The wait between seasons might not have been as long as the one fans of Mad Men were forced to endure, but it has been a long nine months since Breaking Bad was last on our screens. For those unfamiliar with the show, it is the story of the transformation of a high school chemistry teacher into a meth cook – creator Vince Gilligan pitched it as taking Mr. Chips and turning him into Scarface. The series has reached the beginning of its final season; 8 episodes of which will be shown this summer, with the remaining half to air in 2013. If you have not watched the show or are not up to date with it, do not read on as there will be spoilers up to the end of season four – but go and catch up! Breaking Bad is the best show that is still on television and second only to The Wire in terms of all time greats. Great acting, fantastic writing, beautiful cinematography (helped by the stunning New Mexico landscape) and a willingness from Gilligan to be unyielding in the destructive path the show’s protagonist takes, all create a mesmerising series that has to be watched.
Last time we saw Walter White, he was shaking hands with Jesse as they celebrated their triumph over Gus Fring, the chicken man had been killed and the threat to Walt’s family was eradicated – at least for the time being. However, the final shot of season four – a slow pan in to the Lily of the Valley plant by the Whites’ swimming pool – revealed to the viewer that it had been Walt who had poisoned Brock – Jesse’s girlfriend’s son – not Gus, to get Jesse back on his side. With their employer dead and super-laboratory joining the RV in the great meth lab in the sky, the direction that the partners now take in their cooking exploits is unclear, but if they are able to find a location to continue making their blue crystal, then they will have the opportunity to take over all of Albuquerque’s meth trade.
South of the border, Gus took out Don Eladio and all of his capos before his fatal face off with Tio Salamanca and thus the threat to Walt for this final season is likely to come from within, rather than external forces. His brother-in-law, Hank, is natural pOlice and was investigating Fring and the laundromat laboratory before Walt blew up both of them. Jesse has witnessed only some of the distance his partner is willing to go in order to prevail, but he does not yet know about Brock, nor that it was Walt that caused – and allowed – Jane to die (at the end of season 2). If he discovers these facts about someone who has always proclaimed to be on his side, Pinkman becomes the main candidate to take out Walt, before Hank or lung cancer can ever catch up to him.
There are several more open questions heading into the final 16 episodes of the series. Now that Skyler gave the majority of their cash reserves to Ted Beneke to pay off his IRS bill – before his untimely encounter with Chekov’s rug, a cabinet and a symbolic bowl of oranges – will the profits from the car wash satiate Walt’s need for more money, or will money be a catalyst for him continuing to cook meth? Can Jesse trust his own lawyer, since Saul Goodman did Walt’s bidding in lifting the ricin cigarette from him to make him believe Gus had poisoned Brock? Will we learn any more about Gus’s origins in Chile, or see his conversation with Jesse on their walk back from Mexico? When Mike returns back to the USA and discovers that his former employer is dead, will he shift allegiances to Walt, or seek vengeance for Gus? Can Marie buy anything else purple? How many more times will Walt Jr. eat breakfast? Did Skyler really do a ton of research on what car to buy her son, given that she ended up purchasing a PT Cruiser…
What we have learned so far is that all of the pieces matter (okay, maybe not Walt Jr’s breakfast obsession or his automobile) and the relentless, reckless pursuit of power and control that Walter White is on will not be abated. Unlike with Mad Men, I will not be doing weekly recaps, but will write a review after all 8 episodes have aired. In the mean time, the fantastic Aaron Paul (Jesse) tweeted back in March, “The teaser alone in episode 1 S5 will have you screaming more than when someone got blown up last season.” Roll on 10pm Sunday.