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

NOTE: Henceforth, you’ll be able to find the “Breaking Bad” blog over at the Bullz-Eye blog, or you can just visit Bullz-Eye’s “Breaking Bad” fan hub, where the latest entry can always be found.

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.

  

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Breaking Bad 3.13 – Where In The World Is Jesse Pinkman?

Has any season of television seemed to go by quite as fast as this run of “Breaking Bad” did?

You hear critics throw around phrases like “the best show on television” so often that it barely seems to mean anything anymore, so in addition to making that particular declaration of “Breaking Bad,” I feel like I should offer a bit more, in order to give it some extra heft. Now, obviously, I’m a TV critic, so I watch television day in and day out. Indeed, to borrow a phrase from one of my peers, TV feeds my family. (Hi, Bill!) But while that’s a far cry from being a hardship when you love the small screen as much as I do, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve watched so much television that it takes a hell of a lot to lead me from saying “I like this show” to “I fucking love this show.” “Breaking Bad,” however, has done that, by taking the time to intricately build the characterizations of its major players, developing plots which never seem to stop unfolding, and – perhaps most impressively – zigging when I think they’re going to zag and unabashedly defying me whenever I say, “Oh, no, they wouldn’t dare do that!”

Man, I haven’t even finished writing about the Season 3 finale, and already I’m longing for Season 4…

We start tonight’s episode with…an empty house? That’s right: it’s a flashback to when Walt and Skyler were first buying their house. Okay, to be honest, this wasn’t a surprise for Jamey or I, since we were there when they were filming the season finale. In fact, there’s a portion of this scene that we’ve seen and you haven’t yet, with Walt and Skyler wrapping up their walk-through of the place and stepping outside, then hopping into their convertible and driving away into what they perceive to be a perfect future. Presumably, this will turn up on the Season 3 DVD, but what we all got to see was more than enough to show that, once upon a time, the Whites were not only happy but in a position to see the world as their oyster. (“Why be cautious? We’ve got nowhere to go but up!”) Hell, back then, they were even talking about having a third kid, something that probably isn’t going to happen anytime soon, based on the current state of their marriage.

Cut to the present, with the disconcerting sight of the windshield and front bumper of Walt’s car showing the residual effects of the previous night’s events. There’s no sign of Jesse as Walt looks across the horizon, watching the headlights of a car roll ever closer, but if he’s suffering from any nervousness, the return of the Heisenberg hat seems to be displacing it. Mike gets in several great lines, including his version of “assurances” and a momentary musing on how words can be “so open to interpretation” (I love the way you can hear the smirk in Jonathan Banks’ delivery), but Walt scores a point when Mike suggests that he get his car fixed: “Let’s see how this goes first.”

Gus is not a happy man…and, really, who can blame him? This scene was, as has become par for the course with any scene featuring Giancarlo Esposito, thoroughly gripping, but it was as much so because of the lack of certainty surrounding the actions of both characters. We thought we knew Walt pretty well, but after that move last week, when he mowed down and shot down the dealers, it’s clear that we’re dealing with Heisenberg now, which means that anything can happen. Like the scene last week with Walt and Skyler, this is a back and forth full of constant oneupsmanship.

Walt: I’m quite well.
Gus: Clearly, you are not.

Gus: Are you asking me if I ordered the murder of a child?
Walt: I would never ask you that.

I find it fascinating that Walt’s life has taken this turn where, after years of suffering through the public school system, he’s had to start making meth to find himself back in a career where he’s on something approximating even intellectual footing with his co-workers.

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Breaking Bad 3.12 – No More Half-Measures, Walter

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that, no matter what happens in the season finale, this week’s installment of “Breaking Bad” will still go down as the best episode of Season 3. With that said, we’ve got plenty to discuss, but let’s start things off with a song, shall we?

I don’t know about you, but, personally, I’m never going to be able to hear The Association’s “Windy” in the same way again. Here we go with another example of what I referenced last week, paying off longtime viewers by revisiting a long-dormant storyline. We haven’t seen Wendy since the early days of Season 2, but she’s back and, as we (and Jesse) can clearly see, business is still booming for this industrious young lady.

Despite Jesse’s assurances to Walt that Wendy had the necessary emotional stamina to help him with his plan, I knew she was acting way too hesitant about assisting him for things to go smoothly. Frankly, given the ominous green light in her room and the way she was gazing longingly at the blue meth, I figured we were looking at the very real possibility of an O.D. before her part in the proceedings ever came to pass. That’s not what happened, of course…but, then, given the way she shambled off after her dismissal, who knows what her eventual fate will be?

