Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penny Thoughts ‘12—Breaking Bad, season 4 (2011) ****

TV-MA, 13 47-min. episodes
Creator: Vince Gilligan
Directors: Adam Bernstein, Michelle MacLaren, David Slade, Colin Bucksey, Michael Clovis, Peter Gould, Johan Renck, Terry McDonogh, Scott Winant, Vince Gilligan
Writers: Vince Gilligan, George Mastras, Sam Catlin, Moira Walley-Beckett, Thomas Schnauz, Gennifer Hutchinson, Peter Gould
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Morris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, David Costabile, Lavell Crawford, Jeremiah Bitsui, Ray Campbell, Jim Beaver, Matt Jones, Charles Baker, Emily Rios, Nigel Gibbs, Jennifer Hasty, Bill Burr, Marius Stan, Jeremy Howard, Ashley Kajiki, Maurice Compte, Steven Michael Quezada, Jere Burns, Michael Shamus Wiles, Javier Grajeda, Christopher Cousins, Carlo Rota, Steven Bauer, Mark Margolis

The amazing thing about this series is its writers’ continuing ability to raise the stakes. What’s so amazing about that is that the stakes started so high in season one. Never does it seem the characters are ever as in control of events as the events are of them. Never do their choices seem implausible or out of character. Walt is such an asshole. That’s a key element to making him work. Jesse is a screw up, even when he’s getting things right. Skyler and Walt love their family. That’s unshakeable. Without any of these elements this series wouldn’t work.

Walt and Jesse should never be capable of achieving the things they do in this season, and yet there isn’t the slightest doubt that events could unfold the way they do for these two men living on the edge. The drug kingpin Gus and his right hand man Mike become much more ever present this season than in the previous one. And, the lawyer, Saul Goodman, played by comedian Bob Odenkirk, continues to evolve. The casting of Odenkirk in this role is one of the strokes of pure genius achieved by Vince Gilligan with this show. Odenkirk brings a level of paranoia and humor that I can’t imagine any other performer attaining.

There is a sense of establishment that forms in this fourth season, that didn’t exist in the previous ones. The foundation of the series has been built and it does not show the slightest sign of shaking. It is only Walt’s volatility that is on a constant boil anymore. Even Jesse seems more stable this season. His confidence has grown and although he’s still a kid at heart, he’s discovered his own moments of control. And, I love that they never try to explain Walt and Jesse’s total loyalty to each other, even though they appear to hate each other. They know that the forces they face are much bigger than they are. Their devotion to each other is the only real strength they hold over their enemies.

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