To call last week’s episode of “Breaking Bad” intense is to undercut the utterly traumatizing effect it had on the show’s regular viewership. This week attempts to start off with a similar level of tension, showing a pair of vehicles pulling up outside the White house without immediately identifying them. Within seconds, however, we confirm that what we’re witnessing is the arrival of the DEA agents who’ve come to put Walt, Skyler, and Walt Jr. into protective custody.
Wait, scratch that: Walt’s not going.
“All that matters is that the rest of you are safe,” Walt tells Skyler. “And that’s why I’m not going with you. I’m the real target.” Ever the naïve one, she can’t quite grasp that being under the watchful eye of the DEA isn’t enough to keep everyone protected, but Walt knows better, just as he knows that he and his family are only being included in the DEA’s protective of Hank because Marie has demanded it.
“There’s got to be another way,” sobs Skyler.
“There isn’t,” Walt says, matter-of-factly. “There was. But now there isn’t.”
And so Walt steps outside and calls Hank, playing his brother-in-law like a fiddle with the suggestion that Marie has a history of overreacting, and assures him that somebody’s got to keep the car wash up and running. Hank isn’t thrilled, but he doesn’t sound suspicious, even when Walt’s voice cracks with emotion as he tells him to keep his head down. The look on Walt’s face as he says goodbye to his infant daughter is heartbreaking, if only because we know that, in his mind, he believes this could well be the last time he ever sees her…but, y’know, you can’t really blame the guy for thinking that, can ya?
Walt sits poolside, a location where we’ve seen him more than a few times before, and when he’s there, it invariably results in a dramatic and/or traumatic moment, ranging anywhere from Walt Jr. puking from too many tequila shots to Walt digging an eyeball out of the drain or, lest we forget, Walt having to jump into the water to extinguish his flaming bathrobe. This time, however, we see a man who’s spinning both his firearm and his wheels, waiting to figure out how little future he has left. When the pistol spins toward one of the potted plants, however, it’s clear that Walt has gotten an idea. I’ll freely admit, however, that I didn’t know what the hell it was at the time.
Meanwhile, over at Casa de Schrader, Walt Jr. has quickly shifted out of the respect he’d started to give his father for being honest with him (or at least sounding like it, anyway) during their discussion at the apartment and has gotten pissed off at him again for ostensibly sticking with the car wash when his life could be in danger. Predictably, Marie’s pissed about it, too, and wants to know why they didn’t just haul Walt’s ass into custody. Hank briefly tries to calm everybody down, but then he proceeds to get everybody right back up in arms again when he starts up with his theories about Gus Fring. Gomez is still as skeptical as ever, but Hank finally talks Gomez into checking out the laundry by roughing up his ego, suggesting that he was never any good at the ol’ knock-and-talk routine.
What a surprise: the next shot is of Gomez at the laundry.
First and foremost, it’s nice to finally see Steven Michael Quezada get a nice, meaty scene for a change. The guy’s been a consistently dependable player, turning in solid work since the early days of the series, but he rarely gets the opportunity to be the star of a scene, so this was a pleasant treat…for us and for him, I’d expect. I can’t say as I really expected the dogs to find anything during their sweep of the facilities, but when the camera went between the machinery, down through the floor, and into the SuperLab, I admit that my pulse quickened a bit, and it only got quicker when Jesse got the phone call from Gus. “This is all the result of your former partner,” snaps Gus. “Do you understand now? Do you see why this can’t continue?” Jesse still isn’t willing to sign off on Walt’s death, however, and when he asks Gus what he plans to do as an alternative to killing Mr. White, Gus offers six painfully ambiguous words in response:
“There will be an appropriate response.”
Shuddering as we take in the possible ramifications of this statement, we see Gomez drive away without having found anything to back up Hank’s theories, followed by Jesse being dropped off at his car at a location which is, presumably, a significant distance away from the laundry. It’s a move which further shows how well prepared Gus is, but it also reminds us just how frustrated he must be with the way his empire now seems perpetually on the verge of collapse as a result of one man. (Well, you know, it’s technically two, but Gus clearly would’ve knocked off Hank by now if it wasn’t for Walt, so there’s little question that all of the blame lies first and foremost on Walt’s shoulders.) You know things are bad if Jesse’s actually trying to get in touch with Walt, but there’s a momentary bit of comic relief when, after failing to reach Walt, he checks his messages and receives a series of increasingly frantic voicemails from Saul Goodman, and the humor continues into Goodman’s office, particularly with the line, “‘Sugar tits': I say it’s endearing.” But as their conversation continues, Saul’s dialogue becomes less punctuated with punch lines, and Bob Odenkirk’s delivery grows increasingly nervous. If Saul makes it out of Season 4 alive, I have to wonder just how much we’ll be seeing of him in Season 5, because this is clearly a man who fears for his life and has no intention of sticking around ABQ any longer than he absolutely has to.