(Actually, it’s probably kinda like Lucy Lawless’s comment on “The Simpsons,” where, whenever you notice a continuity error on “Xena: Warrior Princess,” the explanation is that a wizard did it…except that anytime a character on “Breaking Bad” vanishes and is never seen again, you can presume that they either O.D.’ed on meth or were killed by a dealer. I mean, c’mon, if you do the stats, the law of averages speaks for itself on this matter.)

It was nice that Walt, Jr. got a chance behind the wheel, and it was even nicer that they kept it real and directly addressed how his medical condition would affect his driving. While Walt and son were bonding, however, Skyler was online, doing her research on money laundering so that she’d be properly prepared to pounce on Walt the second he arrived. That was a great scene, with the back-and-forth between them, each certain that the next words out of their mouths would give them the upper hand in the discussion, and even though Walt seemed to be bowing to her superior position, he ended triumphantly. (“…and THAT is how we’ll sell your little fiction!”)

There were a lot of intense discussions this week, with the one between Walt and Skyler quickly followed by one between Walt and Jesse. This one, however, took place over the course of a couple of cold ones. (“No, seriously, get a beer with me.”) Looks like my concerns were correct: the dealers were some of Gus’s boys. Not that Jesse gives a rat’s ass about the possible end result of taking them out, since he’s angry about the situation on at least two levels, but Walt tries to talk some sense into him, anyway. (“Murder is not part of your 12-step program!”) Walt was making some pretty harsh statements, most notably underlining the fact that if Jesse had really been interested in revenge, he would’ve done something about the dealers weeks ago instead of just getting doped up, but surely he knew that his arguments were falling on deaf ears.

Jesse’s record for making rational decisions isn’t exactly unblemished, however, so not only was there never any way he was going to change his mind, but, frankly, I can’t believe Walt ever really expected Jesse to show up for the meeting at Saul’s office, either. Not that I’m really complaining: any scene with Saul is a good scene, and this one was no exception, thanks to his clarification to Walt about wearing orange jumpsuits and picking up trash along the highway (“That’s jail”) and his musing on the chancy bathrooms at Springer. What I found most enjoyable about the scene, though, was the way Bryan Cranston so effectively captured the feeling that Walt was just kinda spitballing ideas, with no real idea what to do about the situation.

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Breaking Bad 3.11 – I Don’t Understand How The Last Card Is Played (But Somehow The Vital Connection Is Made)

I said this on Facebook this morning after watching my screener of this week’s episode, and I’m saying it again now for all of the readers of this blog: not only is “Breaking Bad” the best show on AMC (which is a hell of an accomplishment, given how much I enjoy “Mad Men”), but it is now officially my favorite show on television, period. Not even having to blog it every week can kill my love for it…and that’s saying something. Watching this week’s episode, though, really served as a turning point for me. I’m someone who, when faced with a plot development which involves a ridiculous amount of coincidence, often finds himself whispering under his breath, “Oh, give me a break…” Tonight’s episode effectively tied new characters from this season into events from last season in a way that, on another show, might have left me feeling the same way. Instead, I was left in awe.

Let us begin, however, at the beginning, with a flashback that allowed Krysten Ritter to return from the dead and play Jane once again. That Jesse was left less than impressed by a trip to an art gallery is hardly surprising, but being reintroduced to Jane after so long served to remind me of a question that occurred to me a few times last season: why is a girl as deep as this involved with a tool like Jesse? Her rap about how “sometimes you get fixated on something and you might not even get why” struck me as a suspiciously on-the-nose callback to Walt’s obsession with the fly, but I could watch Ritter recite from the phone book, so I have no real complaints about that. Besides, if nothing else, the scene provided us with the origin of the lipstick-encrusted cigarette in the car’s ashtray.

Hank didn’t have a huge amount of screen time this week, but his brief appearances in the episode nonetheless served to underline how much he’s struggling with his recovery…and by “struggling,” I mean that he’s kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place: he refuses to leave the hospital until he can do so on his own two feet, but he’s barely willing to participate in the physical therapy that’s being provided. I loved his back and forth with Marie on the matter of pain (“Pain is weakness leaving your body.” “Pain is my foot in your ass, Marie!”), but it shows the depths of his anger about his situation that he should be giving shit to Walt, Jr., a kid who has to use his own crutches to walk out of the room. Gee, you don’t suppose his nephew’s condition serves as a constant reminder about his own physical limitations, do you? Nahhhhhhh…

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