Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season
- Street Date:
- June 4th, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Luke Hickman
- Review Date: 1
- June 6th, 2013
- Movie Release Year:
- 374 Minutes
- MPAA Rating:
- Release Country
- United States
The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
This is it – the beginning of the end. After four fantastic seasons that progressively made the series grow stronger and stronger, we're just about there. I can't say that I agree with the decision that AMC and Sony made to split the 16-episode fifth and final season into two parts, but I'm really excited for where it's going. While this Blu-ray release labels itself as "The Fifth Season," it's really only the first half of season season five. I imagine that when the second half makes its way to Blu-ray, it will be labeled as "The Final Season." The eight episodes contained in this set don't quite function as a stand-alone season – there isn't a complete arc – but it definitely sets itself up for what should be an intense finale. And with the show's track record, it's fair to assume that 'Breaking Bad' is going to end with a very loud bang.
Season four ended with Mr. Walter White (three-time Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul, who also has two Emmys of his own) obtaining complete liberation from their smart, intimidating, and oppressive distributor - Gus Fring. Without a single obstacle in their way and with the best "cook" in the world, the sky is the limit for our anti-hero duo. There are so many juicy moments in the contained eight episodes, moments sure to make every fan of the series giggle with excitement, that I'm going to try my very best to keep the details vague for those of you who have not yet watched it.
There are three major results of Gus no longer being part of the picture: the DEA – including Walt's brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) – are pushing hard to find every known member of Gus' international operation; without a lab and distribution, Walt and Jesse must now find new methods of cooking and distributing their 99-percent pure crystal meth; and Walt's ego is out of control. If you just took down biggest meth operation in North America, wouldn't you have an inflated head as well?
The Blu-ray cover art contains the text "All Hail the King" emboldened on the front. This isn't a praise that we, the audience, give to Mr. White. No, it's a praise that he gives to himself. Having defeated the one man that very well may have been smarter than himself, Walt is out of control. As we see, it's his way or the highway. There isn't a trace of Mr. White in Walt anymore – it's all Heisenberg from here on out. It's always been obvious that this series is all about the erosion of good man. At this point, the once-good man no longer exists and, in comparison, Jesse begins to look like a saint. Walter White may no longer have cancer, but he is a cancer. He brings death, ruining lives and families wherever he goes. His intentions were good in the start, but that's no longer the case. The character that I once rooted for is becoming so evil that I cannot wait to see him meet his demise – assuming that's where showrunner, creator, and writer Vince Gilligan is taking the series.
But just because Gus is gone, it doesn't mean that other problems aren't going to arise. As we saw in her last scene from season four, Walt's wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) no longer views her husband the same way. She will continue to launder his dirty money through their car wash, but she's no longer happily cooperating and she's going to fight Walt's will until his - or her - dying breath.
Aside from past issues with competing cartels, Gus' operation was functioning flawlessly until Walt and Jesse came around. His team was silent and tight, their loyalty and trust never in question – but now that the DEA is applying heat and Gus is out of the picture, how quiet do you think his pressured henchmen will be now. And as if Gus' 10 major employees weren't posing enough of a threat, how do you think Gus' right-hand man Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is going to take the news of the season four's final events?
Season five doesn't feel like a complete season (which I why I'm assuming the cover art doesn't follow suit with the previous season releases by titling it 'The Complete Fifth Season'), but that doesn't mean that it isn't filled with greatness. There are plenty of extremely memorable moments – for the good or bad of the characters – and it's completely entertaining through and through. Starting with the season's opening tease, there are plenty of puzzling twists and ominous foreshadowing. The episodes found on this Blu-ray set might have been strengthened by running fluidly with the final eight, but at least this set allows you to catch up and get refreshed prior to the August 11, 2013 premiere.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Buena Vista bugged the hell out of me with their inconsistent Blu-ray releases of 'Lost' seasons, so I must tip my hat to Sony for maintaining continuity through the 'Breaking Bad' Blu-rays. Aside from the blue keepcases varying in width (due to the varying number of discs), the releases are identical in both physical style and menu set-up. 'The Fifth Season' release contain two Region-free BD-50s in an eco-LITE Vortex keepcase. Art is printed on the back of the cover art sheet that can be seen through the open case. The only new addition to the packaging is the inclusion of Ultraviolet copies of all eight episodes. Aside from a skippable Sony vanity reel, not a thing plays before the main menu of each disc. Episodes three, six and seven are "uncensored" and contain language or images that couldn't air on AMC.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The consistency in video qualities hasn't waned in the slightest from season to season. Season five is carried along by a near-perfect 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that presents it in its original 1.78:1 broadcast aspect ratio. Please remember that 'Breaking Bad' is shot on film stock with a very particular style, so the (at times) heavy grain adds an appropriate look to the gritty series.
