Breaking Bad wrapped up its fourth season last night. The season was everything that fans of the show could conceivably have wanted. Before putting the show away for awhile, now is the perfect time to do a synapse dump of final thoughts on the recently completed season. Spoilers follow.
-Vince Gilligan and the various people that work on the show are nothing short of amazing. The special effects people, the people who work on sound, the writers, the directors, the producers, and the actors put together a symphony of perfection for 13 straight weeks, and for four years now. If you’re a fan of the show, you owe it to yourself to listen to the weekly podcast. It gives tremendous insight into just how much fun they have making the show and how much thought goes into it.
-The final three episodes played out like an extraordinarily well-made horror film. There was constant tension. The soundtrack matched the horror motif- think of the eerie reverberating sound in the background as Walt cackled away at the end of episode 11, Crawl Space. Think of the low angle, Walt’s eye view of Skyler in the same scene as she teared up at Walt’s insanity as he was buried in the crawl space. The phone ringing added an extra layer of tension, as did the frantic call from Marie, naturally silhouetted in a darkened room. The shot of Gus in the season finale is going to haunt viewers and is one of the grisliest things that’s ever been on TV. Then there was Gus’ viciousness. The man literally threatened to murder a baby.
-Gilligan has always said that the show is all about the descent into depravity of a seemingly ordinary man. Viewers received an extra dose of that this year. At times, it felt like Walt had cracked, desperate for his normal life, like in the scene in which he sobs to Walter, Jr. He was woefully inept in his attempts to be a hardass early in the season. But with the chips on the line, Walter turned ugly. He turned into a badass. The sequence of events in the final episode alone illustrates Walt’s descent. At various times, Walt blew up a nursing home; busted out a .38 to murder Gus’ henchmen, the same .38 he’d been woefully incapable of using earlier in the year; imperiled his elderly neighbor to test out whether or not he was going to get shot upon re-entering his own home; and we find out that he poisoned an eight year old. It’s worth noting that harming kids is precisely what Gus did at the end of season 3. Walter has become Gus-like, if only in the level of danger.
-There was considerably less dark humor this season compared to years past. I missed it since it’s one of my very favorite parts of the show, but the swap enabled Gilligan and his crew to spackle in a ton of tension and action elements. I was on the edge of my seat countless times this season, probably more often than during the first three seasons combined. It was tense. It was pulse-pounding. Every week’s episode left you drained, while alternately begging for the next episode.
-One moment mid-season really illustrated for me precisely why Gilligan’s show is the best on TV, without a doubt. It was in episode 7, Problem Dog. Skyler insisted that Walt return the Challenger that he’d bought for Walter, Jr. Walt’s anger was palpable. He was being pushed around and stressed out by Gus, Mike, and Tyrus at work, and now he was being bullied by his own wife. Instead of returning it, he drove it to an empty parking lot, squealed some rubber, and then blew up the car. In any other show, that would be the end of it. You’d never hear another thing about it. But on Vince Gilligan’s Island, the next scene showed Walt sitting in Saul Goodman’s office. Saul was laying out every single detail of damage that Walt had done, and every single fee he would have to pay for his temper tantrum. It’s attention to detail like that which makes the show the very best.
-The one element that will never get old to me is the dumb stuff that Jesse says. Perfect example:
Hank: “What TV shows do you watch?”
Jesse: “Ice Road Truckers.”
Walt: “What happens in that one?”
Jesse: “Trucks drive on ice.”
And that’s it. Now we begin the long, horrible wait for the next season. It’ll be 16 episodes long and will be the final season. There is a decent chance, depending on how that season goes, that I’ll be calling it my favorite (and perhaps the best) show that I’ve ever seen. The first four seasons certainly qualify.