Season two begins at the exact location season one ended, as chemist turned meth dealer Walt (Bryan Cranston) and his partner Jesse (Aaron Paul), have witnessed a brutal and meaningless attack orchestrated by their new distributor Tuco (Raymond Cruz) on one of his associates. This sets in motion the overlapping theme from the end of season one that Walt and Jesse have gotten in way over their heads.
Season two takes everything that made season one great and expands it into 14 of the most grippingly dramatic episodes of television I’ve come across in quite some time. The writing and direction of each episode is riveting and completely involving in ways you don’t normally seen on a TV. Creator/Executive Producer Vince Gilligan and his creative staff have captured a dark and depressing world in a very effect manner that makes the show truly “addictive” (the show’s about drugs, see? Brilliant pun if I do say so myself).
Now, when I say dark, I don’t mean some generally unpleasant material, I am talking about some truly repulsive moments that will leave you gasping in horror. From the nasty (Jesse falling through a porta-potty and getting covered in “material”), to the shocking (a head being smashed by an ATM) to the extremely shocking (a bomb stuffed into a hollowed out decapitated head and placed on the back of a turtle), this show does not shy away from some genuinely demented scenes. But if you can handle it, Breaking Bad is a thoroughly entertaining outlet for people who enjoy a good, original kill.
But shock value alone doesn’t make a show great, and despite it’s grizzly moments, Bad most strongly succeeds as a character study. Aside from the main storyline involving Walt and his efforts to keep his family in the dark about his secret life, season two went to great lengths to add interesting layers to its supporting cast. Walt’s sidekick Jesse and his DEA brother-in-law Hank in particular, are both given added depth in this season, making their characters more developed without said developments feeling forced or contrived.
Of course the backbone of any show is its main character, and as Walt, Bryan Cranston continues the tour de force performance which has earned him back-to-back Emmy awards. Playing a character who has been in too deep from the get go, Cranston has achieved a near perfection in adapting to Walt’s ever-changing environment. Even by the end of the season, in which he’s done some truly despicable things (in particular a very sad scene involving Jesse’s girlfriend), you still feel for the guy whose run into one bout of misfortune after another.
And while the show is currently at an astonishing creative peak, I am skeptical it will be able to maintain its current momentum streak for much longer. Thus far it has been mostly successful in staying honest with its original launching point, which put its main character in a situation he entered into out of desperation without taking the time to realize he wasn’t equipped to handle the negative consequences that came with this choice. While I am highly confident the upcoming Season Three will be of high quality, I’m not sure how much longer it can evolve without making the original characters shells of their former selves. I’d rather the show end early than get the the point where Walt is a feared distributor cracking open some crumbums skull with a sack full of pennies (I’m not in the drug trade, so I can only assume this is what goes on).
If the first season of Breaking Bad was excellent, season two is unmissable. The characters, the situations and the originality were all vastly improved from the first season, and we got to see one of those rare occurrences where a group of actors, writers and directors all working together at the top of their game. If you have the stomach for some of the most gruesome elements, I can’t think of a better show on the airwaves right now.
Final Score: 9.5/10
Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season is in stores now. Season Three premiers this Sunday at 10 p.m. on AMC. If I’m not too discouraged by the lack of traffic generated by this post, I’ll be back Monday with a yet another review.