As always, the video quality is as clear as Walter White's blue meth. In all 374-minutes, there's only one tiny cleanliness flaw that caught my attention. In episode 507 at the 23:21 mark, there's a thin white scratch or hair towards the top right side of the frame over a black area of the screen. That's it. There's not another flaw in the physical transfer.
The southwest colorization is still exaggerated and heavily saturated – especially in desert settings. The sepia tones are poignant and fiery. These are the only settings that make use of strong filters. Every other setting has strong colorization that ranges all around the color wheel. As the story has turned darker, so has the lighting. There are countless scenes of Walt lurking in the shadows, only the silver lining of his silhouette carrying any light. Black levels are deep, many times the shadows are deep and mood-setting – an obvious design decision.
Fine details are consistent and impressive. A new character, the always-stressed and high-strung Lydia, has several head-swirling extreme close-ups. In the midst of these panic attacks, the small veins around her eye sockets can be seen bulging out. The suede texture of the iconic Heisenberg hat is perfectly visible. As Walt and company pace around a dingy warehouse, hundreds of individual dust particles can be seen floating through the air. So far, the entire season has only spanned one year of Walt's life, but the close-ups of his withered face perfectly show the stress that he has gone through.
The only compression flaws are the same ones that exist in the Blu-rays of the previous seasons. I noticed two very minor instance of digital noise on the first disc and three instances of minor banding on the second disc.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
I've been waiting for a 'Breaking Bad' Blu-ray to bust into five-star quality and I couldn't be more pleased with season five pulling it off. This 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track takes the 'Breaking Bad' experience to the next level.
There are some fantastic examples of dynamic surround sound featured here. It's within this aspect that the sound of season five's Blu-rays are pushed into five-star area. Any time that we're in the lobby of Madrigal headquarters, the clickety-clack of shoes – especially Lydia's high-heels – against the hard tile floor cause great echoey sounds to bounce around the room. Mixed with the loud heels are the softer pitter-patters of men's soles.
Another exemplary setting is the open desert. Be it the sandy wide open fields or the rolling shrub-covered hills, the sounds of blowing wind toss sand and twigs through the air can be heard moving from channel to channel. In this same setting, the effects of dirt bike popping around the hills also denotes a great use of all channels and imaging.
Season five has built upon and strengthened the vocal quality. The ranges seem to naturally vary more. More depth is given to the voices. There's a new depth to Walt's voice. A heavier dose of bass is brought out. His voice now has the potential to be booming without being loud, adding a lot of indirect threat to his verbal commands. Who knew that the dad from 'Malcolm in the Middle' could ever be viewed as an extremely intimidating threat!
The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff
For the sake of removing confusion, allow me to classify the special features into two categories: there are those that are found within the "Special Features" section of the menu, and there are those that are found attached to each episode in the "Episodes" section of the menu. Don't be confused by the "Inside 'Breaking Bad'" special feature because different episodes of it are placed in different sections of the menu. For the sake of ease, the following list of special features will begin with those found in the "Special Features" sub-menu, after which I'll dive into the episode-specific extras. Stay with me, for there are over nine hours of solid features here - hence the five-star rating.
- Gag Reel (HD, 3:17, Disc 1) – Watch the cast of the extremely dark series keeping the on-set mood light and fun in this typical gag reel.
- Writer's Room Timelapse (HD, 8:38, Disc 1) – Watch a 12-day timelapse of the writers piecing together the scene-by-scene breakdown of episode 504. Keep in mind that they're not writing the actual episode, just a template of what needs to happen in the episode. After the 12 days are up, one writer takes their corkboard of notes and drafts the actual script. This feature is set to a commentary from several of the writer (one couldn't be there because he was shooting upcoming episode 514 while the commentary was being recorded).
- Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Where Season 4 Left Off (1080i, 4:14, Disc 1) – Much like my review of this actual season, this episode of 'Inside' poses the questions that point to the direction that the series is going after the season four finale.
