Friday, March 19, 2010

'Breaking Bad' season 3 review: Sepinwall on TV

In today's column, I review "Breaking Bad" season three, which is incredibly strong in how it picks up on the events of last season. (Even if you didn't particularly like the season 2 cliffhanger, they deal with it very well.) Season 2 spoilers come up really quick, so if you're still catching up on the show - and you should be, because it kicks ass - read at your own peril.

Season premiere blog post going up Sunday at 11.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait.

Also love how he still calls him, "Mr. White". Completely true to life, I am 40+ and still call my teachers Mr. X...

Also the New Mexico location is largely due to New Mexico becoming a growing M&E center. A combination of aggressive tax breaks and lower wages has a number of Hollywood shops moving there. Louisiana, Michigan and a distant fourth, Austin TX, are doing that as well.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Yeah, a friend of mine who lives in NM says they've taken to calling the film & TV business around there "Tamale-wood."

Anonymous said...

Alan, I love Breaking Bad and always recommend it to friends. Is there a steep learning curve for new viewers at the beginning of Season3?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I'd say so, Mike. Everything that happens early on is building on what happened last year, and while you can certainly appreciate the acting, and the cinematography and some of the other cool stuff, the impact's not the same.

I would, however, say that people can skip the first season if they're absolutely in a rush to catch up.

Anonymous said...

You know I still find it odd. Breaking Bad has been getting nothing but good reviews ever since it started back in 2008. The few people who watch it often call it (one of) the best show(s) on TV. Bryan Cranston has now won back to back Emmys, supposedly bringing more attention to the show... and yet I feel it is still totally flying below the radar. I have a hard time getting anyone to watch it.

Maybe you, Alan, know what needs to happen for this show to have more than a cult following?

People are missing out.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Maybe you, Alan, know what needs to happen for this show to have more than a cult following?

It's a hard show to sell. The premise is incredibly dark (as is the execution at times) and if people know Cranston at all it's from Malcolm (and they therefore can't imagine him as some powerhouse dramatic actor). And if people start watching at the beginning, there are a lot of issues with tone and pacing that can be off-putting. (I admit it took me till late in the first season to really get it, and it took the show until the second season to really figure out what it was doing.)

JanieJones said...

I am beyond thrilled that S3 is starting Sunday evening.
Alan, I enjoyed your write-up.
I think BB is a wonderfully layered and complex show. While it disturbs me (in a good way tv wise) to see Walt evolve into a truly bad man, I think it's the only way it could go.

Walt's narcissism blinds him from evaluating his behavior. His cancer has receded. He has no excuses now. His moral compass is completely corrupt. He misses the birth of his daughter, lets Jane die (which was very painful as a viewer to watch) and creates a fall-out of epic proportions to just name a few. It's enthralling to watch Cranston play Walt.
Also, Aaron Paul has been wonderful as Jesse. I am very curious to see his evolution this season.

There are so many things that excite me about this show.

I can't get many people to watch this show. I've tried. I received feedback that it's too dark.

fred said...

I can't wait for the show to return!

Alan, in your review you mention how Cranston has Emmys and "could conceivably keep the likes of Jon Hamm and Hugh Laurie applauding politely from their seats for years to come" -- does that mean you could see the show go on for years?

While I absolutely agree on the count on Cranston's brilliant performance, I'm not sure I want the show to continue for years & years.

I know I might be weird that way, but when I love a show, (one of?) the thing I fear most, after it being canceled during its pilot (although one could argue it's hard to love a show that soon), is that it will be kept on for too long for one reason or another.

24 was once really fun, not anymore. Ally McBeal had 3 great seasons, the last 2 were horrible. Prison Break was awesome in its first season, by the time it ended it was crap... I hear Heroes is still on the air, and Lost, well, had they not gotten an end date when they did, I'm sure it would have felt the same (want to know more about Jack tattoos??) and probably couldn't have gotten back from it (or been given a chance to for that matter).

Point is, given the premise of the show, Walt's motivation, his condition (even if he got better), as well as the extreme "risks" in his new "field," I'm not sure I can see this going on for years.

And I can't help but feel that this season, or the next, should maybe be the last one. Am I alone there?

Alan Sepinwall said...

By "years," I mean the next two. Vince Gilligan has said he envisions the show as running four seasons, and while I guess it could ultimately run, say, five, the premise makes it very hard to stretch out much longer.

But, no, I would not be at all surprised to see Cranston win an Emmy for every single season he does this show, even though Laurie and Hamm are both deserving. The only thing that might derail him is if HBO picks up "Luck" to series, as the inferiority complex that TV people show to movie stars would make Dustin Hoffman the instant favorite in that category.

Anonymous said...

I've been waiting for this since last May. I really hope it doesn't disappoint. I'm jealous you've already gotten to see so many episodes Alan.

fred said...

