Breaking Back: A season-by-season retrospective (Page 4 of 5)

Season 4 Review

Breaking Bad, season-to-season, episode-to-episode, character-to-character, is as near a perfect one-hour drama as there has ever been.

Season 3 was brilliant. Season 4 surpasses brilliance and concludes with one of the greatest season finales ever — any show — ever!

Walter White has more than broken bad, he has become bad. Walt is a very bad man. His alter ego, Heisenberg, has become a more dominate part of his life, but still, Walt is under the very watchful eye of Gus Fring, the drug lord distributing his product.

Walt re-teams with Jesse and continues to manufacture crystal meth for Gus, but there is the constant and ever present threat that Gus will one day, sooner than later, kill them. There are some key plot points revealed in this season. Jesse becomes a tag-along and errand boy for Gus, but also partakes in Gus’ exploits, learning that he deals directly with Mexican drug cartels.

At various moments during season 4, Gus reveals, with methodical violence, the devastation he is truly capable of as he kills and schemes to take out the drug cartel and maintain control of Walter White.  Gus plans his attack on the cartel to perfection; however, he continually underestimates the survival instinct of Walt, which Gus has done from the start of their relationship.

And it is only at the very end of the season finale that we receive the big reveal, while Gus Fring will go to great extremes to protect his interests, Walter White will go further.

Skyler finds herself a larger part of Walt’s world; Hank enlists Walt to help solve the murder of Gale Boetticher by going after Gus; and so the world turns.

Season 4 presents a journey for many of the characters. We learn about the background and motivation of Gus Fring, getting insight into why he is who he is. We get a lot more of Hank than in previous seasons, and he develops into a strong and sympathetic character.  While Walt is the protagonist, it is Jesse who struggles with the morality of the path he and Walt have chosen. Jesse also endears himself to Gus, while simultaneously becoming a friend to Mike.

Bryan Cranston continues with his stellar performance as Walter White, but it is Giancarlo Esposito whose Gus Fring takes command of the season. He is always calculating and always with purpose. Esposito’s performance is on a pedestal above all others. Gus is an evil human being, who takes dignified care in plotting every move he makes. Even in an impossible feat, in the waning moments of the season finale, Gus Fring realizes Walter White has bested him, and he confront his own finality with dignity in an instance that is both gruesome and perfect.

In the final moments of the episode, following Gus’ death, Skyler calls Walt and asks him about the event. She asks, “Was this you? What happened?” His reply, “I won.”

We’ll see about that.

Grade: A+

<<<SEASON 3           SEASON 5 >>>

Review by Gordon Shelly, special to Influx Magazine