Breaking Bad: Season Five

5 July 2013 DVD

Breaking Bad: Season Five

When we last saw New Mexico high-school chemistry teacher turned meth cook, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), he’d finally solved all his problems. Well, all his external problems, at least: blowing up drug lord and chicken-shack magnate Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) may have lifted the axe from his neck, but Walter is the kind of man who’s never happy with being happy. This season opens with him driving around with an M60 machine gun in the boot of his car; clearly he still has a few issues.

The question now with Breaking Bad isn’t whether Walter is a good guy or a bad guy; it’s how bad a bad guy he’ll end up being. Going by this season (and that machine gun), ‘pretty bad’ is probably an understatement. It’s all too clear that his original reason for turning to a life of crime (wanting to provide a nest egg for his family before an untimely death from cancer, which is the kind of thing we can all sympathise with) was just a front. Walter is an angry man, a man who thinks (not without cause) that he’s been screwed over his whole life. And if it takes becoming a drug kingpin to show everyone they were wrong about him, then pass the ingredients for another batch of crystal meth.

The shift from ‘What will Walter have to do next to survive?’ to ‘Is there anything Walter won’t do to win?’ hasn’t lessened the show’s propulsive plotting in the slightest. Breaking Bad has always been full of whiplash twists and jaw-dropping cliffhangers, and this season doesn’t ease back. Gus might be dead, but Walter doesn’t trust anyone other than his crumbling wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) and his partner Jesse (Aaron Paul, whose range of despairing and desperate facial expressions grows with every season). Gus’s mysterious German backers are now in the mix and so is Walter’s back-on-his-feet Drug Enforcement Authority agent brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris). Maybe one machine gun’s not going to be enough.

For such a grim show, there’s a lot of humour here, often from charmingly dodgy lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). But as the series spirals towards its conclusion (the sixth season will be the show’s last), it’s all but impossible to see how it can end well. For the characters, that is. For viewers, Walter White’s descent into hell remains some of the most thoroughly compelling viewing going.

» Breaking Bad: Season Five is out now.

Anthony Morris