When Bryan Cranston won the Emmy for Best Actor, last year, it came as a surprise to most of the Awards show’s audience. After all, Mad Men’s Jon Hamm had all the buzz for that series going for him. That and Cranston’s Breaking Bad role, chemistry teacher Walter White, being a guy who decides, upon learning that he has terminal lung cancer, decides to provide for his family by going into the crystal meth business. The DVD release of the truncated first season [seven episodes, down from nine, bcause3 of the writers’ strike] shows that Cranston was consistently amazing throughout – but also that the entirety of the show’s cast is just as remarkable.
Walt has a nuclear family – him and his pregnant wife, Skyler [Anna Gunn] and son Walter Jr. [R.J. Mitte], a high school student who has cerebral palsy [as does the actor who plays him] – and a brother in law who works for the DEA, Hank Schrader [Dean Norris]. Hank’s wife [Skyler’s sister], Marie [Betsy Brandt] rounds out the family. Walt’s partner in crime is Jesse Dupree [Aaron Paul], a high school dropout whom Walt failed in chemistry.
The series is a black comedy that follows Walt as, bit by bit, he goes down the wrong path as his disease worsens. At first he hides his disease from his family as he starts up his meth lab [making the purest stuff Jesse has ever seen], but he eventually tells Skyler and the rest of the family persuade him to take chemotherapy. Along the way, Walt is faced with increasingly difficult choices – like what to do with a couple of dealers who try to horn in on his and Jesse’s set up – and, invariably, makes the wrong choices [though always from a place of good intentions…].
Series creator Vince Gilligan has created a darkly comic series that more than lives up to its intriguing title [Gilligan says that it’s slang for “raising hell”]. Even as we wonder what the heck Walt is thinking as he goes down the path into his personal dark side, we can understand his motivation – and even sympathize. Like the blurb on the box says, “…Walt will stop at nothing to make sure his family is taken care after he’s gone, even if it means putting all their lives on the line.”
Features include: Deleted Scenes on every disc; Audio Commentaries by Gilligan and Cast for the Pilot and Crazy Handful of Nothin’; Making of Breaking Bad; Inside Breaking Bad; Vince Gilligan’s Photo Gallery; AMC Shootout: Interview With Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston and Mark Johnson, and Screen Tests.
Grade: Breaking Bad: The Complete First Season – A+
Grade: Features – A
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