Breaking Bad 4.8 – Sangre por Sangre

The fact that this week’s episode presented us with the same pre-game warning as the season premiere – “This program contains intense violence which may be unsuitable for some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.” – should’ve served as a tip-off for just about everyone that there was no way we’d make it to the closing credits without getting some sort of “holy shit” moment, but, holy shit, what a moment. Hell, even without the violence, this was an intense episode all around.

We begin the proceedings with a flashback to Episode 3.8, which took place in the wake of the Cousins’ attack on Hank. What we didn’t see at the time, however, was Gus’s visit to see the Cousins’ uncle, Hector “Tio” Salamanca, and tell him of their fate, saying, “This is what comes of blood for blood, Hector.” And then we get a shot of the viscous red substance in question, floating through a swimming pool. If you’re like me, you were already thinking, “Oh, this is gonna be good,” and if so, then surely you weren’t disappointed by episode’s end.

Hey, what do you know? “Breaking Bad” finally takes time to acknowledge that Walt is still being treated for cancer. This scene really underlined how much he’s changed since his initial diagnosis, however. So Walt’s living his life as if he’s in charge, huh? Yeah, he talks big, instantly dismissing the fears and concerns of the poor bastard who’s sharing the waiting area with him, but the second we see him back in his usual environment, he looks completely lost and mostly hopeless…which is, at least momentarily, a look he shares with Gus when the latter gets a phone call to pop ’round the ABQ police department. With Walt, though, I have to wonder if he got a report on a cancer that he wasn’t expected. But we’ll get back to that.

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Breaking Bad 4.4 – My Star, My Perfect Silence

Tonight’s episode opened with a major shoot-‘em-up sequence, offering further proof that what other gunmen need a hail of gunfire to accomplish, Mike only requires one or two well-placed bullets. What can you say? Dude’s a badass, and now being in possession of a slightly damaged right ear doesn’t change that one bit. The only question left by this scene was, who was doing the shooting? Or am I already supposed to know that?

It’s 3:01 AM, and Skyler’s having a restless night’s sleep. Why? Is it because her mind is filled with ideas on how to take advantage of this new business situation in which she’s found herself? No, it’s because she’s so concerned about the web of lies that she’s involved in spinning and wants to be damned sure she can cover her ass at every turn. Take, for instance, the story she told Marie about how Walt made all of these ill-begotten gains through gambling: time to back that up with making Walt attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings and display a mastery of Blackjack. Unfortunately, in addition to his consistent refusal to concede that he’s wrong about anything ever, Walt seems to be getting a trifle annoyed with Skyler’s continual attempts to maintain the reigns of command…though in fairness, it’s hard to imagine anyone not getting annoyed with Skyler, giving how anal she’s being about following the incredible in-depth script she’s composed for the impending fake admission to Hank about Walt’s gambling and the buying of the car wash. Great scene in principle, but it went on so long, with Skyler getting so increasingly specific with her plan, that it’s hard to imagine anyone making it to the end without thinking at least once, “There’s no way everything’s going to go according to plan.” And it didn’t…though it wasn’t because of the script. (Again, a classic case of “Breaking Bad” zigging when any other show would’ve zagged.)

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Breaking Bad 4.3 – Peas and Ice and One Bottle of Champagne

This episode might’ve been called “Open House,” but when it first began, it seemed as though it should’ve been called “Dead Man Walking,” so dour was Walt’s expression when he first entered the SuperLab. But then he poured himself a cup of coffee and found a smile…which, within moments, had turned into something between a frown and a snarl. Yep, Walt’s going through some emotional turmoil at the moment, unable to enjoy his “victory” over Gale because he’s convinced that a final battle between himself and Gus is inevitable, and the addition of security cameras which literally follow him wherever he goes in the lab…well, that’s just the cherry of on top of his seething sundae of hatred for his employer.

But that’s not what this episode is about. Not really, anyway. It’s much more about the two husband-and-wife relationships of the series – Walt & Skyler and Hank & Marie – and, to a lesser extent, poor Jesse, who’s never seemed quite so alone and adrift as he does this week.

Skyler wants to talk about the car wash. Walt doesn’t. Given her persistence to get him to come to the door in the first place, it’s fair to suspect that she would’ve shoved her way past him in annoyance eventually, but once she spotted his bruised eye, it’s notable that her first reaction was concern…not for what it might mean to her and the kids, but simply for Walt. Further confirmation that no matter what kind of ass Walt might be, she still loves and cares for him. Unfortunately, as far as Walt’s concerned, she cares a little too much, dismissing her suggestions to go to the police, then getting grouchy and accusing her of undue passive-aggression. Even when she makes him swear that he’ll go to the police if things get really, really bad, his response of “absolutely!” is utterly devoid of any ring of truth.

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Breaking Bad 4.2 – “Go Home, Walter.”

Tonight’s episode begins with a lesson for all casting directors: if you’re on the lookout for a grizzled-looking good ol’ boy who’s filled to the gills with folksy wisdom, you need look no further than Jim Beaver. You’ve seen him on “Deadwood” and “John from Cincinnati,” you’ve seen him on “Supernatural” and “Harper’s Island.” Accept no substitutes: Jim Beaver’s got what you need, and he delivers every time…and, yes, that includes tonight, when he played Lawson, an :::cough, cough::: independent businessman helping Walt to procure a handgun.

It’s pretty clear that most of what Walt knows about guns came from watching TV westerns, because every time he draws his weapon, he looks desperately like he’s trying to be the fastest gun in the west. Lawson offers up a lot of helpful advice, including a beautifully delivered line explaining why Walt should stick with a .38 special over an automatic: “If you can’t get it done with five, then you’re into spray-and-pray, in which case I wouldn’t count on another six sealing the deal.” Lawson tries to be the gun dealer with the heart of gold, recognizing Walt’s handicap as a marksman (“You’re gonna want to practice your draw…a lot“) even pointing out the merits of buying legally over illegally, but when Walt refuses to concede that the gun will be used for anything other than defense, he has little choice but to shrug and say, “I’m happy to take your money.” The next time we see Walt, it’s clear that he’s taken Lawson’s advice about practicing his draw to heart…as well he should’ve. You know, I think you have to wonder just how much of Lawson was on the pages of George Mastras’s script and how much was turned into gold simply by Beaver’s pitch-perfect delivery, but either way, Lawson = awesome.

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Breaking Bad 4.1 – “Well…? Get back to work!”

Hey, everybody, Gale’s okay! Gee, I guess Jesse’s bullet missed him after all, so…

Oh. Never mind. It’s a flashback. But, hey, at least now we know how the superlab first came into being. And we also know the sad irony that Gale is directly responsible for Gus bringing Walt into the business in the first place. So obsessive was he with his concern about the quality of the meth he was making – more concerned, even, than Gus himself – that he simply couldn’t comprehend that Gus wouldn’t want to work with someone like that, even risking the possibility of talking himself out of a job by saying of Walt, “If he’s not (a professional), I don’t know what that makes me.”

Well, as it turns out, Gale, what is makes you is dead. But, then, I think we all pretty much knew that when Season 3 faded to black. Some of us just didn’t want to admit it.

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