Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
4 Stars
High-Def Extras
1 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season

Street Date:
March 16th, 2010
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
March 24th, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2009
Studio:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Length:
615 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Led by creator Vince Gilligan and star Bryan Cranston, who won a second Best Actor Emmy in a row as cancer-sufferer/methamphetamine manufacturer/expectant father Walt White, 'Breaking Bad' returned for its second season and maintained the high standard of quality established in its first.

The season picked up right where the previous one ended: With Walt and Jesse (Aaron Paul) in the junkyard with crazed drug dealer Tuco (Raymond Cruz) and the complications that ensue. After tensions ease, Walt calculates that he needs to make $737,000, which comes out to 11 more drug deals, to take care of his family after he's gone. However there are a lot of variables he doesn't take into account that arise over the season as he gets deeper and deeper into the business.

(Editor's Note: Spoilers throughout.) Tuco makes an executive decision and kidnaps Walt and Jesse and plans to at least take Walt to Mexico to work in manufacturing. Walt's disappearance worries his family. Once they escape Tuco's grasp, Walt and Jesse discover there's a dealer void in Albuquerque and Walt pushes Jesse to fill it. Jesse has some friends sell drugs, but when one gets robbed, Jesse has to step up and send a message not to mess with his crew. Jesse tries to expand his territory but other gangs push back. As their business expands, Walt has to deal with his cancer, the increasing distrust of his wife, to whom the explanations for his behavior grow less believable, and the impending birth of his daughter.

With the season expanded to 13 episodes, other characters gain a greater presence and new ones are introduced. As bills pile up and expensive treatments are suggested, Skyler (Anna Gunn) returns to her old accounting job. Because of his great work, DEA agent Hank (Dean Norris) gets promoted to El Paso. Marie (Betsy Brandt) has a lesser role because the actress had a baby. The new characters shape the direction of series. Jane (Krysten Ritter), the daughter of Jesse's new landlord, turns out to be a recovering addict and introduces him to heroin. When one of their dealer's gets busted, attorney Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk who is consistently hysterical) comes into their lives and wants to be the Tom Haden to Walt's Vito Corleone.

A great tease throughout the season takes place during the teasers of a few episodes revealing a future major incident at Walt's house. An eye from a stuffed animal floats in the pool, a number of items are bagged up, Walt's car is severely damaged like a bomb went off inside. The revelation is unexpected but delivers an emotional wallop.

The writers again do a masterful job creating scripts filled with believable scenarios and character actions that pay off with satisfying resolutions with hardly any loose ends discarded out of necessity. Actions have consequences, and that's a major theme. With the third season starting now, we can only imagine where all of this is taking us.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Like the season one Blu-ray, the video is presented with a 1080p/ AVC MPEG-4 transfer, but this season the image is improved. The series' 1.78:1 aspect ratio remains preserved and many elements (the inkiness of blacks, the strong contrast, apparent depth) are handled with the same high standards.

Everything sees improvement. Cinematographer Michael Slovis has augmented the series' color palette by accentuating the golden hues of the New Mexico desert that were absent from Season One. It's evident immediately that warmer tones are being used in season-opener 'Seven Thirty-Seven' from the scenes that replay events from the Season One finale. The new saturation is welcome and beautifully rendered on this video transfer. The source looks even better as grain isn't as evident, though it still appears in outdoor scenes. Shadow delineation is better rendered as well, as evident when trapped Walt and Jesse are trapped in the desert in a powerless RV in '4 Days Out.'

All told, this surpasses the video representation of the first season's already very good Blu-ray release.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The Audio is again presented in 5.1 DTS-HS MA and meets the same high standards of the previous season release with its attention to detail. Care is given to ambiance from the rumble of trains passing through the city to the soft chirping of crickets surrounding an isolated parking lot as Walt Jr. learns to drive in 'Down.' That episode also reveals one of the many great examples of sound shifting position throughout the soundfield as Jesse steals back his RV. Another good example of imaging is when Walt races to make a big deal in 'Mandala.' The subwoofer again delivers on the music, gunfire, and explosions, with the latter being powerful but never distorting.

