Season 5 of Breaking Bad begins with the ending. Walter White (Emmy winner Bryan Cranston), under an alias, is seen returning to Albuquerque one year after the events that unfold in this season’s eight episodes. With a full beard and his hair grown back, he isn’t the same cool, emotionless badass we see throughout season 5. He’s shifty, disheveled, and looks to be in fear for his life. Why he left New Mexico and who he’s afraid of isn’t answered at all; it’s a tease on the part of Vince Gilligan, the mastermind behind Breaking Bad, a foreshadowing to what lies ahead in the show’s final season (which premieres in early August).
Season 5 of Breaking Bad ends with one of the best “Holy shit!” moments in recent TV history. Walt’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank (Dean Norris), sits down to take a dump in the home of Walt. he opens the first piece of reading material he can find and makes a discovery that will shape the direction of the show’s last eight episodes. In between the opening scene and this season’s final moments, Walter White’s transformation from decent father trying to do right by his family to full-blown Scarface is complete. By the end of episode 6, “Buyout,” any sign of the man who began making meth in order to ensure that his family would have money after he dies from terminal cancer was gone. In his place is a megalomaniac who manipulates everyone to get what he wants.
Through five seasons, Walt has transformed from being the protagonist to the antagonist in Breaking Bad, and we’ve witnessed him place the life of his family and friends in danger. There have been times when he could’ve quit and moved on in life, but his pride and inflated ego always stopped him from doing the right thing. So whom do we root for in this dark series? What one character provides the glimmer of hope that we so often look for in a drama, compelling us to return each week?
Some might say Hank, since he’s the cowboy tracking down the mysterious Heisenberg (Walt’s drug lord alter ego). True, Hank is a hero, but he’s not the reason I continue to watch (although Norris is exceptional in the role). In my book it’s Jesse (Aaron Paul, also an Emmy winner), Walt’s sidekick and business partner.
As the years have progressed, Jesse has gone from nihilistic, drug-addicted asshole to a man with genuine cares in the world. Unfortunately, Jesse has always been susceptible to Walt’s manipulation and the allure of the payoff that would come with the one big score. That all changes in episode 5 of this season, “Dead Freight.” After one of the most intense heist sequences I’ve ever watched; and the episode ends with one of the most tragic moments in Breaking Bad history. The end of that episode changes Jesse, to the point that he doesn’t even give a shit about the big score. He just wants out. Furthermore, you get the sense that he wants to atone for the sins he’s committed. What Jesse does in the final 8 episodes of the series remains to be seen, especially since Hank’s discovery at the end of the season places his life in peril. However there’s a small part of me that believes Jesse will do the right thing, whatever the right thing may be.
The fifth season of Breaking Bad is thrilling, disturbing and heartbreaking, everything you’d expect from the Emmy Award winning series. We’re introduced to compelling new characters, and say goodbye to one of the fan’s favorites. The only unfortunate part about this season is that it’s too short! Alas, that was part of the agreement between AMC and the producers- to split the final 16 episodes into two parts. For those of us who’ve waited a year for the remaining eight shows, this August can’t come soon enough.
Blu-ray bonus features include a look inside the writer’s room, interviews with the cast and crew, featurettes on the making of the show, and an exclusive bonus “scene” called “Chicks ‘n Guns,” that was filmed specifically for the home video release.