>Vince Gilligan has said he envisions the show as running four seasons

Oh good, thanks. Somehow I didn't know/missed that. A four-season deal sounds great. Let's hope he can make it as he envisions it...

(And yeah, I could see Cranston winning the Emmy every year. I think I'd like that even.)

With Breaking Bad & The Pacific, Sundays are the day for must-see quality TV!

p.murray said...

Also, thought I'd draw attention to this vague, slightly negative review from the NYT:

Did anyone else feel that the second season was stagnant or repetitive? Or that Walter White was unbelievable? I so wholeheartedly disagree with this review.

Dan said...

"I would, however, say that people can skip the first season if they're absolutely in a rush to catch up."

I agree with this recommendation. Personally I found the show in the middle of S2 (I believe because I was watching the re-airings of Mad Men S2 on AMC and BB came on at 11 while Mad Men was at 12). I remember seeing ads for the show before it premiered, don't remember why I didn't tune in, I guess because then I didn't really watch TV shows.

I didn't have much trouble getting into the show after I understood the basic outline. Of course going back and catching S1 and the first half of S2 enhanced my enjoyment and understanding.

tag said...

Alan Said: I admit it took me till late in the first season to really get it, and it took the show until the second season to really figure out what it was doing.

The show grabbed me with its first visual. A pair of slacks flying through the air, and landing on the ground only to be run over by a Winnebago driven by Bryan Cranston wearing a gas mask and tighty whiteys.

I renewed my vows when a turtle with Danny Trejo's head mounted on it exploded.

Norgard said...

Did anyone else feel that the second season was stagnant or repetitive?

Yes! I got so tired of Walter constantly finding a reason to lose all his money and being back to square one, particularly since by the end of the season Walter wasn't really in it for the money anyway.

Another problem with the ongoing-show-instead-of-miniseries approach was that too often things were neatly wrapped up within the hour: Tuco, Bell Boy, the murderous junkie couple Jesse tried to take out, the informer guy - any of these could have spelled doom for Walter and changed the thrust of the narrative, but by the end of their given episode they were all but forgotten. You could take out or compress most of their stories without losing anything.

Truth be told I thought the second season really only started to really sing in the final three episodes, and then Vince Gilligan wrecked it again by insisting on a big show moment instead of letting the characters just speak for themselves.

I'll probably give it a couple of more episodes, but right now I'm not very optimistic.

Ryan Pimentel said...

I as well was not a huge fan of the show in Season 2. (thought Season 1 was a classic.) And I thought Aaron Paul was better than Cranston last season. He's a phenomenal young actor, one of the best out there.

Unknown said...

Does AMC exist in HD? I have both Directv and cable and neither have the HD version. Feel like AMC is missing out by not having BB and Mad Men in HD. Both shows, especially BB, would be greatly enhanced by HD.

Alan Sepinwall said...

James, yes, there's an HD version of AMC. I have Comcast, and we get it (channel 239, I think).

Alan Sepinwall said...

And, yes, BBad in HD looks particularly awesome.

Joe said...

That review makes very little sense. Having read the New York Tines tv reviews for a while, it seems like that critic makes very similar arguments against most highly regarded shows.

Unknown said...

Careful with that NYT review - it includes a major spoiler! (Though I assume it concerns something that happens very early in the season.)

Anonymous said...

There's no point in watching any other shows on North American channels besides Mad Men and Breaking Bad. They all pale in comparison.

-Red Medicine

Otto Man said...

Giddy with anticipation. Giddy!

Otto Man said...

I would, however, say that people can skip the first season if they're absolutely in a rush to catch up.

I missed the first season, and started watching it in season two and did just fine.

Anonymous said...

Aeks ago, I discovered that AMC was running all of season 2 on-demand. I had only ever seen the premier of season one before. What kept me from being a fan earlier was, I missed it when it ran and could catch up until just recently.

It's a fantastic show. More people would watch it if it was more widely available. Now, of course, as Alan says, you will need to watch season 2 to fully appreciate what comes next.

I can't wait!!!

Anonymous said...

I just got caught up on this series (well, a few ep's from S1 and all of S2 On Demand). I like the show, but was a bit underwhelmed after all the build up and accolades it's been getting. Because of the subject matter I can't help thinking about the Sopranos or the Wire sometimes (which it can never live up to) and because of Cranston's Emmys I keep comparing him and the show to Jon Hamm and Mad Men.

I really like the show, sometimes it seems a bit too cutesy with how things work out in the end. And I think Cranston does a really good job with Walt/Heisenberg, but I don't see him being better than Jon Hamm/Don Draper. Maybe I'm just biased.

(sorry if this is an old topic/old wound on here. Again, I just got caught up on the show and haven't followed what Alan and others have said on this blog the past two years).