Breaking Bad Review: Episode 4.3
After an incredible season opener and subsequent follow-up, Breaking Bad starts to dig in this season with an episode that focuses more on the side characters. And while Breaking Bad has always had a stellar ensemble cast, sometimes these kinds of episodes that focus heavily on the side plots can feel bogged down, and “Open House” felt this way at times.
Fresh off feeling defeated, Walter makes his way to the lab with a swollen black eye, courtesy of Mike the cleaner. Upon setting up, he notices that a high quality security camera has now been installed in the lab, and it follows his every move. Gus takes more precautions to put his distance between him and Walt. But as far as this showdown between Gus and Walt goes, this is the only thing brought up in the episode (well, outside of the new worker watching Jesse’s place). The rest of the episode revolves around Skyler and Marie. Personally, I’ve always found Marie and Skyler to be the most annoying characters of the show, so I knew going into the episode that a full episode revolving around them wouldn’t particularly spark my interest the way the past episodes have.
Marie, feeling the pressure of Hank’s constant mental abuse, has finally snapped. Reverting back to her old habits (being a kleptomaniac), she takes it a step further by visiting different open houses, acting interested in buying the house. In each of these scenes she has a different name, a different family, job, life. They really act as an escape from her troubled marriage. After all, it’s not easy having to take care of a loved one that that has gone through serious trauma. Hank constantly pushing her away only makes it harder on her. So it makes sense that she would act out her fantasy to escape from all of this. The plot struck me as depressing, and it’s hard to fully understand why Hank is being such an asshole to her. My take on it is that Hank feels guilty about being a burden on everyone because of his condition, so instead of waiting for people to feel that burden, he just projects what he presumes they think onto them. He also resents the fact that Marie is always so positive, because he thinks this situation is permanent, and she’s always trying to make light of the situation, which is something he doesn’t want to accept. Still, it seems like something more is going on here. Whatever has built up in Hank has turned into something dark. And I believe the result of all this tension will be their marriage imploding.
The other half of the episode focused on Skyler’s crusade to buy the car wash. Like Saul though, I was kind of left asking, “Why this car wash?” Yeah, thematically I thought it was brilliant in season three when they suggested Walt buy his old workplace where he was treated like crap. It would have been cosmic justice and a way of coming back around full circle to season one. But after all the hurdles that were thrown their way in regards to buying it, I found myself getting annoyed with Skyler’s insistence that they buy that specific one.
Not that I didn’t think it was believable. After all, Walt is a prideful man and will go extreme lengths to get what he wants. And as Skyler pointed out last season, it’s a great story for Walt. But Skyler’s passive view on things can come across as jarring. But I get it—she’s not a criminal. Nor does she fully understand or comprehend the dark things Walt is actually involved with. It’s just that the particularly large doses in which it was presented in this episode bothered me. The payoff was worth it though. I loved the scene where Skyler forces Walter’s former boss to sell his place by saying his soap was not up to the city’s code.
For me, the most interesting scene of this episode was the brief conversation Jesse had with Walt. Jesse asked Walt if he wanted to go do something after work, suggesting a go-kart track that is “fun.” This was yet another childlike action from Jesse—an obvious allusion to the fact that he wants to go back to his innocence he lost when killing another man. But the exchange was the first time the two really had a heart- to-heart since all the mess of last season. And it’s clear that Jesse is reaching out to Walt. Walt, however, misses this plea, as he has a lot of other stuff on his mind, such as Gus and Skyler’s plan. But as I mentioned in my last review, at some point Jesse and Walt are going to have to get on the same page, and this is alluded to when Jesse asks Walt about his eye, saying, “Do you have something we need to talk about?” Right now they’re still on different pages. Jesse still continues to drown out his pain with parties and excess. His house now looks like a crack den, with graffiti on the wall and junkies passing out on the floor. The use of Fever Ray’s “If I Had A Heart“ to soundtrack Jesse’s hellhole of a house was eerie and made for a fantastic sequence. But I also think the writers have done as much as they can do with Jesse drowning out his pain at this point; I expect them to take it in a new direction with Gus’ worker staking out Jesse’s place.
“Open House” was a good episode, but it dragged in places. Much of this was a result of the side characters’ plots taking center stage. That’s not to say they aren’t interesting, because they are. But they work a lot better as secondary plots running in the background. Then again, Breaking Bad has always been a show that has taken its time building up to something bigger as the season goes along. “Open House” acts sort of as a bridge episode, and I tend to feel these kind of episodes work better when the DVDs are released, because you aren’t having to wait a week for an episode that isn’t as exciting or one that holds as many revelations as other past episodes might. Still, for most of the episode, it was an interesting venture into what the other characters are going through that might otherwise be pushed to the back in a more intense episode.