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Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season (Blu-ray Review)

28 Jun, 2013 By: John Latchem

Sony Pictures
$55.99 three-DVD set, $65.99 two-BD set
Not rated.
Stars Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Dean Norris, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, R.J. Mitte.

One of the most compelling aspects at the core of “Breaking Bad” is how it manipulates the audience’s expectations concerning the traditional roles of the protagonist and antagonist in drama. Are we rooting for schoolteacher-turned-meth-kingpin Walter White to win, or do we want him to get caught?

Certainly, in season four, it was exhilarating to watch Walter (Bryan Cranston) outmaneuver the criminal masterminds trying to kill him. But he had to do some horrible things to achieve that victory, and in the end basically ended up as broke as he was when he first started selling meth to raise money to support his family in case he died of cancer.

Season five finds Walter struggling to control the power vacuum left by the empire he toppled by creating a new one of his own, taking even more reprehensible steps to protect himself and ensure the loyalty of his associates, in particular his younger partner Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul).

The beauty of the show is not just in watching Walter deal with the criminal rivals he encounters, but also in the tension generated by watching how close Walter’s brother-in-law, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), comes to finding the mysterious drug kingpin plaguing the underworld of Albuquerque, only to be thwarted at every turn.

As such, the eight episodes in this season-five set begin with a daring raid on a police evidence locker. Later, Walter, Jesse and their crew attempt a train heist to secure the chemicals needed to make their pristine meth, with tragic results. This is one of the smartest, most tightly written shows currently on TV.

In a golden age of television where binge viewing via any number of sources rules the day, producers have scored a point for disc by including an exclusive bonus scene that takes place during the last episode in this run, and helps set up what could be a final meeting between Walter and Jesse. It doesn’t hurt that the scene prominently features gorgeous porn star Kayden Kross as a topless stripper, stretching the boundaries of what the show isn’t allowed to do on AMC.

The rest of the commentaries, deleted scenes and behind-the-scenes featurettes will give every “Breaking Bad” fan a chance to thoroughly dissect the season in preparation for the final eight episodes later this year.

And if the set couldn’t be more complete, there’s even an episode of “Chris Hardwick’s All-Star Celebrity Bowling,” in which Cranston, Paul and others from the “Breaking Bad” cast take on the Nerdist Podcast team. Who says a show about murderous drug dealers can’t have a sense of fun?

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