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Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season(TV) (2012)
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 Fifth Season and the Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray release, see Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on June 1, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Jonathan Banks, Bob Odenkirk, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito, Dean Norris (I)
Directors: Michelle MacLaren, Adam Bernstein, Vince Gilligan, Colin Bucksey, Michael Slovis, Bryan Cranston
» See full cast & crew
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray Review
Signs of greatness past, a promise of greatness to come.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, June 1, 2013
Whole lot of questions, not much in the way of answers. Yet.
Breaking Bad is the show that just seems to be getting better and better with each passing season, every new episode, even every minute as the drama unfolds, as Walter White, high school chemistry teacher and cancer survivor-turned-renowned meth chef, flirts with disaster but somehow always manages to come out unscathed, stronger than ever before, with the upper hand on even his most hardened, well-connected, wealthy, and determined enemies. Season Four's unforgettable climax probably represents the show at its peak. It, and the drama leading up to it, seems nearly impossible to top, even for a show that never fails to wow its audience time and again with every new conflict and resolution. That left season five -- at least this first half of season five -- with almost nowhere to go but down. The show does see a decline, albeit a slight one, as it pushes ahead towards its final resolution. However, this half-season feels exactly like what it is, a prelude to something else, a descent from the top necessary for the show to have a place to ascend once again in what should be a more riveting, satisfying, and unforgettable season five, part two.
***Previous Season Spoilers Ahead***
Drug lord Gustavo Fring's death is big news. It's all over the television, and with everything blown wide open -- not just Fring's face but the laundromat cooking station, too -- the crime scenes represent a sudden flood of answers and more questions for the DEA, including agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), brother-in-law to the man who demolished Fring's empire, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a.k.a. "Heisenberg," the meth cook who really makes it all happen and now finds himself the top man, feeling completely indestructible and unbeatable. Although Walter believes he has everything cleaned up, all his track covered, he, cooking partner Jesse (Aaron Paul), and Fring muscle man Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) are tasked with retrieving a laptop from police custody that may very well contain surveillance footage of the entire operation, instantly incriminating them all in the now-destroyed methamphetamine empire. Afterwards, the search begins for a new place to cook, the trio aided by their sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk). Once the meth cooking business gets back up and running, Walter and crew are forced to deal with Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser), an insider at Madrigal Electromotive and a willing but frightened accomplice in the meth cooking and distribution chain. Walter must also handle a crumbling home life; wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) is dealing with the aftermath of the Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) incident as well the danger Walter's work poses to herself and her family, not to mention the change for the darker in Walter's behavior. Ultimately, she hopes to force Walter to choose between building his empire or rebuilding his family.
The core of the series remains its characters. Season five sees them not so much stagnating but building towards the finale. It sees them not finding new ways to deal with old problems but devising new schemes to beat problems to the punch. It's not just about cooking, selling, and counting money but rather the process of life that's left around those things. Walter White enjoys another faultless performance from Bryan Cranston. Once again the show proves its worth with him in the lead and his character's potential and evolution both defining the show more than any other element. It's always been about Walter's ability to outwit and outsmart, to think faster, to react more quickly, to discover a way into a no-way-out situation and then back out even after the net's been tied up tightly around him. The drugs have always been a vehicle through which the character's cunning and genius are allowed to shine, and season five is no different. Cranston's performance is equally enthralling and nuanced whether in the lab, at home, playing the part of, basically, a drug emperor, or showing a little bit of MacGyver when science bails him out of a tight spot, all now within the context of his ascension to the top of the drug world pyramid and the very palpable sense of accomplishment and, even, invincibility that comes with it. The theme of season five? Can anything other than his own vice, his own feeling of indestructibility, bring him down? Season five's first half enjoys some other character advancements, but the real hit on the season may be the absence of a single, identifiable villain. Like the show cannot top season four's finale, it cannot replace Gus Fring, and it doesn't really try to do so. The season works more on the premise that the enemy is not so much a man but rather inner conflict, whether between Walt and Mike, Walt and Skylar, even Walt against himself in that context of his power trip, or through any of the other vessels in the show and how they fit into the broader picture. The season's final shot, though, does set up the ultimate (and inevitable and anticipated) showdown which should prove to be well worth the wait.
