TV review: Season finale of ‘Breaking Bad’ blows viewers away

By Isaac Noland

In terms of qualifications, it does not get much more impressive than AMC’s drug-drama “Breaking Bad.” The show has won six Emmy Awards, not to mention another three for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series awarded to Bryan Cranston for his dynamic portrayal of chemistry-teacher-turned-meth-cook Walter White.

Coming into season four, “Breaking Bad” had a range of intense plot lines and unanswered questions. By the end of the season finale episode “Face Off,” viewers got their closure in a terrifically satisfying manner.

“Breaking Bad” began back in season one showcasing a normal man undergoing problems that were not so out of the ordinary. Newly diagnosed with cancer and stuck teaching lethargic students chemistry to support his family, Walter White needed a big break. That break came in the form of the methamphetamine drug trade. Walter’s genius in the field of chemistry allowed him to produce a drug of the highest quality, and people soon began to take notice. Not the best retirement plan, but for a man facing death and the need to support his family, it seemed the best course.

It also makes for some pretty darn good television.

As viewers will know and anyone else could imagine, things get a little complicated. What sets “Breaking Bad” apart from the pack aside from it’s insanely tense plot is the way in which the characters evolve. As people rush to cover secrets and others get revealed, the cast dynamically adjusts, surprising viewers in the process.

The character of Walter White is arguably one of the best roles on television. By this time in the fourth season, the once mild-mannered chemist’s latent qualities have manifested themselves in the world of crime. Incredibly intelligent, prideful and ambitious, Walter White evolves from an in-over-his-head protagonist to an anti-hero willing to use anyone to ensure his and his family’s safety.

In the season four finale episode “Face Off,” Walter calls a neighbor and asks her to check his house, under the pretense that his family is on vacation and that his son Walt Jr. may have left a stove on. Walter is actually using the woman as a test to see if people are waiting for him at his house, and he observes the whole thing sitting in his car down the street. As the viewers watch this innocent old woman, complete with a cane, get used as a thug-litmus test they won’t know what to think. Is Walt’s ruthless ingenuity impressive? Is he going too far, or is it justified? The most powerful aspect of “Breaking Bad” is its ability to push viewers beyond what they normally would think is right and create a sense of unease as morals and boundaries are tested. In a sense, it puts viewers in the exact same dilemmas facing the characters.

In terms of a season finale, no one could ask for a better ending than “Face Off.” To talk about specific events in too much detail would be doing a disservice to the reader and is quite unnecessary for any fan of the show, but the tone can be relayed. From the opening seconds of the episode the tension built up from the entire season hits hard and never lets up. Viewers will be on the edge of their seats for nearly every scene. Walter is at the peak of desperation and the world of “Breaking Bad” set up through the previous seasons seems like it could crumble at any minute. The series has already shocked enough through four seasons that viewers know nothing is off the table.

Graphic murders, grand set-pieces, desperate tension and dangerous lies are all elements that “Breaking Bad” has mastered and used to great effect over the course of the series’ run. The season four finale “Face Off” contains all of these elements amped to the nth degree and provides a fantastic cap for the series thus far. With a final 16 episode season five on the way, “Breaking Bad” junkies are left with this last hit to tide them over before they can get another fix. And what a good drug it is.

Rating: A

“Breaking Bad”


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