Blu-ray
Must Own
5 stars
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Overall Grade
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
4.5 Stars
Supplements
5 Stars
High-Def Extras
1 Stars
Bottom Line
Must Own

Breaking Bad: The Complete Third Season

Street Date:
June 7th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
April 19th, 2012
Movie Release Year:
2010
Studio:
Sony
Length:
612 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Unrated
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

I've loved many series in my lifetime – 'Quantum Leap,' 'Lost,' 'Arrested Development,' 'Band of Brothers'/'The Pacific,' and many others - but this is it. 'Breaking Bad' recently entered my life and quickly become my favorite show of all. This isn't just one of those times that I find myself on a temporary high because it's present; no, this show is the real deal. Most series take a few episodes (or maybe even a full season) to find its tone, flow, and voice – but not 'Breaking Bad.' This one had it from the very first episode and it has never waned. Most series tend to lose interest and creativity season after season – but not 'Breaking Bad.' 'Season One' was filled with intrigue and a rich layer of black comedy, 'Season Two' with a large amount of tension. But 'Season Three' is as good as it gets – so far.

The third season opens with a mysterious sequence that warrants the same amount of instant interest that the first season opened with. This time around, we see a serene pueblo in Mexico. The beauty of this small town is quickly trumped by the curious visuals of a man crawling on his elbows and knees through the dusty street. First we see just one crawler, then another, then we see that a group of people are following his trail. Soon, two scary-looking shaved-head thugs show up in swanky 'Scarface' attire. Once they exit their high-end car, they too drop to their elbows and knees and begin the journey. From this point on, we follow these two brothers. Where are they crawling? To a Santa Muerte (Saint Death) shrine where followers pay respect to everything done (or undone) by Death. What are these two misfits doing there? Posting a hand-drawn picture of the cook of the famed blue crystal meth that's infiltrating all markets in the southwest, Heisenberg – or as we know him, Mr. Walter White (Bryan Cranston). These two want him dead.

The opening sequence introduces us to the driving force of this season – strong forces are at work to put Walt in the grave. When you think of it this way, it's quite disturbing: people are actually praying for Walt to die. If you're a cancer patient in remission, this is probably the last thing you want people doing for you. You've already been knocking at death's door and now others are desperately seeking help in getting old man death to let you in?!

So far, Walt and Jesse (Aaron Paul) have been trying to keep their meth business afloat with local Albuquerque clientele, but if you remember their new acquaintance from the end of season two, they now have the opportunity to play in the big leagues. Widespread drug distributor Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) knows that Walt makes the cleanest and most perfect meth out there, so naturally he wants Walt to become his full-time employee. But with Jesse going clean after the tragic ending to season two, Walt is without his partner. That's not to say that Jesse isn't a major player in this season. In fact, his role is crucial. He's not just a mop-boy, he's an unpredictable force to be reckoned with. When Walt's D.E.A. brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) closes in on Jesse, things get extra heavy. If you haven't watched season three yet, you'll see what I mean in episode six ('Sunset').

As amazing as season three is – from beginning to end – it's impossible to talk about it without mentioning one specific moment. Know that I respect you, so I'll keep it vague and spoiler-free. There is one moment that has earned the title "The Best Scene Ever Made For Television" in my opinion. During a certain episode (which I'll leave unspecified so you don't see it coming), without any indication whatsoever, you'll feel a knot bunch up in your stomach for something that you can sense coming. When I watched it, without a clue as to what was about to happen, I knew that "something was off," that worlds were about to collide. The scene was abnormally calm. My four-year-old daughter was playing in a room adjacent to my theater room, so I paused the Blu-ray and asked her to go visit her mother in the back of the house (out of fear that she might poke in to see what all the ruckus was), then I let it rip. What ensued was a scene so brave and awesome that I re-watched it two more times, one of which I made Mrs. Hickman join me for just so she could behold "The Best Scene Ever Made For Television."

One of the key factors for the success of 'Breaking Bad' is its ability to keep you from being able to predict its future. This became apparent to me with the teasing intros to season two's episodes that kept showing debris in the White's pool and body bags on the driveway. With any tease or hint, you can come up with your best explanation of how we get from Point A to Point Z and you're never going to be correct. The combination of the characters, the black humor and the unpredictability of its plot is what makes 'Breaking Bad' the best currently running series. With season four headed to Blu-ray in June and just one more extended season to run on AMC, now is the perfect time to get into it. You can blow through the first four seasons and watch the fifth and final season with the rest of the devoted followers.

