July 25th, 2011
12:16 PM ET
Last night’s episode began with Walter White in front of a mirror holding a gun, channeling his inner Travis Bickle. And thus, for the second week in a row, we were faced with the rule of Chekhov’s Gun, which essentially states that if a gun is presented in act one, it better be fired in act three.
But this week the rule was blatantly shirked, despite the fact that the episode was again named after the weapon (“Thirty-Eight Snub”), which made for a clever piece of misdirection. So, besides that winking piece of gamesmanship, what else did “Breaking Bad” throw our way last night?
Most significantly, we saw three characters react in three different ways to Gus’ blood-spattered message from last week.
Walt’s method of coping involved planning to kill Gus himself. “It’s for defense…defense,” he told the gun dealer. Walt will say whatever he needs to in order to rationalize his actions. There’s a memorable line from “Seinfeld” when George told Jerry, “It’s not a lie if you believe it.” Walt is now basically George Costanza. Only balder. And a murderer.
Eventually, we found Walt parked outside Gus’ house putting on the pork pie hat. Enter Heisenberg The Horrible. (Could anyone other than Bryan Cranston evoke such a sense of dread simply by putting on a dorky hat and subtly changing facial expressions?) But the wrath of Heisenberg was put on hold after Walt received a phone call from somebody (Gus?) watching his every move. For a scene in which nothing happened, that was ridiculously intense.
In another purposeful bit of misdirection, we caught up with Mike the Cleaner, and the usually stoic enforcer was visibly shaken up over Victor’s death. This brief display of emotion planted the seed in viewers’ minds that Mike would join Walt in his mutiny. But quite the opposite scene played out in the end – Mike stayed loyal and gave Walt a good, old-fashioned mafia beatdown for speaking ill of the Don.
Which means Jesse is the only colleague Walt can trust. Jesse coped with last week’s gore by purchasing a mammoth soundsystem that made his living room look like a roller rink. And then he partied for three days (well, he stopped once, but only to put in a few hours at the meth lab). All through the partying, Jesse had the empty/slightly crazed look of a man who was on the verge of snapping. I believe in the biz they call it “The Sheen.”
Mid-bender we learned that Jesse sent a giant wad of cash to his ex so that she and her son could move to a safer neighborhood. Jesse has become just as dichotomous as Walt: he’s a scheming, self-destructive druggy who can be intensely loyal and moral. But as Sunday’s final scene showed, unlike Walt, Jesse can’t balance the two sides and is falling apart as a result.
One last thing about Jessepalooza: Roomba-Cam! The cinematography on “Breaking Bad” has always been impressive, but a camera from the POV of an automated vacuum cleaner slaloming through dazed, floor-ridden partygoers, that is an inspired little flourish. I think we can all agree that after the 72 hour rager, nobody was hurting more than that poor, poor Roomba.
Meanwhile, back in Upstanding Citizen Land, Hank took a break from shunning his ever-sunny wife Marie so he could slog through another rehab session. The Schraders are in an awful situation and it’s beginning to look like their marriage won’t survive. Again, the series deftly crafted day-to-day interactions that were just as compelling as the gun-toting, meth-slinging scenes.
Lastly, we have Skyler, who dared wade into the money laundering waters without Saul’s help. She was subsequently turned away by Walt’s former boss and his vengeful eyebrows. So with the car wash idea eliminated, the laser tag center is looking pretty good again. On the bright side, the Whites will have a place to hold Holly’s tenth birthday!
In terms of story, this episode felt like a placeholder between the Very Big Things that happened in the premiere and the Very Big Things that appear to be on next week’s agenda – including the telltale lab notebook! What did you guys think?
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