Breaking Bad (season 4)

"Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family." - Sklyer

release year: 2011
genre: drama
viewing setting: home DVD, 4/13-19/13

synopsis: Average guy Walt, recovering from his first bout with lung cancer and possessed of great chemistry knowledge, continues his often-bumbling efforts to make drugs to get the money to provide for his family after he's gone.

impressions: This season was filled with both stupidity and major plot developments. I got tired of trying to remember examples of the stupidity, so for this one season, I'm just going to list them all, in order as they happened across the 13 episodes:
  • after you blatantly betray a crime lord, arguing with him is never a smart idea
  • if you're planning to kill the crime lord, don't confide in his long-time #1 trusted henchman
  • if you want to lean on someone who won't sell, you can't just reject all possible ideas about how to do that
  • after buying a half-million dollar house, inviting your druggie acquaintances over for a days-long party is dumb
  • is storing all your cash in your dresser while those acquaintances are there and you're not
  • driving insanely fast and recklessly because you're stressed seldom ends well
  • when someone else takes the fall for your crimes and the cops have given up, there's no need to brag and re-awaken interest in the case
  • not being able to admit that you're in danger is just stupid
  • fleeing your spouse due to a verbal argument is stupid
  • buying a flashy expensive sports car after just having a discussion about the need to be frugal to avoid attention is stupid
  • is taking it for a mindless, reckless joyride that ends in a wreck
  • getting the laundry factory's workers to help clean the secret drug lab underneath is stupid
  • after cooking your business' books and getting an audit notice, waiting until the day before the audit to seek help is stupid
  • trying to engage in a fistfight when you have absolutely no training or experience is stupid
  • spending $614,000 to tie up a loose end when there's no other choice is acceptable; not telling your business partner that you spent the money is stupid
  • being a smartass when you're possibly about to be executed is stupid

    These are just the most blatant examples. Almost every poor decision ends up leading to more bad outcomes. Also, no one ever tries to be nice or even just respectful to anyone else when that would make things go easier. If you're reading this, you're probably wondering why I keep watching the show. Here are some reasons. Walt and Skyler finally devise a solid plan to launder their money. The conflict with the cartel is exciting and sometimes action-packed. Gus gets revenge and also eliminates his rivals in a brilliant plan. He also finally lays it out for Walt near the end of the season, something to the tune of "you lie, you make mistakes, you're fired, don't make any commotion or else." That...needed to happen a long time ago. Also, Walt hatches one of his few well-planned, well-executed schemes at the end of the season, solving a number of his problems. So I keep watching it because I really do want to see what happens in the end, where this is all going. It's just hard to watch when characters often make dumb decisions.

    acting: Bryan Cranston is Walt, the regular guy who's suddenly faced with some tough problems and decisions. I could write an essay about Walt's actions and behavior, but it boils down to this: he may have unique skills and he may have invented something unique and lucrative, but he doesn't know his own limitations. He's a killer now, but that's a technicality - his heart isn't in it. He's not a fighter, but he repeatedly gets into fights (and loses.) He has a temper, he has an ego, and he lets both get in the way of both his progress and that of others. He can't think on his feet, he's not cool under pressure, he waits to talk rather than listens, he acts suspicious, he lies (and badly), he's a hypocrite, and his lack of planning almost always ends up in a crisis which someone else has to fix. Skyler summed it up best with the line she said to Walt (see top of this review.) Anna Gunn is Walt's wife Skyler, who joins his illegal cause this season to help with the financial end of things; her competency thus actually increases. RJ Mitte is their handicapped son, who often questions events but hasn't yet discovered what's going on with his family. Aaron Paul is Walt's former student and now partner in crime, who fundamentally means well but suffers from addiction (and a lot of impatience) but also finds his role increasing. Betsy Brandt is Skyler's self-absorbed sister, who resumes her idiotic stealing and whining this season. Dean Norris is her husband, a DEA agent who starts the season in a wheelchair and depressed, but gets his fire back and ends up causing huge pressure on both Walt and the bad guys. Bob Odenkirk is a flashy lawyer who actually turns out to be quite helpful. Giancarlo Esposito is the calculating criminal mastermind who Walt works for, but who has finally realized that Walt is more trouble than he's worth. Jonathan Banks is his cool, jack-of-all-trades number-one henchman and problem solver - and one of the few characters who is always level-headed and makes smart decisions.

    final word: Ongoing saga of a man who meant well, got into something way over his head, and thus now struggles to keep afloat.

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