The premiere of Breaking Bad picks up right where the last season left off. Telling you that Walter and Jesse are still alive doesn’t spoil anything that you shouldn’t have already assumed. I won’t get into any more specifics, as I’m sure you’re reading this review through the slits in your fingers, excited to know what’s in store without really finding out. All I’ll tell you is sh*t gets real.
Breaking Bad has always pushed the limits of television. Not just with its explicit content, but also its unconventional storytelling and portrayal of its characters. The show makes us sympathize with a meth-dealing murderer. Though this is in no small part due to Bryan Cranston’s brilliant performance as Walter White, we should instinctually despise this guy. When he was suffering from cancer, we could somehow justify his actions. He was only cooking for a short period of time in order to accrue enough money to provide for his family when he’s gone. Then he was in the game so deep that he couldn’t get out without fatal repercussions. Now Walter has become the man he used to outwit or evade. He’s only doing these vile things for himself now, and it’s turning him into a person we won’t soon recognize, or possibly even like anymore.
Likability is the key issue that the Breaking Bad writers will wrestle with in the fourth season of the show. How far can they push these characters and stories to the edge until the audience starts getting shaky about the view? Don’t get me wrong; I love the dark elements of the show. Last season’s finale was phenomenal. But it was definitely the beginning of the end. Jesse’s execution of Gale shifted the tides. Gale didn’t gun down a child, or threaten his boss’s life. He simply needed to die so that Walt could live. Walt ordered his first hit. Jesse might feel the regret of his actions, but Walt can chalk it up to a necessary business decision. It seems as if Walt now accepts what he has become. He’s going forward embracing the advantages and plights of a meth kingpin. This means we’re in for even darker territory than previously treaded, and not just for Walt, but for all of the characters. I hope you’ve built up your tolerance.