Breaking Bad: The Final Season (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD) – You don’t need my review to know if you’re going to pick this up for yourself. Though this set is titled “The Final Season,” it is actually the second half of the fifth and final season, which AMC split into two parts, and if you’ve invested in the show this far, you will not want to miss its riveting last act.
This eight-episode run begins with Walt (Bryan Cranston), the one-time high school chemistry teacher who evolved from desperate cancer victim to superstar meth cook to ruthless Godfather of his domain, out of the meth business, or so he thinks. His DEA agent brother-in-law finally figures out that Walt was the mystery meth kingpin he’s been chasing all this time and the investigation stirs the violence back up with a vengeance. Of course, it all comes back home to family and friends. No one is untouched by Walt’s actions.
Cranston won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series three years running for his performance and the acclaim is well deserved, and not just for creating the most quietly intimidating character on TV. His evolution, and the rationalizations that accompany every step of his transformation, have been so nuanced over the five seasons that the change only looks jarring when put up against the first season. Yet that underlying arrogance and cruelty has been there from the first episode, buried under the self-pity and bitterness, and it drives his final resurrection for revenge.
The Sopranos set the bar for how to end this kind of epic cable drama of corrupted anti-heroes and Breaking Bad, in its way, meets the standard. Vince Gilligan expanded his final season in a compromise with AMC but he maintained his commitment to the arc of Walt’s story. There’s no redemption when you’ve crushed so many lives under the boot of your ambition, but that doesn’t mean Gilligan doesn’t give us one last moment to root for the bad guy when he goes after folks who are even worse.
Eight uncensored episodes with commentary on every episode by Vince Gilligan and Bryan Cranston joined by members of the cast and crew, plus four featurettes, an alternate ending, deleted and extended scenes, 16 episodes of “Inside Breaking Bad,” the “Mythbuster Breaking Bad” special, and more supplements.
Of course, you may have been waiting all this time for Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (Sony, Blu-ray, DVD). Not only do you get all 62 episodes in one set, you get an exclusive documentary chronicling the production of the final season, a Pollos Hermanos apron and all the supplements from previous seasons (of course), and it comes in a collectible replica barrel just like the ones that Walter used. Only smaller. And filled with discs instead of meth.