series. Paul, twice nominated, brought home the Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor last year.

Though Cranston will be ineligible to defend his best actor title due to the show’s extended break, he is promising a season full of surprises—one that pushes him closer to a Scarface persona.

“I can tell you, in the opening there is a shocking reveal. But at the very end of the season, there are a couple things that happen that are really surprises. One is the big surprise. Then, ‘Woooow!’ A big wow moment,” Cranston said in an interview with The Desert Sun.

“Then you calm down and there’s a bit of a tag to resolve a couple issues, and then, just before it goes black and has Vince Gilligan’s name, there’s one more little thing. No words, just a visual that the audience will see and it will have the reaction, ‘Nooo! Oh, my God!!! No!’ It will rock you. Then it goes black and that’s the end of the season. And here I am, four years into it playing the lead character and I didn’t see it coming. It caught me as much by surprise as anyone else. It’s so cool.”

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