The new Blu-ray release of Breaking Bad is being advertised as "The Fifth Season" but it actually is only the first half of the fifth season and is comprised of just eight episodes. The final eight episodes are scheduled to begin airing on AMC in August, which means that we will probably see the final Blu-ray release early in 2014. The first episode of Season Five begins with a brief glimpse at what apparently is to come during the final episodes. We flash forward to the future and see Walter White having breakfast at a Denny's in Albuquerque on his birthday. His hair has grown back, he has a full beard, and in general he appears to be disheveled. He now has an assumed name, a New Hampshire driver's license, and a car with New Hampshire plates. A man then enters the restaurant and heads for the men's room. Walt joins him there and slips him an envelope full of cash in return for a set of car keys. Walt goes out to the parking lot and takes a bag out of his car. He then opens the trunk of the new car, and we see what the envelope of cash was for - an M60 machine gun and ammunition.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/MPEG-2
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Dutch, Other
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 6 Hr. 14 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletBlu-ray Amaray (Two-Disc)
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/04/2013
It's over. We're safe. I won. - Walter White
The Production Rating: 5/5
WARNING: This review contains spoilers for anyone who has not viewed the first four seasons of this show.
Breaking Bad, the exceptional, award-winning, violent, and highly addictive series which airs on the AMC cable network, wrapped up Season Four with a devastating turn of events. Gus Fring, the highly respected Albuquerque businessman, who also happened to be the drug kingpin of New Mexico, is no longer. Walter White (Bryan Cranston), the once mild-mannered high school chemistry teacher who turned to cooking crystal meth because he thought that he was dying of cancer, now answers to no one. Walter's long-suffering wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), should be relieved that they are no longer threatened by Gus, but she becomes increasingly fearful and withdrawn when Walt makes it clear that he intends to continue his criminal ways. In the meantime, Walt's brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), is trying to make sense of the Fring killing as he identifies and arrests the men who were working for Fring. One person Hank cannot pin anything on is Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks), Fring's enforcer, who has carefully covered his tracks. And of course Hank has no idea that the new kingpins in town are Walt and his former student, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul.)
The new Blu-ray release of Breaking Bad is being advertised as "The Fifth Season" but it actually is only the first half of the fifth season and is comprised of just eight episodes. The final eight episodes are scheduled to begin airing on AMC in August, which means that we will probably see the final Blu-ray release early in 2014. The first episode of Season Five begins with a brief glimpse at what apparently is to come during the final episodes. We flash forward to the future and see Walt having breakfast at a Denny's in Albuquerque on his birthday. His hair has grown back, he has a full beard, and in general he appears to be disheveled. He now has an assumed name, a New Hampshire driver's license, and a car with New Hampshire plates. A man then enters the restaurant and heads for the men's room. Walt joins him there and slips him an envelope full of cash in return for a set of car keys. Walt goes out to the parking lot and takes a bag out of his car. He then opens the trunk of the new car, and we see what the envelope of cash was for - an M60 machine gun and ammunition.
Back in the present day, Walt has decided to resume cooking crystal meth in part because most of the money he earned while working for Gus is gone. Skyler, an accountant by trade, had helped to cook the books for her former employer and brief lover, Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). Ted was being hounded by the IRS for back taxes, and Skyler knew that if Ted failed to pay up it would be only a matter of time before her activities were discovered. She then took most of Walt's ill-gotten gains - $600,000 - and used it to pay Ted's taxes. Walt entices Jesse to work with him again, and together they convince Mike Ehrmantraut to become an equal partner in charge of distribution. With Gus Fring's meth lab burned to the ground, they come up an innovative new way to cook meth without being discovered. Also remaining in the picture is the slimy and useful but ethically-challenged lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk).
Season Five introduces two new recurring characters. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser) is a highly-placed employee at Madrigal, the German company which had been Gus Fring's surreptitious source of the chemical methylamine, an essential component for cooking high-quality meth. Lydia fears that former employees of Gus who have been arrested will implicate her and Mike. She also is in charge of global logistics for Madrigal and has the potential to be very helpful as Walt, Jesse and Mike launch their new enterprise. Another new character is Todd (Jesse Plemons), who enters the picture as a minor player but quickly comes to play a major role in developments. There are several brilliantly original capers which occur in Season Five and I will say nothing further about them so as not to spoil the surprise.
