After last season’s finale — the Gus head and the flower pot reveal — how could the Breaking Bad season five opener (Sunday, AMC, 10PM ET) possibly live up to the expectations fans have for the final season of one of the best (the best, I’d argue) TV dramas of all time?
Yet, the first two episodes rate a five out of five stars, two thumbs up, 10 on a scale of one to 10 … by whatever rating system you use, the season premiere is flawless, picking up where season four left off and offering a hint into what I think is going to be Walter White’s downfall.
In short: his ego. Walt (Bryan Cranston) was feeling super badass after pulling off his Gus plot, but he’s not satisfied with being able to tell wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) that he won. Nor is he going to be satisfied with the fact that he did win. Without any major spoilers, there’s a moment in the season five premiere — the episode’s called “Live Free or Die” — where Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) tells his dad that Hank (Dean Norris) is going to be hailed as a hero for being the only person to have been onto Gus’ real activities.
Walt’s reaction is priceless, and so telling. He bristles ever so slightly at the thought of Hank as a hero, or more specifically at the fact that Walt Jr. sees his uncle as one, and it’s not because Walt knows Hank’s ongoing investigation of Gus threatens to expose Walt’s own misdeeds.
It’s because Walt wants his son to know what a tough guy he is (or thinks he is). And more than wanting his son to know how tough he is, the things he’s gotten away with and the people who fear him, Walt wants Hank to know.
Hank, who’s been vulnerable and insecure himself since his shooting, spent years poking fun at Walt and his meek high school chemistry teacher persona. And now that Walt’s Mr. Chips-to-Scarface transformation — as Cranston and BB creator Vince Gilligan frequently refer to Walt’s journey — is near completion, Walt wants Hank to know he’s no longer the schlubby teacher.
Despite what it would mean if Hank (DEA officer Hank) found out, Walt is dying for him to know what he’s done, what he’s doing and who he’s doing it to/for/with/against.
And that, I’m guessing, is going to ultimately be the specific cause of Walt’s downfall (and no spoiler there, because Cranston and Gilligan have often said Walt is not going to get away with his bad works).
Speaking of … if you still had any smidgen of sympathy left for Walt after his plot with the ricin and kiddie Brock, a scene in the season premiere between an ever more manipulative Walt and a still too trusting Jesse (Aaron Paul) should take care of that.
There are a couple of little surprises in the first two episodes of the new season (“Live Free or Die” and “Madrigal” are the eps AMC provided for review), and a couple of much-welcome moments of levity (two words: truck and magnet), but the most chilling scene is the one in which Walt utters the words “I forgive you.”
Because he doesn’t, and the person he says it to is very aware of what that could mean.
And if that isn’t enough to get you jazzed for the new season, check out these Breaking Bad goodies:
— The Hollywood Reporter‘s cover story on BB, with tidbits like the network that rudely rejected the show and the actors AMC initially wanted to cast as Walter White (John Cusack?!?!).
— Though he’s gone (and how), Gus Fring (Emmy-deserving Giancarlo Esposito) will certainly not be forgotten, and he continues to play a big role in BB events. In honor of his exit, AMC has a fun little “Go Fring Yourself” game, in which you put your head on Gus’ body and, well, a few “ding ding dings” later, you’re, ahem, facing off with Tio (RIP).
— The New York Daily News has an interview with the underrated Dean Norris, who plays Walt’s brother-in-law Hank. Norris, a Harvard grad, says playing the moral character isn’t as fun as playing the bad guy, and is often overlooked come Emmy time, but he’s giving a standout performance in a cast where there isn’t a bad performance.
— Dish subscribers who are freaking out about being AMC-less for Sunday night’s premiere can sign up to watch the episode live at AMCTV.com.
— You will love Aaron Paul even more than you already do after reading GQ‘s interview with him.
— Bryan Cranston picks his 13 favorite Breaking Bad moments at The Daily Beast.com.
— The 27 best Breaking Bad memes (numbers 16 and 19 crack me up).
— 25 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Breaking Bad from Buzzfeed.com.
— Aaron Paul in a Corn Pops commercial.
— A Breaking Bad A to Z feature I wrote for AOL before season 4 (so yes, it’s in serious need of an update, but still fun).
I only wish this trailer was for a real movie. Check out Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul as song spoofer (and one-time TV star) Weird Al Yankovic in yet another great Funny or Die.com clip, for an (unfortunately) fake Al biopic.
PS – If you’ve never seen the real Al in concert, I can’t strongly enough recommend that you do. One of the most fun shows you’ll ever see.
30 Rock with 22 nominations, 99 nods for HBO … big numbers for them at this morning’s 2009 Emmy Awards nominations announcement, but those weren’t the biggest surprises when Grey’s Anatomy star Chandra Wilson and The Big Bang Theory‘s Jim Parsons read the list of Emmy contenders.
Among the surprise snubs:
– No Best Drama nod for 24
– No Best Actor in a Drama nod for Kiefer Sutherland (what?!)
– No Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy nod for Jeremy Piven, who won the award last year. Guess people are still really ticked off about that whole mercury poisoning business
– A near shut-out for buzzworthy HBO drama True Blood, which got nominations for title design, casting and art direction … and that’s it
Now, among the surprise, mostly happy surprises, nominees:
– Family Guy and Flight of the Conchords for Best Comedy
– Big Love and Breaking Bad for Best Drama
– Sarah Silverman for Best Actress in a Comedy for The Sarah Silverman Show
– Jemaine Clement for Best Actor in a Comedy for Flight of the Conchords
– Elisabeth Moss for Best Actress in a Drama for Mad Men (so deserved)
– Aaron Paul for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for Breaking Bad (ditto)
– And Jack McBrayer, one of the most delightful guys on TV, for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for 30 Rock
And the nominations that really sum up this year’s contenders: in the Best Writing – Comedy category, four out of five nods went to 30 Rock, while Mad Men snagged four out of five nominations for Best Writing in a Drama.
With some of TV’s more popular – with viewers, not just with critics – shows earning some Emmy nomination recognition this year, it’s clear that the Emmy folk are trying to make sure the telecast fares better than last year’s show, which was the lowest-rated in Emmy history. Having Neil Patrick Harris as host (he’s also a Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy nominee for How I Met Your Mother – yay) is another step towards that, so here’s hoping that the Sept. 20 Emmy telecast will be one worth watching.
So, were your faves nominated? Are you bummed about 24, Kiefer or Piven’s snubs? Anyone or any show you think didn’t deserve the nomination(s) they got? And does NPH as host have you looking forward to the 61st annual Emmys show on Sept. 20?
And now, the rest of the nominees (the complete complete list, including technical awards, is available at Emmys.org)…
Outstanding Comedy Series
Flight of the Conchords
How I Met Your Mother
Outstanding Drama Series
Breaking Bad‘s second season, like its first, went by far too quickly. The season finale airs Sunday night (10PM ET, AMC), and co-star Aaron Paul says it ends with a wicked cliffhanger. Any guesses? It certainly isn’t looking good for Paul’s Jesse or Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston’s Walt, whose relationship has been spiraling along with their own personal lives.
By the way, the AMC Website offers full episode videos of the entire season, meaning a Sunday afternoon catch-up marathon might be in order.
Charlie Sheen, Russell Brand and Louis C.K. are getting most of the attention, but I’m most excited that one of the best new shows of last TV season — Wilfred — returns for its second season on FX tonight (10PM ET). Season one of the series ended with a cliffhanger — had Ryan (Elijah Wood) […]