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Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season(TV) (2008)
Walter White is a down-on-his-luck chemistry teacher struggling to make ends meet for his wife and physically challenged son. Everything changes when Walter receives a startling diagnosis: terminal lung cancer. With only a few years to live and nothing to lose, Walter uses his training as a chemist to cook and sell crystal meth with one of his former students. As his status grows, so do his lies, but Walt will stop at nothing to make sure his family is taken care of after he's gone, even if it means putting all their lives on the line.
For more about Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season and the Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray release, see Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on March 3, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, Dean Norris
Directors: Michelle MacLaren, Adam Bernstein, Vince Gilligan, Colin Bucksey, Michael Slovis, Bryan Cranston
» See full cast & crew
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review
Eat your heart out Jenji Kohan.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, March 3, 2010
This ain't chemistry...this is art.
"Breaking Bad" is the mature older brother of the far more rowdy, potty-mouthed, and thematically insignificant "Weeds." Where Jenji Kohan's hit show stumbles -- in its efforts to be more than a novelty series based on a good premise and stretched out seemingly ad infinitum after five watchable but ultimately grueling seasons -- "Breaking Bad" excels. Creator Vince Gilligan, whose previous television credits include "The X- Files" and the spinoff series "The Lone Gunmen," recognizes from the outset that a show about a middle-America drug dealer/manufacturer can't forever hedge its bets on a straightforward premise and whacky characters with little depth and development beyond a string of emotionless and stereotypical daytime television events. "Breaking Bad" is a far darker, grittier, and personal show; there's drama, yes, but it's significantly more meaningful, moving, and indeed, often takes center-stage in a show that, like "Weeds," sees its premise built around the onset of personal tragedy but maintains a more delicate balance between humor and drama, the latter, in fact, the show's dominant characteristic, ultimately allowing its characters to become better developed in but seven first-season episodes (that to be fair run on average about twice as long as any episode of "Weeds") than any of Kohan's motley crew manage after five years.
A pair of pants fall from the sky. A man in his underwear crashes a camper in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Sirens are heard in the distance, heading his way. Dead bodies, gas masks, guns, and money are littered inside the vehicle. The man leaves a video message for his family, and points a handgun in the direction of his coming fate. Life wasn't always this exciting for Walter White (Bryan Cranston), an everyday American living a middle-class life in New Mexico. He's just turned 50, is married to his newly-pregnant wife Skyler (Anna Gunn), and loves his teenaged handicapped son Walter Jr (RJ Mitte). A chemist by trade and teaching the subject at the local high school but also working at a local car wash to help make ends meet, Walter's life couldn't be anymore average -- until he's diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and given but a few short years to live. Looking to add some spice to his dying days, Walter takes his DEA brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) up on an offer to ride along on a drug bust. Fascinated by the amount of money drug dealers pull in and witnessing a former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), give the slip to Hank and friends at the bust, Walter approaches Jesse with a proposition: the formation of a methamphetamine collaboration, with Walter using his skills as an expert chemist to cook up some of the purest drugs around while Jesse assists and sells it, the two splitting the profits straight down the middle. Using Jesse's old RV as a lab and the vast New Mexico desert as cover, the two start small but quickly turn their business into a thriving enterprise that puts them in harm's way more than once, though the dangers are balanced when the business begins bringing in the kind of cash Walter needs if he is to get the best treatment money can buy and that his wife and son demand.
Arguably the most critical factor behind any new series -- ahead of even plot and character development -- is the premier episode's ability to instantly sweep its viewers into the story and engender in them a sense that there's enough to make it worth an hour per week of their time. "Breaking Bad" does just that with its whirlwind opening that proves thematically engaging and visually unique, but where "Breaking Bad" goes so good is that this scene proves -- while significant to the series -- perhaps not even one of the hallmark moments from the first season. Indeed, "Breaking Bad" does so much in so little time, that its biggest fault lies in that it's but seven short episodes long. Fortunately, it crams so much into each episode -- a wealth of character development, plenty of plot twists, a fair amount of humor, surprising dramatic depth and purpose, and even some action -- that it becomes not only easy to get lost in the show, but to yearn for more and, just as crucial, come to know and care for the characters and their various dilemmas of the physical, emotional, and familial type. "Breaking Bad" succeeds first and foremost as a character-driven drama; it works the drug angle into the series but doesn't allow it to overwhelm, obscure, or most potentially damaging, eliminate the true human drama that might exist in lesser shows like "Weeds," but at only a superficially token level. Indeed, "Breaking Bad" is packed with honest, moving, and relevant drama, and it remains the show's centerpiece, even when various other drug-related, action-oriented, or humor-driven scenes are at the forefront.
