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Featured TV on DVD Review: Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season

March 13th, 2010

Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Breaking Bad debuted in January of 2008 and, despite being a midseason replacement, it was immediately recognized for its quality. In fact, its star, Bryan Cranston, won his first Emmy for his performance (he had previously been nominated three times for Malcolm In The Middle). With such a strong start, expectations are high for season two, but how well will it the show live up to them?

The basic premise for Breaking Bad has Bryan Cranston playing Walter H. White, an overqualified, underpaid chemistry teacher in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In the pilot, he learns he has inoperable lung cancer and doesn't have long to live. A fact that he first hides from his family. He also learns his wife is pregnant with a second child. Without enough money to support his family after he dies, he decides the only thing he can do is to use his chemistry knowledge to cook up the purest crystal meth around and corner the drug market. This is an even riskier plan than it sounds, as his brother-in-law, Hank, is a member of the DEA. To this end he teams up with Jesse Pinkman, a former student turned drug dealer. At first, they join a drug dealer named Krazy-8, who then accuses them of working for the DEA, which leads to a violent confrontation. They then start working for another drug dealer named Tuco, but this working relationship also seems destined to end in violence.

This brings us to season two. Which brings us to a massive number of spoilers. If you don't want to read spoilers, skip ahead to here.

There were a number of important events early in season two, including the inevitable violent end of the Tuco partnership. In the season premiere, Walter and Jesse witness Tuco beat one of his associates to death and thinking Tuco will kill them because they are witnesses, they plan to kill him first. However, before that can happen, Tuco kidnaps Walt and Jesse in the wake of a DEA bust of his crew. His plan is to either convince them to go to Mexico where they can set up shop there, or kill them as DEA informants. Before that can happen, they try to kill him, but are interrupted by Hank who had gone looking for Walter when he disappeared and was able to track Jesse's car to Tuco's hideout.

The aftermath of this event dictates the rest of the season. Hank is promoted for taking out one of the major drug dealers in Albuquerque and will be splitting time with El Paso, much to the dismay of his wife. The drug trade there is a lot more violent, and Hank is already having trouble dealing with psychological side of things. Additionally, because Walter has to fake a mental breakdown in order to cover his tracks, he causes further strain with his wife, who still hasn't forgiven him for not telling her about the cancer right away. Jesse gets into trouble with the police, but even though he is released due to lack of evidence, he's still left homeless after his family kicks him out of his dead aunt's house. He does get an apartment of his own, and he even starts a relationship with the manager of the building, Jane Margolis, much to the horror of her father, Donald. Finally, without a partner, Walter and Jesse decide to start becoming the distributors themselves, but they are truly not skilled in this area.

Normally, when there are this many threads in a single TV series, there are at least one that fails to connect. But that's not the case here. Every single aspect of the show works. The drug trade, the personal relationships, the guest stars, everything. It's a darker, and therefore more dramatic series than Weeds, which is probably the show that you could compare it to most easily. But it is also better written and maintains a more even tone. There are humorous parts of the show, but they are used to emphasize the drama, and are used very well. There's enough action to balance the emotional drama. The show has a lot of balls in the air, but it juggles them well.

Speaking of guest stars, I mentioned Krysten Ritter and John de Lancie, who played Jane Margolis and her father Donald. However, they are not the only stellar guest stars this season. Bob Odenkirk is also great as a scummy lawyer, as well as Mark Margolis as Tuco's uncle Tio. While Danny Trejo has a short role as Mexican drug dealer turned informant.

On important side note, throughout the season there were teasers showing what was obviously the aftermath of a violent event at Walters house with people collecting evidence and two body bags. This was setting up a big reveal that we knew would end the season; however, when it finally came, I felt completely ripped-off. First of all, as soon as we learned Donald was an air traffic controller, I knew exactly what the big reveal was going to be, and it was mere coincidence and not an organic part of the show.

Extras on the DVD are impressive and spread throughout the four-disc set. Things start with an audio commentary tracks on the season premiere with the creator and most of the main cast, including Bryan Cranston, who also directed the episode. There are a few deleted scenes, featurettes on the cast, a featurette on the names of the episodes (this includes spoilers, so beware). Also, all 13 episodes on the DVD have behind-the-scenes featurettes, each about 3-minutes long. (There is also a season one recap, but its only 90 seconds long, so it's not really a selling point.)

Disc Two has no audio commentary track and only one deleted scene. It does have three more behind-the-scenes featurettes, the full music video for "Negro y Azul", making of featurettes for the music video and for The Tortoise Scene.

Disc Three has two more audio commentary tracks and four deleted scenes. There are three more behind-the-scenes featurette, as well as the full Call Saul commercial.

The final disc has an audio commentary track on the season finale, as well as five deleted scenes and three more behind-the-scenes featurettes. Cop Talk with Dean Norris is a four-part featurette with the actor that plays Hank interviewing real cops about tongue-in-cheek topics like donuts. There are a huge a number of short behind-the-scene featurettes on the props, the sets, the special effects, the viral video, etc. There's even a 2-minute preview on season three, which doesn't get into any specifics, so it's safe to watch. There are five webisodes that include Jesse's band, Hank's wedding day, Marie's video diary, and more. There are four minutes of outtakes, a 2-minute clip from season two.

I don't have the Blu-ray, at least not yet, but there appears to be no exclusive extras. On the other hand, it only costs about 25% more, which is perfectly acceptable for a release like this.

The Verdict

This is truly one of the best shows on TV and I'm not surprised that Bryan Cranston won his second Emmy this season, while it earned its Emmy nominations, including one for Best Dramatic series. With the number of extras on the DVD and Blu-ray, Season Two of Breaking Bad is absolutely worth picking up and it is even a contender for Pick of the Week.

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