- Inside 'Breaking Bad' – The Cast Looks Ahead (1080i, 3:49, Disc 1) – The cast discuss the new Walter White (a.k.a. Heisenberg), describe the darker changes with the new series and talk about the rise and decline of a man. More than anything, this feature is a spoiler-free tease for what's to come in season five.
- Inside 'Breaking Bad' – On the Season 5 Set with Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul (1080i, 1:26, Disc 1) – Again, this is a short spoiler-free tease where the two principles beat around the bush regarding their new method of cooking.
- Chris Hardwick's All-Star Celebrity Bowling (HD, 11:00, Disc 1) – The Internet geek and host of AMC's 'The Talking Dead' held a web series that pitted him and his team of geeks against four of the series' stars in a charity bowling match. This featurette is geektastic and actually pretty fun – like a YouTube video that's actually worth watching.
- Gallery 1988 Art Show (HD, 3:35, Disc 1) – A slew of artist fans of the series created unique original pieces that were featured in an Albuquerque art gallery. Watch footage from the gala where members of the cast and crew, artists, locals and celebrity fans showed up. If I had thousands of dollars to spare on art, I could easily blow it on a few of those shown here.
- Exclusive Scene: "Chicks 'N' Guns" (HD, 8:12, Disc 2) – Until now, I'd never been asked by a studio to refrain from revealing anything about a Blu-ray's contents. This feature is the first and only time that has happened. I received – not one – but two emails asking me to "keep it vague" and not use any screen shots. After watching it and the next special feature, I understand why – Sony ordered this specific scene exclusively for the Blu-ray. I can respect that – especially because it's a fun one. Be prepared for nudity and strong language in this playful scene featuring Jesse Pinkman, Skinny Pete, Saul Goodman and a topless guest. The scene is a great tease for Jesse's current state of mind leading into the final eight episodes of season five.
- "Chicks 'N' Guns" – Behind the Scenes (HD, 6:58, Disc 2) – Take a look at how the closed-set scene was shot and where exactly it lies within the chronology of the season. Be warned, there's still plenty of nudity and language.
- Nothing Stops This Train (HD, 15:38, Disc 2) – For me, there's one episode in each season that stands out above the others. In season three, it was the parking lot shootout between Hank and The Cousins. In season four, it was Gus' finale. For season five, it's episode 505, which turns out was a logistical nightmare due to the desert conditions, the train – parked or moving – and technical difficulties. This featurette covers it all. The shoot. The problems. The stunts. The special effects.
- The Cleaner: Jonathan Banks as Mike (HD, 8:16, Disc 2) – Mike is one of the best characters on 'Breaking Bad.' This feature is highlights Mike's origins on the series and really tips the hat to Jonathan Banks for his continual knock-out portrayal of the character.
- Prison Stunt Rehearsal (HD, 1:29, Disc 2) – Episode 508 contains one of the most violent and brutal scenes in all of 'Breaking Bad.' Presented in HD, this feature shows pixelated SD footage of the stunt team choreographing the brutal scene.
- Jesse Plemons Audition Footage (HD, 3:22, Disc 2) – Newcomers Plemons is a great addition to the cast as Todd. An alternate version of the script was used for his audition to avoid revealing details about some major plot points involving his character. This audition footage is also presented in HD, but shot in SD.
- Laura Fraser Audition Footage (HD, 4:09, Disc 2) – Laura also adds to the series with her shifty character Lydia. Her SD audition footage highlights her playing a character just as strong as she does in the actual episodes.
- 501 – Commentary with Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, RJ Mitte, Michael Slovis and Dennis Milliken - As always, these commentaries are fun, informative and absolutely entertaining. You may hope that this commentary reveals some insider details regarding the season's teasing intro, but they don't reveal a thing. To avoid repetition, I will only list notable aspects of the subsequent commentaries.
- 501 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – 'Live Free or Die' (1080i, 5:24, Disc 1) – Each of the 'Inside' featurettes that carries the title of the actual episode as a sub-title is a spoiler-filled recap of said episode. To avoid repetition, I will also refrain from explaining what's contained in these 'Inside' segments.
- 501 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Season 5 Premiere (1080i, 5:13, Disc 1) – Each of the "Making of" versions of 'Inside' quickly break down how a specific aspect of an episode was filmed. This one explains how the magnet work was put on screen.