The only flaw was exactly like last season, but this time isolated to one episode. The dialogue in 'Over' was too soft in quiet moments even when compared to similar volume levels throughout the series. Otherwise, another very nice track.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Although the menu on each disc shows all the special features, they're spread across all three discs.

  • Audio Commentary - 'Seven Thirty Seven.' Cranston, who also directed, is joined by Gilligan, Paul, Gunn, Brandt, and RJ Mitte. Like last season, the group has a lot of fun hanging out together.
  • Audio Commentary - ' Negro y Azul.' Episode writer Peter Gould, and cinematographer Slovis join Gilligan, Cranston and Paul. The smaller group allows for a more-controlled look at the episode.
  • Audio Commentary - '4 Days Out.' Director Michelle MacLaren replaces Gould from the group above.
  • Audio Commentary - 'ABQ.' Actor John de Lancie, who plays Jane's father, joins the group from 'Seven Thirty Seven.' A large number of actors make for a more raucous affair.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD, 15 min) – Accessible through the episode menu, 13 scenes come from nine of the episodes.
  • Inside 'Breaking Bad' - (SD, 46 min) – Accessible by the episode or through the main menu, these featurettes examine the elements of each episode's story.
  • Behind the Scenes - (SD, 33 min) – An eleven-part feature that looks at the making of the series from different stages of production. Interviews with cast and crew explore areas such as special effects, props, and sets. There are also segments that focus on the creation of scenes from the 'Negro y Azul' episode: Making of 'Negro y Azul' Music Video and The Tortoise Scene. The 'Negro y Azul' music video is also available (1080p, 3:25).
  • Better Call Saul Commercial - (SD, 1 min) – The amusing faux-commercial that airs in the show but seems excessive to have separately.
  • Gag Reel - (SD, 4 min) – Typical on-set high jinks but not long enough.
  • Cop Talk With Dean Norris - (SD, 11 min) – Norris speaks with real-life officers in a quartet of silly clips.
  • Walt's Warning - (SD, 3 min) – A look at a viral marketing campaign employed for the series.
  • 'Breaking Bad' Webisodes - (HD, 23 min) – These short online clips are fun character moments for the actors, but not anything essential to the series.
  • A Look at Other Seasons - (SD/HD, 2/2 min) – Disc One offers a 'Season 1 Recap' while on Disc Three viewers can glimpse a 'Season 3 Sneak Peak' though the latter doesn't offer much info.
  • Vince Gilligan's Photo Gallery - (HD) – Creator Gilligan again presents his photos taken over the course of the season's production.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • The Writers' Lab - An Interactive Guide to the Elements of 'ABQ' (HD) – A good feature where viewers are shown how the writers break down the events of the episode on flashcards. A few cards allow a jump to the script and then the finished product.

Final Thoughts

After setting expectations very high with Season One, the creative team shows it wasn't a fluke with Season Two. In fact, in some instances they surpass what has come before as nearly double the episodes allowed for a wider scope for the stories and characters to traverse. If you haven't seen 'Breaking Bad', you are missing out on one of the best dramas currently on television. The Blu-ray does a great job in its audio and video presentation and shows off the great work created for this series.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • BD-50 Dual Layer Discs
  • Three-Disc Set

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English SDH
  • French

Supplements

  • Audio Commentaries
  • Vince Gilligan's Photo Gallery
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Inside 'Breaking Bad'
  • Behind the Scenes
  • Better Call Saul Commercial
  • 'Negro y Azul' Music Video
  • Gag Reel
  • Cop Talk With Dean Norris
  • Walt's Warning
  • 'Breaking Bad' Webisodes
  • A Look at Other Seasons

Exclusive HD Content

  • The Writers' Lab - An Interactive Guide to the Elements of 'ABQ'

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