Because I review a whole tv series rather than individual episodes, there is a chance of spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the whole series yet, stop reading now!
The secret of a good second season is to take what was the most successful elements of the first season and build on that. This becomes a huge challenge when your first season was as good as Breaking Bad’s was. Its even more tricky when your show is more of a single, running narrative rather than singular episodes using an established format.
It was always going to be a huge ask for Vince Gilligan’s series to outdo what was almost perfection. They would have to be darker, more extreme in places, putting their two main characters in situations which were more hazardous than the very dangerous events they managed to get through last season. They would also have to build on what we already knew about Walt and Jessie without changing what made those characters so appealing and watchable in the first season.
Luckily, Breaking Bad manages to do all this perfectly. It opens with a fantastic story which places both of our central characters at the very crazy hands of new addition to the show, Tuco. It leads to a fantastic, dramatic stand-off against our inexperienced drug dealers and a man, in a wheelchair, with a bell. It begins the season at a full-on dramatic, dark tone, setting out the rest of the season fantastically.
The show also makes a bold move, changing the motivations of Walt slightly but highlighting how much events of this season and last have changed him. The episode entitled “Over” encapsulated this perfectly, with one of the greatest endings to any episode I’ve seen so far. It’s the development of both his character and Jessie that make this show so compelling. They are both growing and changing as characters, becoming bolder, more confident and much darker. Jessie always feels like he’s out of his depth slightly, which suits his character perfectly. Walt is fast becoming very good at his role as the chemist and controlling element of the team, and this is the most interesting development of the show as a whole. Its called Breaking Bad and seeing Walt really beginning to break bad is the reason this show is so successful.
The show could only go so far following these two characters though and its the new additions to the cast which have helped keep the series fresh. Bob Odenkirk’s slimy, criminal lawyer Saul is one of these great new cast members. He gives Walt someone else to bounce ideas off and brings a newer, criminal dynamic to the cast. He comes into his own much more later in the season, when his worth and expertise help Walt and Jessie get themselves out of more than one crisis.
Alongside Saul is Krysten Ritter’s Jane. A love interest for Jessie was an interesting way to go and a good way to develop his character further. He gets to do much more this season and show much more emotion than he did in the season 1. I still stand by the fact that he would own any other show he was in but unfortunately shares his screen time with an amazing Bryan Cranston, who steps his performance up a notch again.
In fact, the best aspect of the whole series is still the building relationship between Walt and Jessie. They get closer this season and their scenes are the funniest, most dramatic and most compelling of anything else. You feel like you’ve been through all their experiences with them, from the shoot-out with Tuco to the being trapped in the desert, in another incredible episode, “4 Days Out.”
Just like season 1, in fact, more so, season 2 of Breaking Bad was must-watch telly. It always leaves you on a cliffhanger or dangles a “what-if” that peaks your interest. Not since The Sopranos or The Wire have I wanted to see the resolution of each show and the season as a whole, as much as I did here.
Overall, Breaking Bad manages to improve on what was a practically perfect first season. The characters are well-developed, the stories are more extreme and darker and the new additions to the cast force Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul to step up their game even more. It’s still the story and relationship of these two central characters which keeps me watching and I can’t imagine how things could get much worst (or better?) for Walt and Jessie.
Best Episode – 4 Days Out: Such a difficult choice and Grilled and Over almost took the prize but 4 Days Out is a Walt and Jessie episode, almost exclusively so, and begins to show how strong their relationship has become.
Best performance – Bryan Cranston as Walter White
Should there have been another season? – Yes. This show still has so much to give and has dangled so many story strands to be resolved. I just hope season 3 can continue at the same quality as season 2.
Season Rating – 5!
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)