The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats

Sony has once again done a superb job in delivering 'Breaking Bad' on Blu-ray. The season three set is comprised of three BD-50s in a slightly-thicker-than usual keepcase. The swinging arm that holds two discs in the middle of the case is made of sturdy plastic and actually locks into the main case on the righthand side (over Disc 3) to prevent it from dangling loose. A sweet collage of artwork is printed on the back of the cover art and is clearly visible through the keepcase. Included is a four-page episode guide and a sweet flier for the series (pictured below) that I want printed on a t-shirt. Aside from a skippable Sony vanity reel, not a single thing plays before the main menu. Be sure to have your Blu-ray player's firmware upgraded or it's going to take a few minutes for the main menu to fully load. Three episodes (303, 305 and 310) are presented in their uncensored form.


The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

The fantastic 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of season three is right on par with that of season two. A high amount of grain is visible during the gritty scenes (yes, this series actually shoots on film) and the color scheme changes depending on the location of the scene. Those are intentional decisions that are never distracting, but actually convey the feel required for given scenes.

Black levels are still deep – especially when we see our cooks doing their dark work in their new lab. The room itself may be a deep and ominous blood red, but a bold darkness hides in the corners and in the background.

Sharpness and detail are just as strong as ever. Season three isn't at all lacking in this area. The only flaws to be found are very minor instances of aliasing and small traces of digital noise. Bands and artifacts never arise and DNR and edge enhancement aren't applied. It's sure is marvelous what Sony has done with this great AMC series.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

Only one audio option is presented – a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Unlike the first two seasons, this third season ups the ante for the way 'Breaking Bad' sounds.

As referenced in the previous seasons' reviews, there was a reoccurring flaw with the first sets that left some dialog a little too quiet. That's not the case with season three. This time around, the vocal levels are just as strong and dynamic as those of the effects and the music (as rare as music may be).

The effects continue to function on a very high level. There's always something to be heard. 'Breaking Bad' truly succeeds in the way of ambiance and environmental sounds. Whether in the desert, in the lab, in a parking lot or in some weird chemist's apartment, you can always hear something going on in the speakers around you.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

Here we go, folks. Get ready for the most extensive set of special features you've ever seen. While each disc has a sub-menu titled "Bonus Features," when you click on the individual episode list, you'll see that each episode has at least one special feature of its own. Deleted scenes aren't clumped together in one feature; here, they're attached to the given episode so that you know where each scene belongs. For this section, I'll break the special features down by disc and episode. Try to keep up.

Disc 1

  • White Heat: Cranston on Fire (HD, 3 min.) - The leading actor turned stuntman for the premiere episode and lit his robe on fire. Watch this funny featurette to see how it was pulled off and what they don't want you to notice during this shot in the actual episode.

  • Pizza of Destiny: Cranston's Greatest Shot (HD, 2 min.) - This featurette begins with a voice-over by Cranston that comes across like an epic sports video. If you've seen season three, then you remember the single-take where Walt tosses a pizza box and the pie slides out of it in the middle of the air, landing perfectly on the roof of the White's garage. This hilarious feature shows how Cranston pulled it off in one take, no CG required.

  • Episode 301 Commentary - Cranston, Paul, Anna Gunn, editor Skip Macdonald, composer Dave Porter and director of photography Michael Slovis talk about the season opener which was directed by Cranston. Just like all of the commentaries to come, this one is funny and informative like a well-oiled radio show.

  • Episode 301 Deleted Scenes (SD, 2 min.) - Watch two of Cranston's deleted scenes, one of which uses an effect similar to one that Zach Braff used on 'Scrubs' and in 'Garden State.'

  • Episode 301 Unused Footage (SD, 3 min.) - Watch all of the footage from the several cameras running during the hay truck explosion.

  • Episode 302 Deleted Scenes (SD, 3 min.) - Watch Walt get physically assaulted by a cop and verbally assaulted by Saul.

  • Episode 303 Deleted Scenes (SD, 1 min.) - Want to see just have ruthless and evil the cousins are? Proceed.

  • Episode 304 Deleted Scenes (SD, 7 min.) - In these three deleted scenes, we get a lot of Hank's post-Tortuga trauma and a little bit of Walt's messed-up family life.

  • Episode 305 Commentary - Creator Vince Gilligan is joined by Cranston (who shows up late), Paul, Gunn, Bob Odenkirk and Moira Walley-Beckett. As always, this one is fun and informative.

Disc 2

  • Silent But Deadly: The Brothers Moncada (HD, 9 min.) - The two hitmen brothers (aka "The Cousins") dabbled in crime prior to making their small-screen debut on 'Breaking Bad.' Here, they talk about their past and how they landed their roles.

  • Team S.C.I.E.N.C.E. (1080i, 4 min.) - If Jesse Pinkman's drawn superheros were put into an animated series, this would be a promo spot for that series, explaining all of the characters in the Super Champion Individuals Eradicating (K)nown Criminal Entities team.

  • Inside 'Breaking Bad' (1080i, 75 min.) - Broken down into 20 little episodes, these are brief making-of featurettes. There's one for each episode and few extras that include Cranston and Paul answer fan letters.

