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.
…and just like that, Jesse’s a killer. He’s also deep in shock, as evidenced by the fact that, although he makes a mad dash out of the apartment building, he only makes it as far as the driver’s seat of his car, where he remains when Victor – Gus’s right-hand man – runs into him. But, of course, by that point, Victor’s already been inside and gotten himself seen by Gale’s neighbors, thereby sealing his fate. (Not that we know that at the time, of course.) When Victor drags Jesse into the lab, Walt’s expression is one of pure horror, clearly believing that Jesse had been caught before he’d done the deed, but the look slips from his face onto Mike’s when it becomes clear that, indeed, Jesse did succeed. You can also see a very distinct “uh-oh” expression when Mike absorbs the information that Victor was witnessed at the scene of the crime. “Better get this over with,” sighs Mike. Hey, don’t pretend you wouldn’t be scared shitless, too…
Hey, it’s Marie! She’s just woken Skyler to give her the latest bunch of bills for Hank, which are clearly sizable enough to get anyone’s adrenaline pumping, but Skyler’s understandably more concerned about the fact that Walt’s vehicle is in the driveway…and Walt ain’t home. The fact that her first instinct is to move it a few blocks away to avoid too many questions certainly strikes me as a sign that she’s starting to get the hang of this new lifestyle, but this becomes even more obvious when she cons a locksmith to let her into Walt’s condo so that she can try to figure out what the hell’s going on. Really, though, what were her options? It’s clear that Saul Goodman’s primary interest is getting the hell out of ABQ before Gus realizes the part he played in the preceding evening’s events. (“You’ve got a passport, right?”)
Having seen Marie momentarily back at the White house, we also check in briefly with Hank, who has apparently found himself a new hobby: buying minerals online. Hey, whatever gets you through your recovery, right? Although he’s home, has a new therapist, and has reportedly “broke new ground” in his efforts to get back on his feet again, he’s clearly still in just as shitty a mood now as he was when we left him at the end of Season 3. It’s obvious that Marie’s doing everything humanly possible to make his life livable, but he’s clearly just bitter as hell. And, frankly, who can blame him, y’know?
Meanwhile, back in the superlab, Walt tries to point out to Mike that no matter how angry Gus may be about what’s happened to Gale, someone still needs to get cooking to stay on schedule. But Victor’s majorly pissed and decides to prove that he’s just as capable as Walt, snapping, “That’s right, genius, watch me: we ain’t missin’ no cook.” Walt’s ego won’t allow him to accept the possibility that Victor’s learned the process simply from watching him do it over and over again…until, that is, he remembers the aluminum. That’s the point when his tune changes from “you don’t know what the hell you’re doing, do you?” to “son of a bitch…”
Oh, man, is he mad. He’s not saying a word, of course, but, then, that’s often par for the course when it comes to Gus. Victor’s grinning from ear to ear with pride in his work, as if to say, “Everything’s copacetic,” but Gus has nothing to say to him, either, instead walking silently past everyone and putting on a protective suit. Walt, proving once again that he is incapable of letting a room sit in silence when he can instead fill it with a rambling monologue, attempts to explain his actions, basically saying, “Great guy, that Gale, but if it’s him versus me or him versus me and Jesse, it’s gonna be Gale doing down every time.” After daring to blame Gus for Gale’s death, he sneers as he describes Victor as the meth-maker equivalent of a short-order cook, whipping out a barrage of chemist-speak to show Victor just how stupid he truly thinks he is.
And then, Gus – still silent – stumbles upon the box cutter.
In retrospect, it’s heartbreaking that Victor should smile at the sound of Gus clicking open the cutter. Clearly, he believes that he’s about to witness the last moments of Walt and Jesse…and so, for that matter, does Walt, judging from the increasingly frantic delivery of his defense. I think a lot of us probably knew from the moment Gus walked past Walt and Jesse and over to Victor that poor Victor was going to be the one to get it, but that didn’t make the unabashed violence of the act any less horrific. It’s pretty clear that Mike was taken aback…and we never see that guy shocked. This is what I got from the look between Gus and Jesse: Gus’s eyes were saying, “It’s your fault this had to happen,” and Jesse’s were replying, “Bring it, bitch.” Walt might’ve been horrified, but Jesse was clearly pissed. Jesse had better watch out, though, because he’s not likely to find a more formidable opponent than Gus. After he calmly washed up, stripped away the safety attire, cleaned his glasses, and walked up the stairway without saying so much as a word about anything whatsoever, he finally reaches the catwalk, where he speaks his only words of the episode:
“Well…? Get back to work!”
My God, that was chilling.
In a perfect “Breaking Bad” bit of dark comedy, Walt and Jesse attempt to dispose of Victor’s body like they’re Laurel and Hardy, with Walt finally turning toward Mike and cutting him a look that says, “You know damned well you could do this better than we can…” Of course, a much needed moment of levity came when Jesse grabbed the hydrofluoric acid and, after Mike admitted to a lack of experience with the stuff and asked if they were sure it’d do the job, Jesse replied with a deadpan, “Trust us.” The bathtub from Season One has never seemed so far away…
After a kickass cutaway from mopping up blood to mopping up ketchup, we had the scene with Walt and Jesse enjoying a nice breakfast at Denny’s in their brand new Kenny Rogers t-shirts. (Attention, AMC: please send me one in XXL, along with a “Breaking Bad” box cutter.) Walt’s trying to be all fatherly for a moment, but then we get a feel for what I think is perhaps going to be the thrust of the season: Walt’s paranoid about Gus, which I’m sure is only going to get worse as the season progresses, while Jesse doesn’t see Gus’s revenge as anything imminent. Of course, again, Jesse’s clearly still in shock, but there’s something to be said for his theory about the lot of them all being on the same page: “If I can’t kill you, you’ll sure as shit wish you were dead.”
Last moments: Walt assures Skyler that’s he’s right as rain, which couldn’t be further from the truth, and we see a shot of the crime scene at Gale’s apartment, focusing in on his lab notes. What do you want to be that those end up in Hank’s hands somewhere down the line? Just sayin’…
* I never would’ve thought that a bullet-pierced teapot could stir such emotions in me, but, damn, Gale was such a nice guy, not to mention a dedicated employee, a fact further underlined by the flashback that opened the episode.
* Saul’s paranoia was hysterical, especially the cutaway to him calling Skyler back on a payphone because he was so concerned that Gus might’ve bugged his office.
* Okay, I think we can officially call the eyeball a season-premiere tradition at this point. This is three years running, correct?
* Seriously, how disgusting was the shot of Victor’s slowly disintegrating body parts within the translucent plastic container? Pretty gross even by “Breaking Bad” standards. Which is to say that it was pretty awesome.