July 18th, 2011
12:58 PM ET
The season 4 premiere of “Breaking Bad” was all about waiting.
Waiting for Gus to mete out his punishment. Waiting for Jesse to snap out of his vacant stare and speak (55 minutes, to be exact). Skyler waiting for Walt to come home, Hank waiting for his misery to end and the viewer waiting to see what Gale’s murder meant for Walter White.
And oh, was it worth the wait.
The episode began with a flashback of Gale setting up the Caesar’s Palace of meth labs (am I the only one who wonders how they got those enormous vats down there?). Poor, poor Gale was originally supposed to lord over this drug bunker, until he began praising Walt’s mystery blue meth.
“How pure can pure be?” Gus asked rhetorically about the product, a question that’s just as applicable to the gradual deviation of Walt’s intentions and brings us to Walt ordering the hit on Gale.
After killing the gratuitously likeable chemist, Jesse didn’t even flee the scene. He just sat in his car, probably hoping the cops would get to him before Gus’ attack dogs. Was Jesse finally throwing in the blood-soaked towel? We never really found out since, again, he didn’t speak until the end of the episode.
Just as Jesse was paraded back to the lab to learn his fate, we caught up with Walt’s wife, Skyler. In her quest to locate her husband, she showed herself to be quite cunning, mirroring Walt’s behavior early on in the series: small lies and manipulations to keep people at bay. Plus, she called Saul for help, which is basically the gateway drug of criminal behavior.
Meanwhile, in an epically depressing scene, Skyler’s paralyzed brother-in-law Hank spent his time bidding on minerals online (think those purple amethyst rocks kids buy after Science Center field trips). At one point Hank’s wife placed a bedpan underneath his hulking frame, while a strategically placed laptop (thankfully) obscured our view of his nether regions. This show’s ability to portray the suffocating frustrations of recovery rivals its ability to portray the grittiness and complexity of the meth underworld.
But enough about the side characters! Back in the lab, the waiting was over. Gus, czar of chicken and meth, finally arrived. Without speaking, he changed out of his business suit into what is best described as his slaughtering suit, as Walt attempted one last life-preserving rant. Gus circled Walt and Jesse, box cutters in hand, leaving me to ask myself the now-familiar question, “how the hell is Walt getting out of this one?”
He didn’t have to. Gus instead offed his sidekick Victor (presumably for allowing his face to be seen at the scene of Gale’s murder), in what was hands-down one of the most gruesome deaths ever shown on television (it was revolting enough to cause Bryan Cranston’s daughter to faint). The series doesn’t use violence often, but when it does, you should probably stop eating. For the rest of the night.
This was our first time seeing Gus engage in violence (previously, he delegated it to others over the phone or through decrees in the Meetin’ Shack), and the barbarity of the kill made it even more jarring. In 10 minutes, he went from shrewd kingpin to terrifying, merciless ruler of his domain. All without uttering a word. Only a series at its peak could create so much tension and storytelling with so little dialogue.
Of course, it wouldn’t be “Breaking Bad” without some grim comedy, and the penultimate scene gave us Walt and Jesse at Denny’s, having traded their blood-spattered clothes for matching white pants and Kenny Rogers t-shirts (reminiscent of a similar scene in “Pulp Fiction”). I really wanted Walt to thank Jesse profusely for saving his life. I wanted their partnership to be solidified over a couple stacks of pancakes and slabs of bacon, so that there would be no more waffling (pun intended) between them. But, then, that’s not “Breaking Bad.”
So Walt and Jesse are back to cooking for Gus, and next week Walt dons the pork pie hat. I’m excited for the return of Heisenberg, how about you?
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