Friday, July 15, 2011

"Breaking Bad" returns for fourth season: Thank the freaking Lord

Rejoice, fans of dark, disturbing television: the amazing "Breaking Bad" final returns at 10 Sunday night for a fourth season after a seemingly interminable hiatus.

That's the good news. The bad news is, I can't really tell you much about the three new episodes I've seen for fair of spoiling anything. Part of the pleasure of watching this twisted series about meth dealers in the southwest is the way it zigs and zags and surprises. Even when you're sort of expecting something to happen (as I did with one twist in Sunday's premiere), it can still have a visceral shock. I don't want to do anything to get in the way of that.
But I will tell you that the show picks up where last season left off -- with Walt (Bryan Cranston) life in jeopardy and Jesse (Aaron Paul) having fired a gun at competing meth cook Gale. The way it picks up is ... well ... it's good -- that's about all I can say.
There are some things I can tell you. For instance, this season is giving more material to the show's leading ladies, Anna Gunn (who plays Walt's wife) and Betsy Brandt (who plays her sister), and they're both doing well with it. Dean Norris continues to do excellent work as Walt's brother-in-law Hank, who is still recovering from a crippling injury and has resorted to collecting rocks (sorry -- minerals) to submerge his rage and frustration.
And, of course, Paul and Cranston remind us of why they both have Emmys and why they will probably collect more in the near future. Paul has more to do in the early episodes, as Jesse heads into a sort of meth-y quarter life crisis. In fact, Cranston is more on the sidelines than usual, as Walt is, at this point, mainly managing the actions and reactions of the people around him, looking to increase his odds for survival. But he still has some great moments (the subtle shifts in the way Walt regards Jesse are some of the most masterful, nuanced bits of acting on TV).
Other than that, there's not much I can say. "Breaking Bad" pretty much speaks for itself. And I'm glad it's back.

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