"Breaking Bad" can be any number of things at any given point in any of its first seven episodes, but the underlying drama of Walter White's suddenly short expected lifespan and all that surrounds it -- his financial, ethical, physical, and emotional concerns; his family's well-being; or his sudden increase in confidence and willingness to break the law and stand up for himself and for others -- proves the driving force behind every action he takes and, by extension, influences practically everything of substance that happens in the first season. Still, most everything about the show exists merely about the periphery of the season's true crux, the suddenly in-flux soul of an everyman who is thrust into a situation of his choosing but as a result of a diagnosis that's beyond his control. Walter's terminal cancer closes many doors but opens plenty more, and his journey through the minefield of right and wrong and balancing what semblance of a life remains with ensuring his family's future well-being is handled delicately but also with plenty of humor, wit, and heartfelt honesty, all of which only add to the wonderful complexity series creator Vince Gilligan has injected into his lead character. "Breaking Bad" often both at a subconscious level but also sometimes at the forefront of the show explores some deep thematic issues that play as consistently meaningful, relevant, and well-conceived; Walter, his family, and those around him attempt to understand what makes a life not only complete but worth living while also not shying away from hinting at the importance of living not only day-to-day with purpose and drive but utilizing whatever time may remain -- be it a day, a month, a year, or several decades -- to fulfill whatever it is that one sees as the reasons to live. "Breaking Bad" additionally explores the importance of healing old wounds and making amends; the act of loving and, in turn, being loved; and the importance of family. "Breaking Bad" isn't just about drugs; it's about the human factor and it often results in touching, meaningful, and sometimes even tearful drama that's sure to have each viewer looking inside themselves and asking deep and significant questions as to their own visions of life and plans on how to live it to its fullest.
"Breaking Bad" works so incredibly well not just because of its strong structure and focus on relevant drama, but because of a cast that embraces the material and pours its heart into every line, scene, sequence, and episode. Much can been said of lead actor Bryan Cranston's fabulous and Emmy award-winning performance as cancer victim/family man/chemistry teacher/meth manufacturer Walter White. Cranston clearly understands the finer nuances of the part, and it's the tandem of his effort and the script's uncanny ability to paint an entire human being so complexly but at the same time make him easy to understand and even somewhat relatable that makes the character whole and, by extension, the show so entertaining, addicting, and relevant. Cranston displays a wide range through the season, capturing the character's multi-layered existence superbly; from the initial shock and confusion following his diagnosis to his slowly-developed but necessary and understandable development of a tougher exterior, from his ability to carry on his educational duties to coming to terms with his family's genuine concern for his well-being and wish to see him fight through his cancer, Cranston undergoes a myriad of mental, emotional, and physical changes through the show's brief but wonderfully complex first seven episodes, the actor in every scene delivering a tour-de-force performance that's consistently convincing throughout. Aaron Paul's portrayal of White's partner-in-crime, Jesse Pinkman, is almost an equal to Cranston's masterful work. The two share a fantastic interpersonal relationship that's richly developed and thematically engaging. The dichotomy between dedicated teacher and flunky former student with an aversion towards authority makes for a fascinating dynamic, and the fact that Walter himself cannot maintain a consistent level of professionalism and authority while in Pinkman's presence only adds to the unlikely alliance that makes for one of the show's centerpiece elements. Also of note are the performances of RJ Mitte as Walter's handicapped son and Dean Norris as Walter's law-enforcement brother-in-law.
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
"Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season" arrives on Blu-ray with a dim and uneven 1080p, 1.78:1-framed transfer. Each episode is dominated by a dark look -- sometimes excessively so; only the brightest outdoors scenes seem immune, but there's no doubt from the first episode onward that "Breaking Bad" isn't the sort of transfer that's going to wow all that many viewers. Colors are even and stable but have no life to them. In support of the show's dark look, blacks often overpower the screen and devour finer shadow details, particularly in the very poorly-lit interiors of a basement; the inside of the RV; or even living rooms, bedrooms, and bathrooms. The show's brighter outdoor scenes fare the best, but fine detail -- particularly in the backgrounds of the vast, dry, and rocky New Mexico landscapes -- can appear a bit smudgy and indistinct, but close-up shots of clothing and other intricately-textured objects can reveal surprisingly intricate lines and textures amidst the otherwise inconsistent and drab imagery that dominates most of the show. Interior details are nicely rendered but it's sometimes a strain to see beyond the darkness; woven blankets, various chemistry equipment, and other random imagery can look rather good under just the right conditions. A few edges can appear excessively soft and undefined, but generally, there's a stable, crisp look to the image. Flesh tones are natural, but facial detailing can appear pasty and lacking in a more reliable and lifelike texture. Only a few minor white speckles and slight banding crop up during the show, but noise spikes from a minimal amount to an overwhelming coverage in some scenes. "Breaking Bad" will disappoint Blu-ray fans looking for a sparkling, colorful, and vibrant image, but the transfer itself isn't necessarily all that bad considering the show's excessively dark tone.
