9.5

Breaking Bad Review: "Bullet Points" (4.04)

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<i>Breaking Bad</i> Review: "Bullet Points" (4.04)

“How did this all get so screwed up?” Walter White asks in the poignantly titled episode: “Bullet Points.” The episode in many respects, was the most introspective episode of the series since the “The Fly.” Walter, very much deep in shit (to paraphrase Saul), is now contemplating how everything arrived to this point, and what (if any) are the possible exit strategies. And in the midst of his world crumbling around him, our protagonist is left reflecting on all the decisions he’s made up to this point.

One of the big game changers at the end of season three, was of course, Jesse killing Gale. Not only did it secure Walt and Jesse’s spot in the lab, but their livelihood as well. But the other game changer that was pushed to the back – was Gus taking out the competing Cartel, by setting in motion a plan that brought him and his operation down across the border. As we saw in the season three finale, the cartel was sending out feelers into Gus’s territory, and Mike the Cleaner was staying on top of it. “Bullet Points” brings this major plot arc back in the front as the episode opens with a scene where the Cartel intercepts a “Los Pollos Hermanos” truck carrying the meth that is packaged in the restaurants barrels. Also riding in the back of the truck is Mike, and after they shoot the driver and waste no time destroying the truck, Mike kills both men as they enter it. While the scene was brief, it reminded the audience that there is another war looming between Gus and adversaries besides the internal one he has with Walt. And whatever ends up being Walt’s fate, if he takes out Gus and plans to take over, he will more than likely inherit this mess. Directly or indirectly, this looming war will have huge implications on our characters, and it will no doubt play a huge part in this season and onward.

The majority of the episode focused on Walt and Skylar coming out to the rest of the family with their make believe story about Walt’s supposed “gambling problem”. The story serves as a credible alibi so that they can explain their increase in money, and conversely the purchase of a Car Wash. But as they go over the bullet point list of what Walt needs to say, Walt starts to get offended by the fact that he’s supposed to act ashamed for what he has done. In an incredibly well crafted scene, Walter and Skylar uncomfortably dance around what he has done. The cover up gambling story, of course, is a way for them to do this. It allowed Skylar to express how she felt about everything he has done. And Skylar also feels guilty to degree for giving in and helping Walt in all of this. Making up this story along with the car wash acts as a distraction, and makes the reality of the situation manageable. But Walter’s anger as he is asked to act ashamed, is quite telling of the character. He doesn’t feel ashamed for what he has become. In the past where Walt might have used “providing for his family” as the crutch to justify his actions, he’s now merged that with just being okay with being a drug manufacture and a criminal. Not only is he providing for his family, but he’s also doing it on his own terms. The scene in a lot of ways offered up the a lot of growth in Walter, and it was just an incredible way for us to see him flip his role from earlier seasons, as he now struggles with having to act “normal”.

Revealing Walt’s story to Hank and Marie gave us a breather from having to watch Hank and Marie marriage struggles. And it was great to see Hank in that role of being a smarmy jackass that actually cares about his work. After showing off his mineral collection to Walter and Walt Jr., he pops in a tape of Gale dancing and doing video karaoke. It was rather depressing to see Gale being mocked given his demise. But it also served as another glimpse into Walter’s psyche. On the one hand, I think he felt a bit of guilt they had to kill this man, who obviously wasn’t suited for the “game”. But on the other, it infuriated Walt that THIS was the man they now thought was Heisenberg. Again, this kind of plays into one of the tragic flaws of this character. If anything he should be happy that Gale can be pinned as Heisenberg. It just makes his distance from the law that much further. But Walt seems more concerned about people getting credit for his art (the blue meth). In another incredible scene, that recalled back to season one where Hank and Walt are playing Poker – Walt and Hank discuss the Gale’s lab notes. Walter finds out for the first time that Hank has been hunting Heisenberg for a while now. The dialogue is incredibly intense, as Walt was trying to draw some information out of Hank. At one point we see a prophetically tragic note Gale had written in his lab, where he referred to Walter as W.W. and considered him his shining start. Gale clearly looked up to Walt as an artist of their profession. Hank jokingly names off people with W.W. as initials, and including Walt. Walt cleverly laughs it off, and pins the W.W. to Walt Whitman, who Gale had idolized and wrote poems in his lab book.

All of this leads up to Jesse being taken by Mike the cleaner. Not only is Jesse a concern because he killed Gale, and they are investigating the crime, but Jesse had also been caught dealing the blue meth earlier in the series. As you can imagine, the people up top aren’t too happy about Jesse being so reckless in his personal life. It draws attention. Sure, Jesse is doing his job well. But in order to be in this business, the job goes beyond just the labor work. As Gus proved in the past season, you have to hide in plain site. You have to play the role of a normal member of society, and you have to do it well. Jesse’s numb outlook on life is not cutting it. This then sets off the spark to the powder keg, as Walter now feels like Gus is making his next move again him. While Jesse might not always be on good terms with Walt, Walter views him very much as a son. A responsibility. Someone he has to look after. And once they took Jesse, it’s now time for him to act.

“Bullet Points” organized and put into perspective what Walt has become. But it also was reflective on what comes next. While Walt has generally panicked and stumbled earlier in this season, he’s teetering dangerously close to the edge, and needs to come up with some solutions soon Walt above all else, is a provider. As selfish as Walt can’t be at times, his plea to Mike earlier in the season had some truth to it. Walt is loyal, and sometimes to a fault. It will then be inserting to see what move he makes in regards to Jesse. And knowing Gus, maybe this is just another trap to get Walt to do what he wants for him (like snapping Jesse out of his numb state). While this episode was in many ways a refresher to put things back into perspective, this was one Breaking Bad’s best episodes thematically, and the dialogue scenes were gripping and intense. More so than past season’s, Vince and his team have really found the sweet spot for balancing the action and the character driven aspects that had made the show so incredible.

As Walt talks to Saul about what comes next, Saul offers him an escape plan. An “End Game.” He knows a guy (of course he does), that could make Walt and his family disappear. But he also warns Walt that it’s a situation where you never come back from it. Once you go that route, you are out of the game forever. While any sensible man might take this option quickly as a means to protect his family, Walter quickly rejects the notion. But for a brief second he contemplates it, and wonders if he can get out of the game and go back to living as a regular average Joe. At this point for Walt though, there is no going back.

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