For Season Two of Breaking Bad, the episode count almost doubles to a more conventional 13 episodes so you might think the writers would take their collective foot off the gas. Thankfully, they don’t, so we get to hang out with each character for twice as long, which only heightens the believable pacing of the plot. If Season One broke big and bad. Season Two breaks bigger and badder.
With Walt and Jesse’s reputation rising, things become even more unpredictable as they both have to think on their feet in increasingly hellish situations. There is a harder edge to Walt, who at times acts with invincibility as alter ego Heisenberg. Juggling his teaching, meth manufacturing and cancer treatment was never going to be a walk in the park. And it isn’t: we watch Walt’s marriage suffer from his deception or, as he would call it, protection. It’s the honesty of these relationships that really drives this season home.
Jesse, meanwhile, swings from desperation to a decent lifestyle, but nothing is simple for Heisenberg’s sensitive partner. We get a real insight into his character halfway through in “Peekaboo”, an episode that manages to be simultaneously poignant, horrifying and funny.
Over at the DEA, Walt’s jovial brother-in-law Hank sees his career skyrocket when he takes out a major player. Dean Norris excels in the role, struggling to cope with promotion and its consequences and showing how real policing affects all of those involved. Hank helps Season Two deliver a shrewd balance of all viewpoints on the subject of drugs; there may be comedy shattered throughout, but when you least expect it, the show attacks your senses with shocking realism.
While everyone goes to pot, a heavily pregnant Skyler finds a friend in former boss Ted Beneke (Chris Cousins). This is where the casting really comes into its own. Ted is no Rob Lowe, but Cousins’ attentive, gentle company owner gives Skyler what she is missing, much to the chagrin of husband Walt. The introduction of criminal attorney Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), the understated owner of Los Pollos Hermanos and prominent meth distributor, add weight to the already terrific ensemble. Casting makes or breaks a series and Breaking Bad hits the right note time and again. There’s even a guest appearance by Danny Trejo.
Season Two also brought a number of deserved award nominations, notably an Emmy win for Bryan Cranston for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for “Phoenix” (Episode 12) and a nomination for Aaron Paul for Outstanding Supporting Actor for “Peekaboo” (Episode Six) – the pick of the bunch in a standout season.
With Walt’s new daughter arriving, the father’s desire to protect both his family and his burgeoning empire are always going to be at odds but, as ever in Breaking Bad, nothing is black and white – something demonstrated by the ever-present pink teddy, the significance of which is revealed in a dramatic finale…
Breaking Bad is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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