B0030T1NAO" alt="" style="border: medium none ! important; margin: 0px ! important;" border="0" height="1" width="1" />" could possibly enter a second season without repeating the events of its first. Well, not only did it succeed in its sophomore outing, but it amped events up even more, with the story getting richer and deadlier.
The show's basic premise is that terminal-cancer-stricken chemistry teacher Walter White (Bryan Cranston) turns to producing meth in order to leave behind a nest egg for his family members, who know nothing of his extracurricular activities. The second season finds Walt having to get more involved in the business end of things after his partner, former student/current junkie Jesse (Aaron Paul), screws up too many transactions.
Other changes include Walt's pregnant wife (Anna Gunn) becoming increasingly frustrated with his deception and pursuing employment outside the home; Walt's brother-in-law, Hank (Dean Norris), getting a promotion within the DEA; and Jesse landing a girlfriend in the sweet, damaged Jane (Krysten Ritter), with tragic consequences. On the lighter side, a new character enters the fray in the form of ambulance-chasing lawyer Saul Goodman, played hilariously by Bob Odenkirk.
These 13 episodes reward patience, with the first opening with a WTF image that pays off in the finale. But there are plenty of shocks along the way, including a bit with a turtle that the DVD's packaging sadly spoils. For edge-of-your-seat tension, don't miss the game of wits against the wheelchair-bound man in Mexico. However, the perspiration factor is upped by the episode in which Jesse breaks into the home of a meth-addicted couple. You'll never look at an ATM machine the same way again. It may be the series' finest hour, and ironically, it's one in which Walt takes a backseat.
But Cranston is "Breaking Bad," and vice versa. He totally deserves both Emmy statues he's taken home thus far in portraying this character of an Everyman who's turned into an animal, and cannot find a way out. Or, if not a way out, at least a hiding place until he expires. But what to do if he "? gulp "? gets better? Cranston's performance is nearly equaled this season by Paul, who graduates from sidekick status to partner, both in terms of story and performance. He's intense, as is the show.
Scattered about the four discs are commentaries and deleted scenes, but the bulk of the best can be found on the final one, with a briefest sneak peek at this month's third-season premiere and half a dozen webisodes. These shorts lean toward comedy, depicting a would-be sex tape between Hank and his role-playing wife; Jesse's attempt at fronting a rock band with his good-for-nothing pals; and, in a bit of prequel, a jittery Hank confessing some pre-wedding indiscretions to Walt. It's the kind of creative, world-expanding content more series should pursue. "?Rod Lott