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
"Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season" cooks up a marvelous DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Heavy, exhilarating, and powerful best describe the show's wild opening segment as an RV lumbers across the New Mexico landscape in the middle of nowhere and crashes off to the side of the road. It's delivered with a thunderous volume, pinpoint sound effects, and plenty of tight bass, but most importantly, it remains a distinct and wholly clear and precise sonic experience from beginning to end. Such is the case with all of the first season's many active sound effects. This track is never shy about delivering a barrage of sonic goodness into the listening area with full back channel support of not only the more aggressive effects but the more subtle atmospherics, too. Background ambience is well-integrated into the mix; the exterior desert locales in particular deliver natural, pleasant, and engulfing environmental effects that are focused across the front but do enjoy a palpable back-channel support structure. Directional effects aren't plentiful but are precisely implemented when needed as sound sometimes maneuvers seamlessly from one speaker to the next. Musical delivery is precise and crisp, and dialogue reproduction never misses a beat. All told, the first season of "Breaking Bad" delivers the goods, the track a master of the entire range, from subtle dialogue to the most intense and action-packed of sound effects.
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
"Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season" features extra materials spread across the two Blu-ray disc set, with special features to be found both under a unique tab on the menu screen on disc two and also in sub-menus under each episode heading on both discs. Please note that while disc one contains a "special features" tab that lists all included extras, users will be prompted to insert disc two to actually view any of them. As for the individual episode supplements found on disc one, only episode one, "Breaking Bad," features extras. It includes an audio commentary track with series creator Vince Gilligan; Actors Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, and Dean Norris; and Editor Lynne Willingham, followed by a collection of three deleted scenes presented in 1080i. Disc one also features BD-Live functionality. Moving on to disc two, episode five, "Gray Matter," includes two deleted scenes, again presented in 1080i. Episode six, "Crazy Handful of Nothin'," features an audio commentary track with Creator Vince Gilligan; Actors Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, and Dean Norris; and episode writer George Mastras. Finally, episode seven, "A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal" contains two 1080i deleted scenes. Additionally, episodes two through seven contain optional recap segments presented in 480p standard definition.
Disc two features the entirety of the extras are found under the "special features" tab. Making of 'Breaking Bad' (1080i, 11:02) is a fairly basic, no-frills piece that features cast and crew speaking on the show's story, themes, and characters, intercut with plenty of footage from the shows. AMC Shootout -- Interview with Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston (480p, 16:34) features the stars of the show from both sides of the camera speaking on the "Breaking Bad," their participation preceded by a conversation on the current state of dramatic television with "Shootout" hosts Peter Bart and Peter Guber, followed by a discussion with "Breaking Bad" Executive Producer Mark Johnson. Next up is a collection of screen tests (480p, 8:17) for Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, and Dean Norris. Inside 'Breaking Bad' (480p, 31:42) is a 14-part feature that offers a collection of short but focused segments that look at the themes of the series and the behind-the-scenes work that went into the making of specific scenes and aspects of the show. Also available is Vince Gilligan's Photo Gallery (1080p), an advertisement for "Breaking Bad" on AMC (480p, 1:02), and 1080p trailers for "Breaking Bad," Michael Jackson's This is It, 2012, The Boondock Saints II: All Saint's Day, Black Dynamite, and Universal Soldier: Regeneration.
Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
"Breaking Bad" is a complete show that's centered around the most challenging of human dramas but intermixes comedy, action, and suspense into the core of the story. "Breaking Bad" demonstrates more direction and focus and sports superior character development and thematic relevance in seven episodes than does "Weeds" in five seasons, and the result, no surprise, is a show with a premise that isn't quite as novel as it was in "Weeds" but instead showcases a collection of characters and a story arc that's more polished and engaging from beginning to end. "Breaking Bad" puts its characters --and not the gag -- first, and there's a sense of purpose and even timelessness to the tragic but also exciting and sometimes moving story of Walter White. Though not known for offering a deluge of television programming on Blu-ray, Sony's high definition release of "Breaking Bad" is delightful in most every area. Although the transfer isn't the most gorgeous on the market, this two-disc collection does yield a superb lossless soundtrack and a solid array of bonus materials. Still, it's the quality of the show that matters most, and with that in mind, "Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season" comes highly recommended.
Breaking Bad: Other Seasons
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Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Breaking Bad Seasons 1 & 2 Announced on Blu-ray - January 4, 2010
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment has officially set a March 16 street date for the Blu-ray release of the first and second seasons of 'Breaking Bad', a television series about a chemistry teacher who learns he has terminal cancer and, to make sure his family is ...
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