- 502 – Commentary with Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Laura Fraser, Michelle MacLaren and William "W" Gilpin - Did you know that Vince Gilligan wrote 'Home Fries' and that there's a 'Home Fries' easter egg in this episode?
- 502 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' - 'Madrigal' (1080i, 5:22, Disc 1) – Spoilery recap of 'Madrigal.'
- 502 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Episode 502: 'Madrigal' (1080i, 4:20, Disc 1) – The creative opening suicide scene required a unique set. See how it was created and why it had to be made that way.
- 502 – Extended Scenes: 'It Gets Easier' (Extra Icky Version) (HD, 3:37, Disc 1) – This scene was creepy enough in the episode, but goes overboard in its uncut form. Thank heaven that this highly sexual and mildly disturbing scene was trimmed when it aired – presumably because the hand job was a little too raw for television.
- 503 – Commentary with Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk and Melissa Bernstein - At the time this commentary was recorded, writer/director Peter Gould was busy shooting upcoming episode 515, which is why he's not present in it.
- 503 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – 'Hazard Pay' (1080i, 5:16, Disc 1) – Spoilery recap of 'Hazard Pay.'
- 503 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Episode 503: 'Hazard Pay' (1080i, 3:39, Disc 1) – Learn how the writers came up with the genius idea of Vamanos Pest. Seeing the crew in Vamanos Pest t-shirts, I totally want one.
- 504 – Commentary with Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, RJ Mitte, Rian Johnson and Sam Catlin - Director Rian Johnson was unable to make the commentary for his season three episode 'Fly' because he was off shooting 'Looper,' but he was able to make this commentary and adds great insight.
- 504 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' - 'Fifty-One' (1080i, 5:32, Disc 1) – Spoilery recap of 'Fifty-One.'
- 504 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Episode 504: 'Fifty-One' (1080i, 4:27, Disc 1) – Anna Gunn was the highlight of a great underwater scene in this episode. See how she put her fears aside and the great shots were pulled off.
- 505 – Commentary with Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Michael Slovis, George Mastras and Christian Diaz De Bedoya - The train episode offers a great amount of fun discussion.
- 505 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – 'Dead Freight' (1080i, 4:44, Disc 2) – Spoilery recap of 'Dead Freight.'
- 505 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Episode 505: 'Dead Freight' (1080i, 4:23, Disc 2) – As expected, dive a little deeper into making of the intense train sequence.
- 505 – Deleted Scenes: 'Jesse James' (HD, 2:04, Disc 2) – Hear Walt's awesome recounting of heist history prior to performing one of his own.
- 506 – Commentary with Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk, Melissa Bernstein, Gennifer Hutchinson, Colin Bucksey and Werner Hahnlein - The shocking ending of 'Dead Freight' leads into a chilling intro of 'Buyout.' The symbolism is broken down superbly in the intro of this commentary.
- 506 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' - 'Buyout' (1080i, 5:46, Disc 2) – Spoilery recap of 'Buyout.'
- 506 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Episode 506: 'Buyout' (1080i, 4:27, Disc 2) – Learn how the flaming zip-tie scene was executed through practical effect.
- 506 – Deleted Scenes: 'Babe Ruth' (HD, 2:13, Disc 2) – I cannot tell exactly where this scene was originally placed, so it's missing context – but Walt delivers a great rude line towards Skylar.
- 506 – Extended Scenes: 'We'll Be Careful' (HD, :54, Disc 2) – Hear a little more about Jesse's rationale behind walking away from the meth business. I wish this short extension would have made it into the actual episode.
- 507 – Commentary with Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Thomas Schnauz and Skip MacDonald - This is easily one of the funniest commentaries of the series thus far. Be warned – Jonathan Banks has a mouth in it.
- 507 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – 'Say My Name' (1080i, 4:48, Disc 2) – Spoilery recap of 'Say My Name.'
- 507 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Episode 507: 'Say My Name' (1080i, 5:06, Disc 2) – Learn first-hand from the actors what made this episode so tough to shoot.
- 507 – Extended Scenes: 'I'm Gonna Kill That Guy' (HD, 2:18, Disc 2) – The last thing that I'd want Mike to have say about me is, "I'm gonna kill that guy." Find out what makes him utter the line in this slightly extended scene.
- 508 – Commentary with Vince Gilligan, Laura Fraser, Michelle MacLaren, Moira Walley-Beckett, Jennifer L. Bryan, Kelley Dixon and William "W" Gilpin - The breakdown of the prison hits is fun to hear about, but Gilligan doesn't spill the slightest detail regarding the insane final shot of the mid-season finale.
