Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Blu-ray Review)18 Jun, 2014 By: John Latchem
$160.99 21-DVD set, $230.99 16-BD set
Stars Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks, Laura Fraser, Jesse Plemons.
The elaborate limited-edition complete-series Blu-ray of “Breaking Bad” released late last year was one of the hallmark releases of 2013, earning accolades and quickly selling out at retail, after which it commanded huge prices on the secondary market.
The buzz wasn’t surprising. From its start, “Breaking Bad” was hailed as one of the all-time great television dramas, a reputation that paid off with a Best Drama Series Emmy for the fifth season. The show depicts the rise and fall of Walter White (Bryan Cranston), a seemingly ordinary high school chemistry teacher who, upon learning he is dying of cancer, takes up manufacturing high-quality crystal meth so he can provide for his family, only to set off a chain of unfortunate circumstances as he becomes obsessed with building his empire. The edgy storytelling, not to mention Cranston’s intense and excellent portrayal of an iconic TV antihero, gave the show a cult status that only raised its mainstream profile.
Fortunately, fans of the show who don’t already have the show on disc from its individual seasons and weren’t able to get their hands on the limited-edition set have another chance with a slimmed down, wide-release complete-series set offered both on Blu-ray and, for the first time, as a DVD boxed set.
Instead of a heavy replica of a barrel full of money featured on the show, the new set comes in a simple, shelf-friendly case with the seasons in individual cardboard sleeves. The first set also had such goodies as an apron and a challenge coin, none of which are present here. The Blu-ray does include the special bonus disc that was originally released in that first set, and that still makes this version a significant upgrade over compiling the individual season sets (The DVD doesn’t include the bonus disc).
The highlight of the bonus disc is the feature-length documentary No Half Measures: Creating the Final Season of Breaking Bad, which focuses in on the writing and production of the show’s final eight episodes. The bonus disc also includes dozens of vignettes covering character profiles and cast-and-crew reactions from all the seasons.
“Breaking Bad” was a show made for binge-viewing, and this set represents a great way to re-experience the series before the prequel spinoff “Better Call Saul” arrives in the next few months. It also probably doesn’t hurt that this set comes along just in time for Emmy voting, and should help keep the final batch of episodes (technically the last half of season five, but billed here as “The Final Season”) fresh in voters’ minds. Certainly, Cranston’s performance in the episode "Ozymandias" (the third-to-last episode, and often cited as the series’ best) has to make him a favorite for a fourth Best Actor Emmy.