Where is Giancarlo Esposito’s Emmy? The fastidious, cautious and reservedly menacing Gustavo “Gus” Fring has been an effective counterbalance to Bryan Cranston’s Walter White and his narcissistic paranoia. Since it debuted on AMC in 2008 Breaking Bad has been consistent in its excellence and season four is no different.
With one small hiccup in the writing this year the series story arcs, characters and immaculate direction continue unabated. If you watch the series you will notice the writing problem as it practically jumps out of the screen as a group of law enforcement officials used to looking at everyone as a suspect listen to a story which, while believable, just does not ring true but they buy it. It is really a very small thing and absolutely necessary to the plot development. How it could have been handled differently is not clear but someone gets paid to figure those things out.
Season Four of Breaking Bad though is all about Gus Fring. As dangerous as the viewer may suspect him of being this season confirms that Gus is not just a Volvo driving owner of a small chain of chicken restaurants. Viewers know that Gus is a tough customer he’s had to deal with the Cartel and the DEA in the past and has always done so with aplomb but the ice water in Gus’ veins in season four easily matches the forever seething Walter. How Gus manages Walt, Jesse, Mike and the Cartel is the backbone of season four. Walt and Jesse are in full reactive mode just trying to keep everything going so they can stay alive.
Breaking Bad season four starts exactly where viewers have come to expect it to start – with the natural next scene after the previous season’s last scene. The seamless narratives and compelling story arcs that Breaking Bad has brought to television are exceptional. Continuity does suffer this season with the really apparent weight gain by Anna Gunn which is nothing short of distracting. Why the weight gain? Who knows? The weight gain is never addressed in the context of the story. Conversely Walt seemed to have dropped a few pounds from last season. Other than the weight issue there are no other glaring time issues though there is some fan buzz around “Breaking Bad” time versus real world time.
This season aside from being all about Gus also focuses, courtesy of Gus, on the caustic and toxic relationship Walt has with Jesse. In Walt’s world everything is about Walt and what is best for Walt. Gus reveals that truth to Jesse in very practical terms. Add into the mix the ever present Cartel demand for the head of Heisenberg, Hank making stunningly fast progress on the paralysis front, Marie being Marie and Skyler convinced she can launder Walt’s earnings through a car wash he doesn’t want to buy and you have the makings of a truly engrossing season.
Despite having plenty of lead time to do the review Season four of Breaking Bad was a marathon session of television viewing for this reviewer because I could not bring myself to stop watching: I had to know what was going to happen next. The season ends on two notes – one involving Gus and the other far more sinister one involving Walt. It is more than enough to make waiting for the release of season five unbearable.