Best Shows of 2011: ‘Breaking Bad’ (2008-)
“I am the one who knocks.” — Walter White
Every season after the credits roll on the ‘Breaking Bad’ season finale I think to myself, “Holy fucking shit, self. How can they possibly A) get out of this, and B) top what they did this season?” But every year when the show returns, Vince Gilligan and his amazing writing staff do it again and again.
This season we saw, yet again, stellar performances from leads Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul (and if you try to tell me Aaron Paul is still a supporting actor on this show I will fight you, he’s just as much a lead now as Cranston… which should make for an interesting Emmy Awards this year). But we also saw a calculating, perfect performance by Giancarlo Esposito as drug lord and chicken man, Gus Fring.
Every episode seemed to be better than the last and I constantly found myself shouting, “There it is! There it is! That’s the scene that’s going to win [insert actor’s name here] the Emmy!” Whether it was Walt lying in his metaphorical grave underneath the house while his screaming turned to insane laughter after finding out Skyler gave their money to Ted to save his (and her own) ass, or the scene in which he pulls Jesse’s gun to his head while trying to convince him Gus was behind Brock’s poisoning, I think it’s safe to say that Emmy has Cranston’s name already engraved.
As I said earlier, I think Aaron Paul should submit himself as a lead actor in this year’s Emmys, but if he doesn’t, I think there’s a great possibility of these two repeating their victories from 2010. Paul didn’t even say a word in the first 40 minutes of the season premiere but I think he could submit that episode and still win all the awards. His downward spiral after killing Gale in the premiere left me brokenhearted and wanting to reach into my screen and just hold him and tell him everything was going to be all right. I hated seeing him turn back to meth, but I hated even more when Gus was the one to save him from himself and not his surrogate father, Walt.
Paul seems to be one of those actors who can do it both ways: he can communicate without saying much at all (the season premiere), or he can ramble off this long speech that leaves you going, “Holy freaking shit.” Season three had a lot of Jesse speeches, and Paul delivered them well, but this season we only saw a couple of those speeches. His two best scenes however, were a mixture of both. I’m thinking of course about his scene at his former NA anonymous meeting (‘Problem Dog’). Jesse shows up to his former meeting looking for someone to hold him responsible for killing Gale. He’s struggling with killing a man and not having to face any sort of consequences. He, of course, puts it in the context of killing a dog, though. “If you just do stuff, and nothing happens, what’s it all mean?” Paul’s entire performance in that scene blew me away, even more so than the second instance I was thinking of, which was the scene at Walt’s house in which he confronted him and accused him of poisoning Brock with the ricin cigarette. Both scenes were stellar and rewatching them just now had my pulse racing.
I was on the edge of my seat during every single episode this season. Whether I was worrying about Gus taking a box cutter to Jesse, or trying to figure out just how long Walt had until Hank discovered he was Heisenberg, my heart was pounding out of my chest every Sunday night. And only on a show as amazing as ‘Breaking Bad’ can you have an episode that makes you actually feel bad for the villain. But it happened. And then seeing Gus get revenge on the Cartel had me cheering.
It’s hard to say that this season topped any of the ones that came before it (because every single season has been phenomenally written, directed and acted – not to mention that cinematography!), but I can definitely say that I am chomping at the bit for the final season to start this summer. I can’t wait for Jesse to finally see the truth about Walt. I want him to find out about Jane, I want him to find out that he was actually right the first time about Brock’s poisoning, I want him to realize that he doesn’t need Walt and most of all I want him to be the one to take Walt down (because after Walt’s “I won,” to Skyler after killing Gus, it’s only right for the show to end with his downfall, right?) I don’t know how the show will ever top Tio Salamanca’s bell ringing bomb, but I cannot wait to see how they try.
Note: Photo courtesy of AMC.