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).
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.
You may know Paul F. Tompkins from Mr. Show, Tenacious D or The Sarah Silverman Program, or for guest appearances on series like Frasier, Weeds and Pushing Daisies, or for the stand-up career that has included Comedy Central specials, pop culture commentary on Countdown with Keith Olbermann and debating pop culture evils like Oprah and PETA on Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil.
But Best Week Ever fans – and as a recent BWE Tweetup in NYC proved, there are lots of us – have come to know and love the Philly funny guy as the host of our favorite pop culture wrap-up series. Tompkins, a regular talking head on the series, brought his comedic sensibilities, his endearing charm and, of course, his spiffy suits to the forefront in October 2008, when VH1 named him as host of the revamped BWE, now officially titled Best Week Ever with Paul F. Tompkins (Fridays, 11PM ET, VH1).
On the afternoon of a new Best Week Ever episode recently, I had the chance to chat with Paul about everything from the show’s new format, how he and the BWE team go about making us laugh every week and his favorite BWE guests to what TV shows he watches for fun, his dream job and his refreshing take on his career and, yes, what the “F.” stands for.
PS – Fans who follow Tompkins on Twitter will be privvy to inside scoop on the show, like recent Tweets from Paul about tonight’s BWE guests, Kris Allen and Adam Lambert.
Hey, Paul! Thank you so much for taking the time to do this today.
Oh, thank you for wanting to talk to me.
So, let me start with the format change. I loved the old show and I love the new format, but how did the change come about?
Oh, well thank you. That’s very nice to hear. I think it came about because the show had been going on for about four, fur-and-a-half years, and I think the feeling was, ‘Hey, we need to change it up a little bit.’ You know, it had been the same thing for awhile, and a lot of other shows on our very network had been kind of copying the talking heads style. So there was plenty of that out there, and I think there was an idea to mix it up a little bit and make it a much more written show, as opposed to the way it was, with comics riffing and stuff like that. It’s a lot harder to control the content (with the old format), but if everybody is there at the same time, I’m here with the writers, we write the show together throughout the week … It’s just a lot easier to produce the show and focus it and have a consistent point of view.
The new format is obviously driven a lot by your personality, too. Was it scary to be that front and center? It would seem to be a lot of pressure …
Yeah it is, because I hope people like me. It’s a lot of me, and, you know, there are people, I’m sure, who thought that a little of me goes a long way, and some who feel the other way, that they would like to see more of me. So it’s a tough thing to consider the people that have been viewers of the show already, and then people who have never seen the show before, maybe had no interest in the show before. How do we get new people, how am I presented to new people … it can be an intimidating thing.
How cool is Psych? So cool that among its many very diverse pop culture references has been Al B. Sure!, The Peanuts Christmas pageant dance, Drew Lachey and The Mentalist, a show that, as any Psych devotee will point out, came after our beloved Psych.
43. The Sopranos reruns on A&E
The show’s still so good and so layered that you’ll find new things you didn’t catch the first time around, and I find I’m not missing the naughtier words at all.
44. Desperate Housewives
Was good, sucked there for a season or two, then bounced back. Despite the skepticism about the jumping-five-years-ahead storyline this season, I think it works, and has managed to freshen up a show that could have jumped into jumping the shark territory quite easily.
45. Boob tube to big screen adaptations
There’s the good (The Fugitive, The Adaams Family, The Brady Bunch Movie, Starsky & Hutch and most definitely the new Star Trek flick), the bad (Wild Wild West, Bewitched, The Dukes of Hazzard, Lost in Space and Scooby-Doo) and the what the hell were they thinking (The Honeymooners), but I always get excited about a TV show being made into a movie (or vice versa) and the possibilities of how some of my faves might be reimagined.
46. VH1’s Top 20 Countdown
Relying on VH1 videos to find new music? Yep, and I don’t care if that’s unhip. The fact is, I don’t remember the last time I saw a video on MTV, and though I often hear new tunes I like during The Hills or The City or The Real World (already admitted I’m still watching it), VH1’s weekend countdown of the top 20 videos is one of the best places to not only hear, but see new bands. It’s how I first discovered the pop/rock goodness of John Mayer‘s debut CD (after he had the bad luck to release the album on September 11, 2001), and I’d argue that American Idol “loser” Chris Daughtry owes a goodly portion of the success of his debut CD to his videos’ constant presence on the VH1 countdown.
47. Pat Kiernan on NY1
Those of you outside the NYC area may be unaware of the soothing morning goodness of hearing the delightfully smooth-voiced Kiernan tell you what’s in the newspapers every day, but if every city had Kiernan reading what’s In the Papers for them, it would amount to a better start to their day. Those outside NYC may also remember him as host of VH1’s World Series of Pop Culture, and you can also catch him on Twitter.
48. Malcolm in the Middle
Loving the FX repeats, especially of the later seasons, which I’d stopped watching when the show originally aired. But in the latter years, it’s all about Reese and Dewey and Hal (the comedic genius that is Bryan Cranston), as, apparently, the writers figured out what most viewers knew all along – Malcolm was a dud. The rest of the family rocked.
49. Breaking Bad
Bryan Cranston, comedic genius (see above). Turns out he’s a damn fine dramatic actor, too.
50. Saturday Night Live
Yep, still watching it, every episode, every season, even when it’s not the must-see show during an election year. Love the Target Lady, love Kenan Thompson, love Andy Samberg‘s digital shorts, love the Justin Timberlake appearances. Most of all, love the history of the show … one of the coolest things I’ve gotten to do as a TV writer was attending a live show (last season’s Jonah Hill-hosted ep). I was sitting there the whole time thinking about how I used to sneak out of bed to watch Eddie Murphy performing on that very stage. Back when Eddie Murphy was a comedic genius. Sigh.
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) […]