As Hank continues to ponder Gus’s guilt, Skyler is, as one might expect of someone in her situation, increasingly twitchy. Like Jesse, she finds herself unable to get in touch with Walt, her anxiety reaching a point where she steps outside to enjoy the smooth, refreshing taste of smoldering tobacco. (I know we’ve seen Skyler smoke before, but I’m blanking on the last time it happened. Was it in 2.10, a.k.a. the same episode where Walt, Jr. puked in the pool?) Further emphasizing that she and Jesse are in the same boat, we get that nice cut to Jesse fiddling with his lighter, which in turn takes us into a development which I didn’t see coming in the slightest and which leaves us seriously wondering whether Gus is as evil here as we know he can be, if Walt’s being as paranoid as we know he can be, or if Walt’s reached such a point of desperation that he’s decided, “Well, if it takes the possible death of a child to get Jesse back on my side, then so be it”…and I’ll be damned if I can tell which it is.
Either way, I didn’t immediately think that someone had gone after Brock, but I did initially think, “Wow, this seems kind of out of nowhere,” and when Jesse pulled out his cigarette pack, I believe I actually did say out loud, “Oh, no…” But when Jesse showed up at Walt’s house, I didn’t expect him to suddenly turn on Walt the way he did. Frankly, when Jesse saw that the cigarette was missing, I figured he thought that Brock had decided to try a cigarette and accidentally picked the wild card in the pack, so from my point of view, it seemed like a hell of a leap of logic to think that Walt had somehow been involved in giving the poison to Brock. Even after Jesse explained away my theory, I still don’t think I would’ve figured, “Oh, Walt’s responsible.” I know Jesse isn’t exactly the Mr. Spock of “Breaking Bad,” but even after having survived the bloodbath down Mexico way with Gus and Mike, I still would’ve probably wondered if perhaps Tyrus might’ve had something to do with it…which, of course, is what Walt theorizes. I obviously didn’t believe for a second that Jesse was going to kill Walt, but given Jesse’s skewed theory of what had happened, nor did I necessarily know for sure if he was going to accept the possibility that Gus might be guilty of the charges Walt was making against him.
Quick side note that I was reminded of when Jesse made one more visit to see Brock in the hospital: this was a rare TV portrayal of a nurse who wasn’t being a complete and total bitch. You get so used to seeing nurses getting shitty about the whole “only spouse and family” rule that it was actually somewhat shocking earlier in the episode when this young lady seemed almost sympathetic about not being able to let Jesse go back with Andrea, and she kept her same general tone here even when threatening to call security. It’s the little things on this show that really stand out, and this – which had absolutely nothing to do with the plot – was one that really caught my eye.
Okay, back to business. I can’t believe Tyrus got so pissed off with Jesse for not going back to work that he actually committed a bit of laying-of-hands in the middle of a hospital. Dude ain’t no Mike, that’s for sure. Clearly, Gus knows that, too, or else he wouldn’t have deigned to come to the hospital himself and “suggest” that Jesse come back and finish up the batch of meth before it goes bad. After hearing about Brock, however, Gus assures Jesse that he needn’t come back until the boy’s situation is more stable…as long as he gets stable by next week. (That was a perfect Gus moment.) The fact that their meeting took place in a chapel cannot be ignored, though I’m not sure what we’re supposed to take from it.
Can you smell what Walt’s cooking? It’s an explosive of some sort, obviously, not entirely unlike a pipe bomb. I’ve no doubt that the chemistry of the explosive is spot-on, but as for the mechanics of blowing it up, that’s not Walt’s field, so when it took more than a few tries to get any sort of reaction from the detonator, I knew there was at least a 50% chance that it wouldn’t work when the time came. I did not, however, expect the hairs on the back of Gus’s neck to suddenly stand on end, as if he somehow sensed that Walt had placed a bomb on his vehicle, and send him out of the parking garage and out of harm’s way. Not that Gus doesn’t have the tendency to plan for every possible eventuality, and not that he wouldn’t be continuing to expect Walt to try and take him down, but if we’re really supposed to believe that he sensed a disturbance in the force or whatever, I’ll be really depressed, so here’s hoping that next week will reveal that he hesitated because he had a brainstorm and turned around so that he could put it into action.
So what of next week? Will Brock pull through? Will we see Mike make his triumphant return to some semblance of good health? Will we finally get definitive confirmation that Ted is dead? (Every other critic seems to think he is, but I need someone on the show to actually say it before I can believe it…and nobody’s actually said it.) Will Saul Goodman successfully make it out of town, or will he take his final bow on “Breaking Bad”? And will we want to scream at Vince Gilligan for offering up a flurry of cliffhangers that we’ll have to wait for many long months to see resolved? I think the only one we can definitively answer with a “yes” is that last one, but I’m resigned to that, so I’ll be back here next week no matter what…and here’s hoping you will be, too.
Ah, I’m just kidding. I know you’ll be here. Hell, if you’ve made it this far, there’s really no reason to think you’d be anywhere else. See you then!
Tags: Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Betsy Brandt, Bob Odenkirk, Breaking Bad blog, Breaking Bad fourth season, Breaking Bad Season 4, Bryan Cranston, Dean Norris, Giancarlo Esposito, Gus Fring, Hank Schrader, Jesse Pinkman, Jonathan Banks, Marie Schrader, R.J. Mitte, Ray Campbell, Saul Goodman, Skyler White, Steve Gomez, Steven Michael Quezada, Tyrus Kitt, Walter White, Walter White Jr.