Popular water-cooler drama about an unremarkable and uncharismatic chemistry teacher, Walter, who discovers new passion in his life after he learns he has terminal cancer. Now that they’ve launched their drug business, there’s no turning back for Walt and his young partner, Jesse. Using Walt’s knowledge of chemistry to cook up high-grade methamphetamine to pay for Walt’s cancer treatments, the pair is thrust into a netherworld of murder, mayhem and the twin threats of exposure and arrest. Amid suspicions about her husband’s fidelity, Walt’s wife Skyler faces an unexpected pregnancy and a grim financial outlook that forces her back to work for a boss she once threatened to sue for sexual harassment. The prospect of leaving his family penniless catapults Walt headlong into the deal to end all deals, elevating his reputation in the eyes of criminals and cops alike, but bringing him and Jesse to the brink of disaster while potentially making them rich beyond anything they could have dreamed up.
As Breaking Bad
's first year concluded, chemistry teacher Walt (two-time Emmy-winner Bryan Cranston) and his meth-making partner, Jesse (Emmy-nominee Aaron Paul), hooked up with drug kingpin Tuco (Raymond Cruz), and the money started to roll in. They expected some degree of danger--but not a homicidal maniac. When DEA agent Hank (Dean Norris) starts to close in on Tuco, he kidnaps the duo, who eventually escape, but the experience creates a host of new complications, leaving Jesse temporarily homeless and driving a wedge between Walt and his pregnant wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), and their 15-year-old son, Walt Jr. (R. J. Mitte). In his commentary, creator Vince Gilligan explains that the "chickens come home to roost" in season 2 as Walt's criminal activity catches up with him. In effect, he lives out the psychological version of The Fly
, with his double life merging into one, such that he starts to become as ruthless as Tuco. Hank, meanwhile, gets a promotion that expands his jurisdiction to El Paso, while Skyler takes an accounting job that could cause her to "break bad" in season 3.
If this AMC hit lacked a sense of humor, it just might be too hard to take. Aside from Walt's incurable illness and Hank's post-traumatic stress disorder, there's a head crushing, a shooting, an explosion, and an overdose. Though Walt and Skyler get few humorous moments, Jesse, Hank, and ambulance-chasing attorney Saul (Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk, an inspired addition) make the most of theirs. Jesse even gets a girlfriend (Krysten Ritter), who comes with a wary father (John de Lancie)--but there's still more shadow than light (not counting those panoramic desert shots). Strong stuff, but it's impossible to look away. Extensive extras include commentaries, deleted scenes, and featurettes on every episode. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Stills from Breaking Bad: The Complete Second Season (Click for larger image)