Blu-ray Review: Breaking Bad (The Complete Fourth Season)



The next season of Breaking Bad begins on July 15th. The reason I’m telling you this is because if you haven’t started watching the show yet, that gives you almost six weeks to get through the previous four seasons to be caught up in time. Sure, for many shows getting through four seasons in six weeks may seem like a daunting task. But this is Breaking Bad; once you begin, the only thing you’ll have to worry about is what you’re going to do with yourself for the remaining month before the show starts.

For those who have been keeping up with the show, or simply watch it through DVD or Blu-ray, season four picks up immediately where season three leaves off. That’s one of the great things about Breaking Bad, in that it never jumps ahead over a great deal of time, and it constantly covers every angle, even if it makes you wonder just how many hours are in a day for these characters, because it certainly can’t just be 24.

I won’t go into any real specifics about the plot of season four because, as per usual, there are many twists and turns along the way, and watching them unfold each episode is what makes the show as addicting as it is. I will say that this is another brilliant season that really sees some growth in the Walt character (Bryan Cranston), but maybe even more so in his partner in crime Jesse (Aaron Paul), which was actually surprising given his role in the first handful of episodes this season.

Without giving too much away, Jesse is suffering from a sort of post-traumatic stress disorder after he was forced to kill Gale (David Costabile) at the end of season three. Due to this, Jesse finds it hard to be anywhere that is too quiet, and he begins to go on a small downward spiral back into drugs, while also inviting complete strangers to come and party at his place all day and all night, so long as they keep it noisy. While this is actually a really smart storyline for the character, and it makes complete sense with what he’s just been through, it also kind of feels like the character of Jesse is just treading water for the first episodes of the season, acting almost exactly like he did during his previous drug phase. It got to the point where I wondered if the character had almost run its course. Luckily, I was more than wrong.

By the midway point of the season, Jesse’s behavior is addressed by his “employer,” Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), and he begins to go out on missions with the company muscle/hitman Mike (Jonathan Banks) as ordered by Gus. The two have a great chemistry together, and for the remainder of the season, Jesse is as interesting as ever, and Aaron Paul really gets to spread his wings as an actor, giving what I believe is some of, if not his best work of the series thus far.

Meanwhile, the ongoing battle of wits between Gus and Walt continue, as the two try to co-exist while both wanting one another dead. Their chemistry on screen together is fantastic, and Gus is without a doubt one of the best villains in television history, played flawlessly by Esposito.

This season also sees more conflict at home between Walt and his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), who is now involved in the drug business alongside Walt, though only in the form of laundering the money he brings home. It’s a nice change of pace to have Skyler in on what’s going on in Walt’s life, without her knowing everything. It helps keep the story at home fresh, instead of constantly having Walt try and hide everything season after season. That’s one of the best things about this show, in that the writers and producers know when stories have run their course, and find new and interesting ways to move them forward.

On the supporting front, Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris) and his wife, Marie (Betsy Brandt) both get larger parts this season. Their characters get a bit of growth of their own, as Hank continues to struggle to recover from his gunshot wounds from season three. Also, one of my favourite characters in the series (and someone who I’d love to see a spin-off with, mainly because I just can’t get enough of him), Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) is back. Walt and Jesse’s lawyer who knows how to break all the rules, but still does his best to be the voice of reason to his two biggest clients has some great scenes and continues to bring the comedy at times when the tension needs to be broken.

And boy is there tension. This season is filled with some really well written episodes, with some of the biggest moments in Breaking Bad‘s history. Now, I’m not talking biggest shocking moments (though there are some of those too), I’m talking about some big stunts, massive shootouts and massive explosions. It’s a season that has it all, and it will keep you watching episode after episode just to see what they’re going to do next.

Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season does what all shows at this point in their life hope to do, and that is it keeps things interesting. As soon as this season ended, I was ready for season five to begin and with such superb pacing and expertly crafted storylines this time out, the show is looking as fresh as ever. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got six weeks of going through withdrawals to deal with before I can get my fix once again.

The audio and video transfer for the Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. The music, dialogue, action sequences and tension all come through the sound system perfectly, and it really brings you into each episode. The visual quality is also really great, with the colour palette really coming through as vibrant or as dull as the creators were going for when they made the show. It simply looks and sounds wonderful.