Season five's first half rips out of the gate with one of the most purely entertaining and creative episodes the series has seen yet, and that's saying something for a show the continually amazes with its clever writing and the knowledge-based skill its main character demonstrates in escaping from sticky situations, turning danger to his advantage, or simply outwitting and outclassing his opponents who come at him from both sides of the law and even inside his own family. The season chugs through a slower intensity episodes two-three-four, episodes that lack chaotic excitement but that do lay the burdensome yet captivating emotional groundwork for the rest of the show. That's not to say they are dull -- nothing is dull in Walter White's universe -- but there's certainly a heavier lean on exposition and development with far less of the white-knuckle sort of drama seen when the show is at its best. The season does gain intensity in season five, showcasing one of the most daring, inventive sequences in series history and ending with one of the most tragic moments that promises repercussions beyond the immediate. From that transformative moment forward, this half of season five kicks into overdrive with a nearly nonstop barrage of activity, revelations, comings, and goings, culminating with the single shot most fans have been waiting to see since the series began.
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
Breaking Bad has never been the epitome of top-end Blu-ray picture quality; sure all the seasons look reasonably good, but not five-blue-B material to be sure. Season five's first half release is no different. The show displays adequate details, if not sometimes brilliant details. General faces and clothes and odds and ends and manmade locations never dazzle, but there's a fundamental HD quality that brings out if not the best then certainly as much yield as high definition fans expect of a high end television program. Close-up shots fare remarkably well, sometimes almost to a fault (extreme close ups of shaved heads) and sometimes to picture quality brilliance (the fine details and textures of desert terrain, particularly noteworthy throughout episode five). Colors, likewise, can be brilliant or, approaching the other end of the scale, rather vanilla by HD standards. Those green and yellow pest control tents that cover houses throughout the season really sparkle, as does Saul's bright red shirt and loud tie seen in episode one and the yellow cook suits Walt and Todd wear when they're making meth. On the other hand, darker environments don't show much life. Interiors at Jesse's and Walter's homes both don't show much brilliance, and the palette looks a bit dull even considering the absence of brighter lighting. Black levels are prone to minor crush and spikes in noise. Flesh tones, however, remain fairly neutral. There are some small bugaboos of note. For instance, a few shots scattered throughout the season look rather poorly defined and not particularly stable. Elsewhere, light shimmering is evident, for example along the rims of Walter's glasses during a shot when he opens a trunk near the beginning of episode eight. It's not the pinnacle of Blu-ray picture quality, but it gets the job done.
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack is frequently active and often intense. From the heavy notes of the title card shot to the wide, crisp, and well-defined stage of music throughout the rest of the show, score plays with a powerful but balanced presence for the duration. The track enjoys plenty of ambient support from a wide variety of sources. It brings several locations to impressive sonic life, including the light background of a Denny's restaurant to start the season, clanking silverware and light music at another restaurant in episode eight, or gusty winds in the middle of episode five. Heavier support elements are just as precise and impressive, though they certainly play with a fuller body and a more aggressive posture. Gushing water and alarms at a car wash, hefty operating machinery in episode three, and a working warehouse in episode four all do well to surround the listener in the show's most crucial environments. Perhaps the most interesting and memorable sound comes from the powered magnet in episode one. The hum gets so strong and deep that it nearly scrambles the brain and pops the ears while rattling the theater to its limits. Certainly, dialogue reproduction is faultless, flowing easily from the center. This is a strong presentation that will leave listeners satisfied no matter what's happening in the show.
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season contains a vast number of supplements across both discs. Audio commentary subtitles include Dutch, French, and Spanish options.
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Season five's first half isn't the series at its best, but it had nowhere to really go but down after the explosive, nightmarish end to season four. Fortunately, a dip in quality for Breaking Bad is like removing a drop of water from the ocean; it's virtually not perceptible. It's all leading up to what should be a harrowing, intoxicating, gotta-see-'em-all-right-now elite eight, and with the promise of the season's part two starting on the heels of part one's final shot, fans should be in for a real treat. Season five, part one's Blu-ray release offers good video, great audio, and tons of supplements. Highly recommended and certainly a must-own for fans of the series.
Breaking Bad: Other Seasons
Blu-ray bundles with Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season (2 bundles)
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
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