Series creator and Executive Producer Vince Gilligan deserves a great deal of credit for keeping the series fresh and innovative throughout its run. And while the opening scene of Season Five portends difficult times ahead for Walt, with eight episodes to go I have to admit that I have absolutely no idea how Breaking Bad will end. Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have won multiples Emmy Awards for their performances, and the series has been named "TV Program of the Year" by the American Film Institute in four of the past five years. If you already know about Breaking Bad, it would be superfluous to say anything more. All others should go back and start with Season One.
The 1.78:1 1080p transfer is outstanding in every respect and does full justice to the spectacular location filming in New Mexico. The images are consistently sharp, with solid and accurate colors, excellent contrast and inky black levels. All five seasons of Breaking Bad have looked simply gorgeous on Blu-ray.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio is every bit as good as the video. Dialogue is mostly confined to the center channel and every word is clear and intelligible. The surround channels come alive during the action scenes and at times the audio is quite jarring. The evocative music is given a wide and pleasing soundstage.
Audio Rating: 5/5
This Blu-ray release includes an impressive array of extras, including two which are so special that I am not permitted to say much about them.
Special Features Rating: 5/5
All eight episodes have commentary tracks by members of the cast and crew, including Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bod Odenkirk, and others.
Each episode also includes a feature called "Inside Breaking Bad" in which members of the cast give their insights into how the show was produced, discuss character development and motivation, etc.
Several episodes also include deleted scenes.
The Blu-ray set has a number of informative and entertaining featurettes. The first two are Blu-ray exclusives:
1. "Scene by Scene: Directors Discuss Memorable Moments" gives the various directors of different episodes the opportunity to discuss their favorite scenes.
2. "The Writers of Breaking Bad" gathers the show's writers together to give the viewer a taste of what it is like to work together in preparing scripts.
The following featurettes appear on both the Blu-ray and DVD sets:
1. There is a gag reel which shows some of the humorous flubs which occurred during filming.
2. "Writers' Room Timelapse" shows timelapse photography of the writers' room while several of the writers talk about the collaborative process.
3. "Where Season 4 Left Off" has Vince Gilligan and several of the principal members of the cast discussing what happened in Season 4 and what questions are likely to be raised and answered during the final 16 episodes.
4. "Season 5: The Cast Looks Ahead" gives each principal cast member the opportunity to discuss how their characters take a darker turn in Season Five. It is a promo short which was made for AMC.
5. "On the Season 5 Set with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul" is another promo short for AMC which features Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul.
6. "Chris Hardwick's All-Star Celebrity Bowling" pits "Team Nerdist" against the cast of Breaking Bad. The Breaking Bad team consists of Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Betsy Brandt and R.J. Mitte.
7. "Gallery 1988 Art Show" is an exhibition of art in a Los Angeles gallery. The original art was inspired by Breaking Bad.
8. "Nothing Stops The Train" is a featurette which shows how a very important scene involving a freight train was conceived and executed in the desert near Santa Fe. The producers had a snake handler on the set to make sure that no dangerous reptiles got near the production team.
9. "The Cleaner: Jonathan Banks as Mike" examines the evolution of the character Mike Ehrmantraut throughout the course of the show.
10. "Prison Stunt Rehearsal" looks at the choreography and rehearsals of a very complex prison scene which takes place during Season Five.
11. "Jesse Plemons Audition Footage" shows the actor auditioning for the part of Todd. In order to maintain secrecy about the script, they had him read dialogue which does not appear in the show.
12. "Laura Fraser Audition Footage" shows her auditioning for the part of Lydia.
Finally, there are "Exclusive Scene: Chicks 'n' Guns" and "Chicks 'n' Guns: Behind the Scenes," two productions which were made exclusively for home video. "Chicks 'n' Guns" is a lengthy scene which was not included in the episode "Gliding Over All" but which fills in important back story information about Jesse Pinkman and Saul Goodman and the factors which motivated their future actions. Sony has asked us to say nothing further about the scene, so I cannot even name the actress who appears in it. The scene has a running time of approximately eight minutes.
Breaking Bad continues to be one of the finest programs on television, so this set is of course highly recommended. The only caveat that I have is the relatively high price point, with a suggest MSRP of $65.99. I rarely comment on prices, but that seems high for just eight episodes, even with all of the extras. The good news is that Amazon currently has it priced at $29.99, so use the link below if you wish to purchase it.
Overall Rating: 5/5
Reviewed By: Richard Gallagher
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