Breaking Bad, Season 4

Last time I checked in on this show, I said I was compelled to watch the next season. If you note the time stamp, it was a year and a half ago. Apparently I’m not normal; binge-watching Walter White’s escapades isn’t at the top of my pop culture priority list.

It bothers me kind of a lot that it’s taking this long for me to watch this show. From all the hype, all the chatter, all the ear-plugging-to-avoid-spoilers, I feel like I should have been absolutely smitten with New Mexico, and I should have lost sleep in order to finish the show faster and engage myself in all the finale talk. But I can’t bring myself to binge-watch anything, and I still can’t bring myself to declare this the best show on television. I have no explanation, or even conjecture, for why. I just want to state it, and that’s all.

I really, really liked Season 4. It’s my favorite so far. It toyed with my emotions, and it finally made me care about the characters I was seeing, rather than just root for them to do something wildly irresponsible and thrilling. I feel like I’m finally starting to “get” Vince Gilligan, and especially trust his bizarre aesthetic. He takes a stark, naturally beautiful landscape, and distorts it in a way that prevents the viewer from ever being comfortable watching the show. That’s dark and brilliant.

I began the season hating Hank (Dean Norris) and his shitty attitude with a fiery passion. I wanted nothing more than for Marie (Betsy Brandt) to flush all his medication down the toilet and remove all his extremity props from his medical bed. (I also love her unconditionally after watching The Michael J. Fox Show and wishing she were my aunt.) He surpassed dickweed levels of rudeness and went straight into toolnotch douchebag–and then, somewhere in “Problem Dog,” he started figuring it all out, Gus-wise, and he regained his confidence, and he smiled a few times, and he earned back a portion of my respect. Maybe it was validating at first, seeing him get shut down by his own former employers as he tried to pursue an investigation of Gus’s operation, but then it became impossible not to root for him. I’ve never really been pro-Walter White, but I’m definitely not anti-Hank anymore.

You know who I’m pro, though? Skyler. I’m so pro-Skyler. I have no idea why I kept hearing Skyler hatred surface a few years ago, because Skyler rules. As Walter spins downward, Skyler soars. She could have done a million things wrong with the confidential information she was given, but she didn’t. She’s in on Walter’s secret, and she’s helping him keep it better than he possibly could. Anna Gunn forces you to respect her when she’s on screen–she’s tall, and stoic, and difficult to break–and that confidence has bled into Skyler even more this season than in previous ones. I suppose we always knew she was just as fucked up as Walter, but this season, we truly know why they got married in the first place. They’re a demented team. Maybe even more demented than Walter and Jesse (Aaron Paul), whose interplay was downplayed this season. I pined for more yos and bitches, but the temporary separation of big W and little J only set up something far greater, I imagine.

Speaking of big W… actually, what am I supposed to say here? Bryan Cranston won three Emmys in a row. Clearly he knows what he’s doing. All I’ll say is, “Crawl Space” is one of the most superbly directed, and scariest, episodes of TV I’ve ever watched, and the only scary thing I’ve seen that made me grin from ear to ear after it was over. At least until I saw the image of Gus “Harvey Dent” Fring. Good riddance, chicken wang.

I’m looking forward to bringing this thing home… in a year or so. I’ll take my time.