- 508 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – 'Gliding Over' (1080i, 6:15, Disc 2) – Spoilery recap of 'Gliding Over.'
- 508 – Inside 'Breaking Bad' – Making of Episode 508: 'Gliding Over' (1080i, 5:53, Disc 2) – One of the series' greatest montages, the prison hits, is completely dissected here.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
- Scene By Scene: Directors Discuss Memorable Moments (HD, 12:38, Disc 1) – One area in which the 'Breaking Bad' special features have never dived is in the way of directors. To our advantage, the Blu-ray exclusives are finally taking us into that aspect. This feature is a nostalgic one, jumping as far back as episode 306 to have several directors explain their most memorable scenes. John Shiban walks us through the death of the R.V. in 306. Michelle MacLaren dissects the parking lot shooting with Hank and The Cousins in 307. Rian Johnson (of 'Looper' fame) breaks down his fly-centric bottle episode 310. David Slade passionately talks about how pleased he was with the outcome of Jesse's depressive go-karting in 403. Scott Winant talks about how satisfying it was to have his crew able to facilitate a seemingly impossible shot from 411. Michael Slovis loved his magnet sequences in 501. George Mastras explains a seemingly simple shot from 505 (considering the technically insane ones centered around the train) that he was proud of. And Thomas Schnauz talks about the long and difficult "Say My Name" desert takes from 507.
- The Writers of 'Breaking Bad' (HD, 8:53, Disc 1) – This feature is broken down into three acts that intimately reveal exactly how each episode of 'Breaking Bad' comes to life. It's a grueling and lengthy process. Lucky for us, each of the writers finds it worthwhile.
Thanks to Jacob McLaughlin for reporting the following confirmed Easter Eggs.
From the main menu, go to the "Episode Selections" submenu. Click "Enter" on the episode "Live Free or Die." And from the default "Play Episode" button, push up to make a laptop button appear. Click "Enter" to watch a brief 23-second HD video showing split-screen tests of the pulley rig that made the Dell laptop fly and the scene from the episode.
From the main menu, go to the "Episode Selections" submenu. Click "Enter" on the episode "Madrigal." And from the default "Play Episode" button, push up to make a silenced pistol appear. Click "Enter" to watch a brief 27-second HD video split-screen presentation of preproduction concept art (by Vince Gilligan) side-by-side with an image from the episode.
From the main menu, go to the "Episode Selections" submenu. Click "Enter" on the episode "Buyout." And from the default "Play Episode" button, push up to make a Vamanos Pest bug appear. Click "Enter" to watch a brief 38-second HD video showing split-screen tests of Walt's make-shift electric arc.
I truly believe that 'Breaking Bad' is the best series of all time. It's dark, comical, and exceptionally well written, directed, acted, and produced. The whole show has been building up to one huge arc that we are finally being lead to through the first eight episodes of season five. This Blu-ray set doesn't quite feel like a complete season, but it's building to the final eight episodes of the series. AMC and Sony should not have split the last season into two parts, but given the show's track record, it's certain that what's to come will be worth the wait. There are only a few compression errors within the nearly flawless video quality, but the audio quality has stepped up to a perfect five stars. With over nine hours of quality special features, this Blu-ray set is yet another must-own 'Breaking Bad' release.
- Blu-ray + Ultraviolet
- 2 BD-50s
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- French 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
- Main Feature: English, English SDH, Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Spanish (Castillian), Spanish (Latin American), Swedish
- Commentary: Dutch, French, Spanish
- Commentaries on all 8 episodes
- Chicks 'N' Guns: Behind the Scenes
- Nothing Stops This Train
- The Cleaner: Jonathan Banks as Mike
- Prison Stunt Rehearsal
- Jesse Plemons Audition Footage
- Laura Fraser Audition Footage
- Deleted Scenes
- Extended Scenes
- Gag Reel
- Writers' Room Timelapse
- 19 episodes of Inside 'Breaking Bad'
- Chris Hardwick's All-Star Celebrity Bowling
- Gallery 1988 Art Show
- Exclusive Scene: Chicks 'N' Guns
Exclusive HD Content
- Scene by Scene: Directors Discuss Memorable Moments
- The Writers of 'Breaking Bad'
All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More
about our gear.
Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.