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Breaking Bad: The Complete Third Season On DVD — Catch Up Before Season 4 Ignites!

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Those who claim that AMC’s Breaking Bad glorifies drugs clearly haven’t seen a single episode of the critically-acclaimed series. On a surface level, the series does center on the drug trade: Emmy winner Bryan Cranston (whose prior credits include the quirky family show Malcolm in the Middle) plays Walter White, a middle-aged chemistry teacher in an Albuquerque high school who, upon discovering he suffers from terminal lung cancer, chooses to keep his diagnosis secret from his worry-prone pregnant wife and disabled teenage son and stumbles into the lucrative meth cooking game as a means to earn some quick money to leave behind for his family. Walt’s shepherd in the drug trade: his former student Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), a careless, impulsive, slick-talking petty drug dealer who loses his meth-cooking partner during a DEA bust conducted by Walt’s brother-in-law, Hank, whose cowboy-like antics in the police force trigger some comical delusions of grandeur.

But there’s nothing glamorous about Walt’s day-to-day life — no fast cars, no cocaine-sniffing sirens in nightclubs, no mansions with built-in elevators. For most of the first season, Walt is cooking in a run-down RV in the middle of the desert while holding down his teaching gig, maintaining his straight-arrow persona, and tending to his Type A wife Skylar, who grows increasingly suspicious of Walt’s recurring and oft unexplained absences.

What’s most fascinating [SPOILER AHEAD!!!] — beyond the flasks and blue-colored rocks, the squabbling between Walt and Jesse, and the run-ins with both minor and major drug dealers — is the way the characters develop and change during the course of the past three seasons. In Season 1, viewers can practically sense the ticking clock in Walt’s brain, his frantic rush to cook as much meth and amass as much money as possible before his final days. Though he rarely abandons his methodical demeanor and no-nonsense rhetoric, it’s clear that his actions are predicated by a stifling desperation. Still, his conscience plagues him when he faces situations that challenge his most basic understanding of right and wrong. Case in point: how he postpones killing his and Jesse’s hostage, Krazy-8, bringing him sandwiches with crusts cut off (the way he likes them), conversing with him about his family life, and practically begging him for assurances that, should he be let free, he won’t seek retribution.

By Season 2, however, Walt has become more comfortable with the grittier side of his profession, adopting a pseudonym to ensure greater safety from being nabbed by the DEA, which has now made him a prime target. As he finds his life threatened by power-hungry cartel bigwigs, he steps up with remarkable valor, his nice guy façade cracking to reveal a man who, when his back is against the wall, will go to any means to survive. Rising higher in the drug trade also means becoming further estranged from his wife who, by the end of Season 2, is ready to call it quits on her marriage.

In many ways, Season 3 is one of consequences for Walt. With his marriage on the rocks, he questions why he ever entered the business. He’s kicked cancer after some intense rounds of chemotherapy but, with the loss of his wife and kids, he can’t quite muster a sense of gratitude for his extended life span. This time around, when Walt re-enters the drug business after a brief lapse, his decision is dictated by a different sort of desperation: his life now lacks purpose and, without it, the risk involved in cooking meth seems worth taking. The Walt we see in this season is perhaps colder, more calculating, more volatile, less plagued by matters of morality. And yet there are moments when his conscience eats at him — especially in matters pertaining to his brother-in-law, whose life he unwittingly endangered.

But, while Walt’s character arc is fascinating and there are some remarkable behavioral differences in Season 3, I’d argue that this season really belongs to Jesse. If Walt is losing sight of his moral center, Jesse’s trajectory involves an awakening of his ethical beliefs. The wise-cracking thug wannabe we saw in Season 1 is, for the most part, a relic of the past. Virtually disowned by his parents, having lost a close friend in a drive-by shooting, and reeling from the loss of his landlady-turned-lover, who overdosed in her sleep while laying inches from him, Jesse feels adrift. He’s forced to kick the heroin habit he acquired while dating Jane and to ponder what other routes he could follow with his life. With no education or skill set, however, Jesse finds few viable options, plus his sense of identity has become firmly entrenched in the drug dealer façade he has kept up for so many years. Still, Jesse is discovering that he’s not willing to conduct business at any cost, that he does have some standards of conduct, a deep-rooted sense of right and wrong which Walt now seems to struggle to discern. While Walt becomes more comfortable with pulling the trigger in a do-or-die situation, Jesse can’t justify killing — or, at least, he can’t justify being the killer, the one actually taking the life in question. As Season 3 progresses though, Jesse must grapple with a plethora of conflicting emotions: from his own mixed feelings towards Walt to his desire for revenge after being beaten within an inch of his life to his disgust over the employ of children by local drug dealing gangs.

Between the season’s narrative ambition, the stellar performances by both Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston, and the usage of metaphorical imagery (note the crawling scene in the first episode and then observe how it relates to other scenarios involving crawling later on in the season), Season 3 exemplifies why Breaking Bad is simply the best series on television.

Go get your copy of Breaking Bad: The Complete Third Season for $19.99 at Amazon.com and tune into AMC at 10 p.m. for the premiere of Season 4!

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