Here's how things are going for Walter White, the central character in Breaking Bad
, as this outstanding cable series reaches its third season. By the end of the fourth episode, less than a third of the way through the year, Walt (played by Bryan Cranston, who won three straight Emmys for this role) has been arrested and put in jail twice; has been served with divorce papers by his wife, to whom he has finally confessed that he's a crystal methamphetamine manufacturer; has had a serious falling out with his young partner in crime; and is the subject of a manhunt by two silent but very deadly members of a Mexican drug cartel. And it gets a lot worse. Of course, Walt is hardly the only character who's afflicted, conflicted, and "breaking bad." Wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) is in the excruciating position of knowing that she could blow the whistle on Walt and get him out of her and their children's lives once and for all, while also realizing what that would do to her family. Hank (Dean Norris), the DEA agent who's married to Skyler's sister, becomes obsessed with figuring out who's putting "blue meth" on the streets of Albuquerque, little knowing that it's his own brother-in-law and leading to near-tragic consequences. And partner Jesse (Aaron Paul, another Emmy winner) is haunted by the fact that it was his drugs that killed his girlfriend, whose distraught father may have caused a hideously destructive plane collision over the city when he returned to his air traffic controller job too soon.
All of this is presented in an artful brew of black humor and frequently violent drama, with excellent acting, dialogue, and storytelling (the 10th episode, "The Fly," takes place entirely in Walt and Jesse's fancy new meth lab), and innovative film techniques (the opening scenes in episode one, and several thereafter, are shot with a beautiful, almost sepia-toned look). But it's Walt, portrayed so memorably by Cranston, who remains the main draw, as this brilliant but self-destructive, angry man, prone to making calamitous decisions, gradually realizes that he is truly becoming Heisenberg, his criminal alter ego, and is in way over his head--and may very well be losing his mind in the process. One can only wonder how much lower creator Vince Gilligan and his team will take him in season four.
The bonus features are many and varied, with numerous offerings on all four discs. They include audio commentary (by Gilligan, the actors, and others) on most episodes; a variety of short featurettes detailing individual scenes or shots, props, character backgrounds, etc.; pod casts; and a series of promotional pieces produced for AMC (which airs the show) under the banner of "Inside Breaking Bad," in which members of the cast and crew discuss specific aspects of each episode (viewer beware, as these bits contain some spoilers). --Sam Graham