Walter White (Bryan Cranston) finished his transformation from meek, cancer-stricken chemistry teacher to ruthless, amoral killer a long time ago. However, he is now on top of the world. With the Juárez Cartel completely destroyed and philanthropist/restaurateur/drug lord Gustavo Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) blown half to hell in a madly brilliant gambit, the Albuquerque meth scene is under the absolute control of Heisenberg, Walt's alter ego.
All hail the king, indeed. But the destruction of Gus' Empire (and his fully-furnished superlab) has left Walt and Jesse (Aaron Paul) without resources, equipment, and manpower. To make matters worse, evidence still remains of Walt, Jesse, and Gus' former cleaner Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks). Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season is all about Walt covering his tracks and establishing his own empire. At this point, it is incredibly difficult to root for him; his mad quest for power has cost him the affection of his wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) and has frequently endangered the lives of his children, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) and baby Holly. From the moment Walt strangled Krazy 8 with that bicycle lock, his humanity has been slowly but surely stripped away. Now, all that's left of him is his ambition, and we get to see the consequences of that unfold over the season.
Cranston absolutely kills it, as he always does, but Breaking Bad's supporting cast cannot be praised highly enough. Aaron Paul firmly and confidently establishes Jesse Pinkman as the moral center of the show, and Jonathan Banks is given a new dimension with which to develop Mike as more than just an efficient fixer. Of course, we also have DEA agent (and Walt's brother-in-law) Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) to give us a character we can comfortably cheer on. Rounding out the cast in all his despicable glory is criminal lawyer (emphasis on the "criminal") Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), whose story would continue after the end of the show, if the fates were kind. All that being said, I very badly miss Gus, one of the most memorable and coldly terrifying villains in television history.
This DVD release is loaded with special features, deleted and extended scenes notwithstanding. Each episode features commentary tracks from the major players, including showrunner Vince Gilligan, writers, and actors. The Writer's Room Timelapse is an entertaining high-speed capture of the writing process behind Episode 4 ("Fifty-One"), mainly because of the audio track that accompanies it. Apparently these people sit in a room in Burbank all day, with a single person on a laptop (who may or may not be checking Facebook at frequent intervals). Each episode has its own "Making of" featurette, and each one is insightful and enriching. There's also some audition footage for Jesse Plemons and Laura Fraser, the actors who fill the roles of the season's two new characters, Todd and Lydia. This show has some of the best Gag Reels, and this season's is a riot. Gallery 1988 Art Show is a three-minute video depicting a Breaking Bad-themed art show attended by the cast and crew. I'm not really an art buff, but I would love to have been there to see all the stuff that they made. Some of it is funny, some of it is disturbing. Just like the show. Nothing Stops This Train delves into the season's best and most exciting episode, "Dead Freight." Prison Stunt Rehearsal gives you some insight into one of the franchise's most violent sequences, the prison murders in "Gliding Over All." The Cleaner is an eight-minute tribute to Mike, one of the show's major breakout characters and easily one of the its biggest badasses. Chris Hardwick's All-Star Celebrity Bowling is a lighthearted diversion that showcases the cast of the show against a team made up of Hardwick and his Nerdist colleagues. It's a nice reprieve from all the drugs, depression, and violent murder. Chicks 'n' Guns is an exclusive scene featuring Saul, Jesse, Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), and a stripper. Just watch it. It's hysterical.
Breaking Bad: The Fifth Season is a great season for one of the best shows on television. It's not the best, but as a lead-up to the final episodes, it can't get much better.