It’s easy to reflect on things in hindsight. Looking back on Season 1, that was all character set up. Probably not the stories Vince Gilligan (creator) wanted to tell, but needed to for groundwork. Season 2 is where the show really gels, allowing him to begin to tell the stories he wanted. There are plenty of great moments throughout the season, but much of this is introducing characters and ideas to be used later on.
Character wise, there are two major ones introduced here. Contemptible lawyer Saul Goodman becomes legal counsel for Walt and Jesse (more so Walt). For cut of profit, he would advise their illicit activities. Comedian Bob Odenkirk (usually seen with David Cross) turns in an amazing performance, portraying the lawyer exactly the way you’d expect. Goodman introduces Walt to Gus Fring, an intelligent entrepreneur owning several businesses, including a meth empire. Giancarlo Esposito plays Fring, showing that he is smart as he is intimidating. The emotionless stare Esposito used constantly to convey the anger boiling beneath the surface was unsettling.
Of their journey overall, I think Jesse’s and Walt’s arcs this season are the best. Jesse begins his decent here, falling pretty low (though he will fall much lower). Some people are completely toxic together, and Jesse’s new love interest Jane is nothing but poison. Considering the outcome, it’s easy to say that Jesse was a worse influence on Jane, but Jane did her fair share of damage to him as well. Jane desperately tried to remain sober, but the death of Jesse’s friend sent him into a drug binge and Jane only exacerbated it. Her participation gave Jesse validation to continue down the slippery slope. He drug her with him, but then they fed off each other.
Walt is the hero of the show. He is a smart man, stuck in a no win situation. Many viewers admire his out of the box thinking and commitment to his family, doing what needs to be done. It’s easy to idolize him for his valor. But that is not Walt’s path. That is not the purpose of his story. He is a man that is ultimately seduced and consumed by power. He could have stopped after his deal with Fring, he could have walked away, but didn’t. He only dug deeper. It’s hard to say if he was more in love with using his brain or finally being in a position of power in respect, but it doesn’t matter. He couldn’t leave well enough alone, choosing to hide behind the lie of his family.
The story lines build all season before crescendoing with an odd finale. The meaning of what happened was thought provoking, showing the ripple effect of Walt’s actions. The execution itself was out of place against the rest of the show. There were better ways they could have delivered the same point.
Only one episode, but we saw Mike.