Breaking Bad (Season 4) (Sundays, 10/9 Central) (AMC) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Breaking Bad (Season 4)

AMC, Sundays, 10/9 Central

Jul 15, 2011 Web Exclusive
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Breaking Bad typifies Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.”). During the cliffhanger finale of season three, we learned that show creator/producer/director/writer Vince Gilligan is willing to also use his postmodern Western to highlight Finagle’s Fourth Law (“Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it will only make it worse.”). Putting it bluntly—shit does down in this show.

That season finale saw Aaron Paul’s Jesse Pinkman aiming a gun at David Costabile’s Gale, the opera-loving, finical meth manufacturer. Jesse and Bryan Cranston’s Walter White stumbled into the drug world, and they aren’t going to escape without the roof falling down on them. Revealing too much about the first few episodes of season four would be utterly odious of me to do. This show’s drama hinges on its unpredictable twists and turns. The brilliance of any of these scripts is not knowing what character will die or which everyday household item will become cringe-inducing after the credits roll. These surprises are not mere parlor tricks, akin to the ones seen on Lost or Gilligan’s prior show, The X-Files. Each death and decision has a spider web of repercussions and the machinations of every protaginist/antagonist make sense within this microcosm. HBO’s brilliant adaptation George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones follows a similar modus operandi.

Breaking Bad began as the arc of a milquetoast, almost pitiable, Albuquerque chemistry teacher. He’s diagnosed with lung cancer and decides to use his expertise to craft a nearly perfect form of crystal meth. Any profit he makes will go straight to his family after his passing. That was our anti-hero’s selfless, if morally detestable, schema. Now Gilligan’s “Mr. Chips” is hurtling closer and closer to “Scarface.” The show mastermind recently noted that he can’t see Breaking Bad going past five seasons. He’s wants to purge Mr. White from his psyche. It’s fairly obvious why a terminus is required as season four opens July 17. Things are looking stark for our beloved, albeit infamous, main character.

During the first season we got our bearings. Season two set the plot further into motion and beefed up secondary and tertiary characters. And seasons three and four put all the players on the board and the action begins to spin out of control. But AMC’s suspenseful classic doesn’t revel in 24-style action set pieces and ridiculous shoot-outs. No, this is action of the mind. I’ve always thought of Breaking Bad as a deadly grafting of Western and horror-thriller tropes. Gilligan’s crew even sets up some of their shots in homage to Sergio Leone.

Now we see an almost cocksure Walt who is as tough as nails. He dons a black pork pie hat (see: tropes of Westerns), shaved head, fastidious goatee, and a dogged stare. At one point during Sunday’s premiere episode, “Box Cutter,” White gets testy with his silently horrific drug overlord, Giancarlo Esposito’s Gustavo Fring: “Did you expect me to just roll over?” After a tense and very silent scene in the superlab, Gus responds. “Well…? Get to work.” This season is definitely Walt vs. Gus time, but the ensemble cast is evolving, too.

It’s great to finally see Anna Gunn’s Skyle Whiter, Dean Norris’ Hank Schrader, and Betsy Brandt’s Marie Schrader expanding and filling out their roles. White’s son, Walter, Jr. (RJ Mitre) —who has cerebral palsy —is still an asset that remains untapped for the show. He needs more screen-time and season four aims to remedy that since Skyler is taking control of Walt’s money-laundering business (the car wash) from corrupt and hilarious lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk).

Of course, Cranston has nabbed a Best Lead Actor Emmy three times in a row and fellow actor Aaron Paul should have won just as many (he’s been nominated twice and won Supporting Actor once). The whole ensemble trumps Mad Men by the length of a meth-making RV. Did I already mention the excellent, minimalist writing? And no series on television has better cinematography than Breaking Bad. The vibrant colors of the New Mexico sunset, sandstorms, and lab clothing pop on screen. And this season continues to prove that silence is just as pivotal to drama than an overbearing score and clanging foley work.

The hyperbolic comments I have for this show run out of my mouth (and many fan’s mouths) in shout-to-the-mountaintop volume. If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad, it’s time to catch up. Hell, even if you’ve watched the first season’s seven strike-truncated episodes, it helps to remember Mr. Chips when Scarface is glowering on screen. What a brilliant transformation and what a brilliant show. Breaking Bad is an artful TV legend that will only grow in stature. (

Author rating: 9/10

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Average reader rating: 4/10


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July 27th 2011

This show is incredible. I wonder if the minerals hank looks at will lead to the blue meth in Walt’s meth.

July 27th 2011