Just when you thought Breaking Bad
could not become more tense, more witty, more elegantly shot, or more exuberantly acted, along came season 4, with Bryan Cranston as a Walter White newly attuned to his own capacity for revenge and evildoing. If the most memorable lines of the year came from Walter's ''I am the one who knocks'' speech, in which he owned the bad behavior he'd previously justified as helping his family, the year's most indelible image was the horror face of Giancarlo Esposito's Gus, half blown off by an explosion in the season finale. In between the speech and the image, Walter and Aaron Paul's Jesse slithered past the relentless investigation into their meth lab by Walter's brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) and neatly avoided being messed up by Jonathan Banks' hitman extraordinaire Mike. Series creator Vince Gilligan avoided all the traps of hard-boiled, ''gritty'' TV there's no cheap cynicism, no pretentiously existential dread weighing down this work. Instead, there was a sunny energy to the way Walter's wife, Skyler (the glowing Anna Gunn), took to the life of a criminal accountant running a gleaming car wash to launder the drug profits. Even Gus, the series' thus-far-ultimate foe for Walter, had an air of prim jauntiness to him, adjusting his tie shortly after going ka-boom. That's Bad
: So good, it could make a skull smile.
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