The special features are abundant, and really cover every single possible aspect a fan could want – and then some. They really went all out on this Blu-ray package, and those who have a few weeks between finishing this season and starting season five will have their hands full with some great extras. There are special features found on each of the three discs, with the abundance of them found on the third one. Commentaries and episodes of Inside Breaking Bad that have to do with the episodes on disc one and two are found on those discs, for those interesting in keeping up as they watch. The rest breaks down as follows:

Commentaries – Every single episode has a commentary that’s filled with various members of cast and crew. These are some of the best commentaries you’ll hear, as they’re fun and full of information. Definitely worth listening to for fans of the show.

Deleted and Alternate Scenes – There are multiple deleted and alternate scenes spread out over the three discs, though they’ve done a great job of inserting some uncut footage into five episodes in order to make them that much more visually impactful.

21 Episodes of Inside Breaking Bad – There is an episode of Inside Breaking Bad for every episode of the show, and they can be watched on the corresponding discs. Disc one has 20 minutes worth, disc two has 22 minutes and disc three has 40 minutes, due to a handful of extra episodes that cover more behind the scenes aspects of the show.

Inside the Explosive Finale – This was probably my favourite feature as far as extras go, and it’s 23 minutes in length. It takes you through the entire day of shooting the biggest scene in the final episode of the season, and really lets the viewer in on some interesting information, and just allows them to see how everything came together and just how much had to get done for one scene in the finale.

The Sets of Breaking Bad – Just under nine minutes in length and we’re taken on a tour through multiple sets that are used in the shooting of the series, including the new double of Jesse’s house, which needed to be expanded in order to destroy it from within like they needed to do for the start of this season.

The Invisible Driver – This one comes in at just over four minutes in length and sees stunt driver Laurence Chavez (stunt driver) using mirrors to drive backwards for an escape scene Jesse is in at one point in the season. It’s actually crazy how they get this done, and it really shows how much problem solving has to go into the making of every show.

The Real Family of Breaking Bad This is another feature that just comes in over four minutes in length, and Vince Gilligan introduces it, showing how close the cast and crew are, and how they truly are a family.

Better Call Saul Commercials – This is a quick, fun, two minute featurette that actually show Saul’s commercials as they’d be seen on TV. Hilarious stuff.

Video Podcasts – This is a huge set of video podcasts that in total run at over two hours in length. They involve editor Kelley Dixon hosting, and executive producer Vince Gilligan, and Bryan Cranston joining her in many of the first episodes, and Aaron Paul joining her for a few of the last ones. She’s also joined by various other cast and crew members throughout, and they’re really some great fun to watch that fans will truly enjoy.

Gag Reel – The gag reel comes in at five minutes in length, and it’s quite funny to watch such a serious, and dark show have these moments where the actors just break out laughing and forgetting their lines or just plain adlibbing humour.

Cast Chemistry – This featurette comes in at just under six minutes in length and goes through the chemistry shared between Walter and Jesse, their relationship and the actors behind them. It’s a fun little piece that’s definitely worth watching.

Color Me Bad – This feature comes in at just under five minutes and it has Vince Gilligan talking about all the colours used in the show, and how they use them as a storytelling tool quite often.

The Science of a Hit Show – This featurette comes in at five and a half minutes and sees Vince Gilligan talking about how he came up with the idea for the show, the characters within it and so forth. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul also weigh in on the characters and what helps make the show such a great success.

Superlab Tour – This is a three-minute featurette where we’re given a tour of the superlab that’s used in season three and four.

The White House – This featurette comes in at just under four minutes in length and we’re given a tour of the sound stage where the scenes inside Walter White’s house are shot.

In the end, Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season is definitely worth picking up, along with the rest of the seasons if you haven’t done so already. The sheer amount of extras that are available will keep most people busy long after they’ve finished the season, which by itself is worth owning simply for the fact that it’s just that good and that addicting. Highly recommended.

Sony Pictures presents Breaking Bad: The Complete Fourth Season. Starring: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Giancario Esposito, Betsy Brandt, Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk. Boxset Contents: 13 episodes on 3 Blu-ray discs. Released: June 5, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.

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