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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“Breaking Bad” is back, baby!

It’s been a long, cold wait for Walter White to start making meth again…so long, in fact, that the actor who plays him – Bryan Cranston, of course – has missed the window of eligibility for this year’s Emmy Awards…but on Sunday night at 10 PM EST, “Breaking Bad” will finally return to AMC.

Season Four of the acclaimed series arrives just on the heels of the network having received countless complaints from irate viewers who felt cheated when “The Killing” didn’t resolve the mystery of who killed Rosie Larsen, but if you’re one of those folks, fear not: while the answer to the question “is Gale dead?” isn’t definitely answered at the precise instant the season premiere begins (although you would be forgiven for thinking that it has been), you’ll have clarification of Gale’s state of existence mere moments after the opening credits conclude.

Mind you, despite all of the discussion about whether or not Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) successfully shot and killed Gale Boetticher (David Costabile) at the end of Season Three, series creator Vince Gilligan has said outright that “it’s not actually meant to be ambiguous. It’s meant to be, ‘Oh my God, Jesse shot poor Gale.” Not that he couldn’t have changed his mind in the interim between seasons, of course, but given Gilligan’s steadfast vision for the series over the course of 33 episodes, there’s little reason to think that he has.

Okay, so everyone remembers that Gale probably got shot by Jesse, since that was the last moment of the Season Three finale, but do you remember where everyone else was at the end of the season? Let’s play a little bit of catch-up, just in case.

When we last left Walt, he (probably) was on the verge of being shot and killed by Mike (Jonathan Banks), as order by fried-chicken impresario / meth kingpin Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), but the stay of execution was temporarily rescinded upon the realization that Jesse might well be in the process of murdering the only other person capable of maintaining the manufacturing of the meth. (Did I ever mention how much I love alliteration?) Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui), another one of Gus’s main men, makes a mad dash toward Gale’s apartment, but as it stands right now, we don’t officially know whether or not he made it in time…except, y’know, we probably do know, which is to say that he almost certainly didn’t.

But I digress.

Elsewhere, Walt’s wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn), now knows of her husband’s goings-on (even if she isn’t nearly as much in the know as she thinks she is) and is trying to incorporate her own business acumen into the operation. Utterly in the dark, however, is their teenage son, Walt, Jr. (R.J. Mitte), who spent much of Season Three trying to figure out just what the hell was up with his parents. And can you blame him? After all, he watched his mom kick his father out of the house, demand a divorce, and even call the cops in order to have him arrested, only to see her backpedal. You’d be confused, too.

You’ve also got Skyler’s sister, Marie (Betsy Brandt), whose DEA-agent husband, Hank (Dean Norris), was left a paraplegic after an attack by two very violent gentlemen on a quest to avenge their cousin. When last we saw Hank and Marie, she had just successfully managed to make his groundhog see its shadow…by which, of course, I mean that she gave him a hand job and made his penis stand at attention. Sure, it seems like an easy enough trick, but it was the first time he’d managed it since incurring his injuries, and the fact that Marie made it happen meant that he had to make good on his promise that he’d leave the hospital, head home, and begin further physical therapy. Once Hank’s back on his feet, it’s only a matter of time before he’s also back on the trail of the mysterious blue meth and the man responsible for manufacturing it.

Obviously, we know where Jesse was when we last left him, but prior to that, he’d had a hell of third season. He started off in rehab, and once he got out, he initially managed to stay clean while still continuing to make meth, but after spending a little too long lingering on his conviction that he had become “the bad guy,” he soon began to backslide. In addition to his chemical dependency, Jesse also had his fair share of emotional turmoil, dealing with the death of his girlfriend, Jane (Krysten Ritter) by seeking solace in Andrea, a girl from his drug counseling sessions, only to learn that her 11-year-old brother had been responsible for the murder of his friend and fellow dealer, Combo. Dude can’t catch a break.

The relationship between Walt and Jesse hit some serious highs and lows during the course of the third season, but by the end of the next-to-last episode, it became clear that the two of them have a bond which cannot be broken. What remains to be seen, however, is how Gus is going to handle their continued partnership, not simply because of his lack of respect for Jesse, but also because of the way Walt has transitioned from being a mere manufacturer into someone who clearly has an interest in working his way up the corporate ladder, as it were.

So that’s where we stand with “Breaking Bad” as we enter into the show’s fourth season. Tensions were sky high when we last left the series, and I can assure you that by the time the credits roll on the season premiere, you will feel the same way Giancarlo Esposito felt after he read the script for the episode: a little bit stunned and a little bit shaken.

True, that’s generally how most viewers feel at the end of every episode of “Breaking Bad,” but having already seen this one, I’m going to lay it on the line: the show delivers the “holy shit” moment to end all “holy shit” moments to date.

See you on Sunday, kids.

P.S. Don’t forget to visit Bullz-Eye’s “Breaking Bad” blog right after the season premiere to join in on the post-show discussion. Trust me, there’s definitely going to be a lot to talk about. In the meantime, be sure to head over to our “Breaking Bad” Fan Hub for all the interviews, reviews, and features about the show that you can stand.

  

Bullz-Eye Goes Back to “Breaking Bad”

It all started, as many things do, with a seemingly innocuous question.

In early January 2011, Bryan Cranston was doing a small round of press for his new Atom.com series, “The Handlers,” and once I learned that there was a very decent possibility that I could pull one of the few available timeslots, there was never any chance that I wouldn’t throw my hat into the ring. As regular Bullz-Eye readers know, I’ve chatted with Mr. Cranston on several occasions – on the phone, at the TCA tour, even on the set of “Breaking Bad” – and he’s never proven to be anything less than a fantastic interview.

Better yet, as a result of these recurring conversations and encounters, we’ve reached a point in our relationship (such as it is) where the man actually knows who I am. Having spent many years being steadfastly convinced that no one knows who I am, I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to get on the phone with him in January and have him kick off our chat by asking A) how I was, and B) when I was coming back to the set of “Breaking Bad.”

I answered the only way I possibly could: “You tell me when I’m coming, and I’m there.”

“All right, we’ll work it out again,” replied Cranston. “We’ll have another caravan.”

My heart soared at his words, of course, but as time passed, I…

Okay, you know, this would be the perfect place for me to say that Cranston’s words faded into hazy memories, and that I received a pleasant reminder of his comments a few months later when I received an email which said, “Come join us on the ‘Breaking Bad’ set!” But that’s not what happened.

What really happened was that I committed his comment to memory, dwelled on it for two months, and when a fellow TV critic got his invite and I didn’t, I promptly dropped a line to Cranston’s publicist and said, “Hey, remember when Bryan asked me when I was coming back to the set? I hear they’re doing that press caravan he mentioned!” A few days later, I got an email from Sony in which, without preface, they asked to confirm my travel arrangements to Albuquerque.

Eh. Either way, I still got to visit the set of “Breaking Bad” again. I ain’t complaining.

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