Cast: Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Jonathan Banks

Running time: 9hrs 45mins

Certificate: 18

Extras: Behind-the-scenes featurettes, extended & alternative scenes, gag reel, ‘Better Call Saul’ commercials, 21 episodes of ‘Inside Breaking Bad’, deleted scenes

In the wake of THE SOPRANOS, US television drama entered a golden age. The series that followed have tended to fall into two categories: those defined by their high-octane action, and breakneck plotting, such as THE SHIELD, and those defined by thoughtful and cerebral writing, such as MAD MEN. The series which has most successfully combine these two categories is Vince Gilligan’s BREAKING BAD – intelligently constructed and as addictive as blue crystal meth, the adventures of Walter White have proved the most compelling television since THE WIRE closed for business.

By Season Four, BREAKING BAD is well underway – Walt and cooking partner Jesse are under the rule of the terrifying Gustav Fring, and Walt knows it’s only a matter of time before Fring deems them disposable, and begins plotting ways to kill Fring first. As we’ve come to expect from BREAKING BAD, it’s all supremely tense and quite brilliant. However, there is something missing, namely Walt’s DEA brother-in-law. Whilst Hank doesn’t disappear from the series entirely, he is confined to a bed for the most part, recovering from a bullet wound sustained the previous series. This does impact the core emotional crux of BREAKING BAD – the series’ highest point had previously been Hank’s near-successful investigation of the mysterious meth cook Heisenberg (Hank’s sly promotion to chief ‘good guy’ is masterful) – and consequently, with Hank off active detective duties, Season Four struggles to reach the heights of its predecessor.

These are, of course, minor quibbles. Overall, BREAKING BAD is never short of gripping, and remains one of television’s most consistent and inventive series, delivering both lovable and loathsome characters, and an almost-endless stream of pulse-pounding scenarios. Season Four also has one hell of a climax, and is notable for kick-starting Walt’s descent into true villainy, from which he’s likely never to return. Just wait for Season Five.

Extras: The deleted scenes and outtakes are for fans only, and the Inside Breaking Bad docs are little more than the cast recounting the plot of each episode. There are a series of insightful featurettes, though the remainder of the extras feels mostly like filler.

 BREAKING BAD SEASON FOUR is available to buy on DVD 1st October. You can order a copy here.