Season four of Breaking Bad is shaping up to be a game of cat and mouse. Walter is hellbent on killing Gus, and Gus seems to be two steps ahead. After all, he wouldn’t be where he is today if he wasn’t that cautious. The game is uneven, as Walter is still relatively new to all of this. He’s an amateur. Gus has been doing this for years, and if his message sent by slitting the throat of one of his most loyal workers with a box cutter wasn’t enough to prove he’s not to be fucked with, I don’t know what is. Despite this, Walter now understands the game. He knows that’s it has nothing to do with loyalty or the good work he puts in. The minute he becomes a risk to Gus, he is liable to be killed on the spot. That’s something he can’t live with. And, maybe on a deeper level, Gus has insulted him.
So much of the transformation of Walter White into Heisenberg has been about Walt’s willingness to play by the rules and do what he was told prior to his decision to break bad. His decision to give in completely into criminality has offered him freedom. But with this newfound freedom also comes flaws. Simply put, he’s “gung-ho.” Much of the “Thirty-Eight Snub” revolved around Walt’s plan to kill Gus. He purchases a pistol from a gun dealer that is recommended to him by Saul. From his draw time when reaching for his gun in his holster to the accuracy of which he is able to point the gun at his target, he’s fully committed to this. Walter is going at this full speed. The problem, then, is that he’s not fully thinking out his plans.
Bringing his pistol to work, he gets ready to shoot Gus as a figure walks down the lab stairs, but it turns out to be Victor’s new replacement. Flabbergasted, Walter asks Mike the cleaner where Gus is. Mike bluntly replies: “Walter, you aren’t ever going to see him again.” This really sets the stage for this game of strategy between these two men. Gus is already fully aware of the possible consequences of his actions to try to have Walt killed in the past, to the point that he refuses to meet with Walt in person again. Failed attempt number one.
Jesse, on the other hand, seems to be in a completely different world. He’s still reeling from having to kill Gale. In the premiere, Jesse seemed cold about everything, but here we see that there is a lot more going on with him. His purchase of a new sound system and other stuff to fill up his house isn’t just the fruit of his labor. Breaking his rehab program to snort a line with Badger and Skinny Pete isn’t about him slipping back into irresponsibility. In fact, I would argue this is the most focused we have seen Jesse. He shows up to work on time; he does his job efficiently. He doesn’t lip off to Walter or his superiors. The scene where his ex-girlfriend shows up and asks about Tomás’ killers being found dead, and the envelope full of money left in her mailbox, also showed Jesse in the role of a provider. No, all of this is just a front—a way for him to deal with his guilt and pain of having to take another man’s life. The party he throws is just an excuse for there to always be noise blasting in his ears to drown out his thoughts. He even makes a point to show up at work with earbuds. From the time he goes to work, to the time he comes home, all of it is a distraction. But when even the deadbeat partiers are partied out and, you know, have responsibilities, they’ve had enough of Jesse’s fantasy world of distraction. Shuffling out, he’s left alone to a room of silence. And finally we see Jesse break down what he’s been holding in since the murder. Walter and Jesse have always been on different pages throughout the series, but I have a feeling sooner rather than later, Walter is going to need Jesse to step up to the plate.
Gilligan has also done a fantastic job with his use of the secondary characters this season. Dean Norris brilliantly depicts Hank’s painful road to recovery. His obsession with minerals and his absurd purchasing habits really show the mental toll that a serious injury like that can have on a person. But, more importantly, the distance that is building between him and Marie due to the hardship this has caused is wonderfully written. Hank in a lot of ways is pushing Marie further from him, and it’s really given these actors room to shine. Skylar is also finally given something to do besides constantly trying to foil Walter and his plans. I particularly enjoyed the scene where she goes into the car wash and offers to buy it from Walt’s old boss. While Walt and Jesse’s plots are more gripping, any moment on screen revolving around the other characters is just as rewarding and helps flesh out the impact of the choices our main characters make on the people around them.
Still determined after Gus refuses to meet with him, Walt drives over to Gus’ house late in the night. Getting into the moment, he throws on his infamous Heisenberg hat, adjusts his gun and is ready to go. The scene very much reminded me of the end of “Half-Measure” where Jesse is slowly walking over to the drug dealers to pull his gun on them. The incredible use of music ticks away, and the tension slowly builds. However, Walt’s cell phone goes off, and he fumbles for it. “Go home, Walt,” says an ominous voice over the phone. Failed attempt number two.
Walter now knows that Gus has surveillance around his house. It’s not as easy as attacking the man at his work. Finally, he tracks down Mike the cleaner at the bar that he usually visits with the hopes of flipping him. What transpires here is Walt’s attempt to convince Mike that Gus is a bad boss to work for. After all, he killed Victor just like that, and that means that Gus has no loyalty to any of his workers, but only to himself and his own survival. Walt says, “Everything I did, I did out of loyalty to my partner.” Trying to show Mike the great lengths he is willing to go to fight for his people, he tells him, “Get me in a room with him, and I will do the rest.” Mike won’t have any of it. He punches Walt in the face, and kicks him a few times for good measure. Failed attempt number three.
Gus clearly anticipated that Walt might try to outwit him. He’s done everything in his power to make sure that all possible angles Walt could have taken are blocked off. Walt, then, is going to have to play it smart from here on out. This isn’t a game that can be won strictly on violence alone. “Thirty-Eight Snub” was another incredible episode of Breaking Bad. The impending war between Gus and Walt has the makings of one of television’s finest showdowns. We’re constantly being left on the edge of our seats as we wait each week to see how each side makes its next move.
-Did anyone else think that Bryan Cranston was one of the partiers at Jesse’s party? Right after Jesse leaves to work, a man in a wig pops up at the left of the screen and shakes his head to the music. It really looked like Cranston.
-I wonder why Mike the cleaner punched Walt. Was he insulted that Walt would even bring up the idea of killing Gus? Or was he simply just showing Walt that he’s not anywhere close to being the man to pull something off like that. I keep going back and forth on this.
-Great use of camera work on that Roomba.
-Saul’s commercial that exploited the crash in season two was tasteless, but also perfect for the character. Loved it.