  • 'Better Call Saul' Commercials & Testimonials (1080i, 10 min.) - Bob Odenkirk is hilarious and most of these commercial allow him to shine. Downright hilarious.

  • Episode 306 Commentary - Vince Gilligan, Dean Norris, Josh Shiban, Kelly Dixon and Thomas Golubic take it this round. Because this is a tech-heavy crew, it's very informative.

  • Episode 306 Deleted Scenes (SD, 2 min.) - This one scene shows Hank trying get a wire tap on Pinkman's house.

  • Episode 307 Commentary - Dean Norris, Michelle MacLaren, Thomas Schnauz, Dave Porter, Daniel Moncada and Luis Moncada talk one of my favorite episodes, which also turns out to be the favorite of a few of the commentators too.

  • Episode 308 Commentary - Vince Gilligan, Cranston, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte and Gennifer Hutchinson appear on this one. Featuring several of the former 'X Files' folks, they talk a lot about their roots here.

  • Episode 309 Commentary - Vince Gilligan, Besty Brandt, George Mastras and Michael Slovis give yet another informative commentary.

  • Episode 309 Deleted Scenes (SD, 1 min.) - Watch more of Jesse in group therapy.

Disc 3

  • Previews (HD) – Watch a one-minute teaser for 'Breaking Bad''s fourth season, a promo for Sony Blu-rays and trailers for 'Barney's Version,' 'Exporting Raymond' and something called 'Cross.'

  • The Music of 'Breaking Bad' (HD, 5 min.) - Very little music is actually used in the series, but see how it is created and what makes it completely unique to this series.

  • Hit and Run (HD, 3 min.) - See how the intense hit and run sequence was created and made as lifelike as it appears.

  • AMC News Visits the 'Breaking Bad' Writer's Room (SD, 4 min.) - This interview walks you through the creative writing process for the series. While interesting, this should be a big special feature of its own.

  • Gag Reel (SD, 3 min.) - Be careful where you watch this feature because F-bomb fly and Bryan Cranston dons his tighty-whiteys unlike you've ever seen.

  • Mini Video Podcasts (1080i, 68 min.) - Somewhat like 'The Talking Dead,' video podcasts were put together with key players where they are interviewed about specific episodes. Watch all 13 here – but be warned that some of the information they share is also told in the episode commentaries.

  • Episode 310 Commentary - Vince Gilligan is joined by Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and Moira Walley-Beckett on this Rian Johnson-directed episode. They don't only talk about how great it was to work with Johnson, but how a few of them got to read his screenplay for the upcoming sci-fi thriller 'Looper.' They also talk about "bottle episodes," such as this one.

  • Episode 311 Deleted Scenes (SD, 2 min.) - Learn about Walt's work-out routine and see Jesse with his new girlfriend.

  • Episode 312 Commentary - Bryan Cranston, Adam Bernstein, Bill Powloosi, Peter Gould, Jonathan Banks and Michael Slovis fill the house in this always fun commentary.

  • Episode 312 Deleted Scenes (SD, 1 min.) - This one scene shows Jesse heading off to take down some dirty turf-warring drug dealers. Too bad it didn't make the final cut. It's moody, perfect for what's to come.

  • Episode 313 Commentary - Vince Gilligan, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks team up for this season finale commentary. Odenkirk's comedy in this one is golden.

  • Episode 313 Deleted Scenes (SD, 6 min.) - The highlights of these four scenes include learning what car Walt once drove and watching Mike sing the 'Labyrinth' song with his granddaughter.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • The 'Breaking Bad' Photo Album - This huge gallery can also be viewed as a slideshow.

Final Thoughts

'Breaking Bad' is devilishly delightful and the third season has once again raised the bar. (If you haven't seen the fourth season, just wait to have the bar raised even higher). Walt and Jesse once again get in over their heads and have to do the unthinkable and unpredictable to weasel their way out. The characters are just as strong as ever, as is the tense story. 'Breaking Bad' has quickly jumped to the top of my Favorite Television Series list and I wouldn't be surprised if it makes its way onto yours. With season four about to hit Blu-ray and the final season just around the bend, now is the perfect time to hop aboard if you haven't already. Sony has once again done an outstanding job bringing 'Breaking Bad' to Blu-ray, with near-perfect video and audio qualities. The amount of special features on this three-disc set is staggering. Bravo, AMC and Sony! Keep 'em coming!

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray
  • Three-Disc BD-50 Set

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, Spanish, French

Supplements

  • 3 Uncensored Episodes
  • Cast and Crew Commentary on Nine Episodes
  • Deleted Scenes and Unused Footage
  • AMC News Visits the Breaking Bad Writer's Room
  • Gag Reel
  • 13 Mini Video Podcasts
  • Seven Behind-the Scenes Featurettes
  • "Better Call Saul" Commercials and Testimonials
  • 20 Episodes of 'Inside Breaking Bad'

Exclusive HD Content

  • The Breaking Bad Family Photo Album

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