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.