Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season

Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season
Upon first glance, Breaking Bad is a bit of a hard sell. Following high school science teacher-cum-meth-cook Walter White (Bryan Cranston) as he scrambles through Albuquerque's criminal underbelly to secure his family's financial future after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, the premise alone seems cannily reminiscent of a Showtime series about a certain naughty soccer mom slinging dope to self-medicating suburbanites. But while sharing some superficial similarities (my roommate calls Breaking Bad "Weeds for boys"), the two programs are markedly different. Where Weeds relies too crucially on buying into Mary-Louise Parker's cutesy, fish-out-water naiveté, Breaking Bad hits harder. Even its central conceit is a bit of a red herring. Forget familial obligations: Walt cooks meth because he wants to. Because he's bored with going through the motions of middle-class complacency, and because his death sentence means that he has to get his kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames. Season two follows the same "two steps forward, one step back" plotting of the first season, with Walt and partner Jesse (Aaron Paul) cooking up a boatload of primo methamphetamine, bunging it up somehow and having to cook a whole bunch more to cover their losses. After killing off psychopathic business partner Tuco, Walt and Jesse are forced to set up their own distribution infrastructure, ending in arrests, turf wars and the hiring of reprobate attorney Saul Goodman (an especially greasy Bob Odenkirk), who puts the "criminal" back in "criminal lawyer." Many of the episodes tread over a lot of the same ground, but Breaking Bad's main attraction has always been seeing Cranston seethe ― in watching the white-bread chemistry teacher as his contempt for his family and turn to out-and-out criminality reach their boiling points. There is a handful of great episodes ("Down," "ABQ") for Paul this season as well, who comes out of Cranston's shadow to reassert his presence as more than just Mr. White's bungling point-man. There are scads of special features to boot: 20-plus featurettes, cast and crew commentaries, gag reels and a tough guy primer hosted by Dean Norris (ever the poor man's Michael Chiklis), to name just a few. (Sony)