Breaking Bad: “Hermanos” (Episode 4.08)

TV Reviews
Breaking Bad: “Hermanos” (Episode 4.08)

“Hermanos” opens with a flashback from season two when Gus talks to Walt in the hospital. As is common with the show, they take the flashback and add more to it than we had previously seen. After ending his conversation with Walt, Gus goes to visit ex-cartel henchman Tio in his nursing home and tells him about his nephews dying at the hands of Hank Schrader. But then Gus essentially reveals that his entire family has been killed off, and it was at his behest. Tio, writhing in anger, can’t do anything but stare at Gus and seethe. Gus smirks and replies, “This is what comes from blood for blood, Hector.” The camera then cuts to water as blood starts to bleed out into it.

As Walt is waiting in a room to get his x-ray scans, a fellow cancer patient tries opening up to him. This patient tells Walt how he had so many plans and how cancer has taken that away from him. At first Walt is somewhat disinterested in what he’s saying. After all, he has bigger things to worry about, and that stage of worrying about cancer is beneath him. But he eventually replies, “Never give up control. Live life on your own terms.” The patient stammers, “I mean, I get what you are saying, but the cancer…” “To hell with your cancer. Every life has a death sentence.”

It was a fantastic scene, and it really gave us a much-needed reminder that Walt isn’t entirely out of the woods yet. Much of this season has focused on the drug dealing and the cartel, so it was nice to be reminded that Walt is still dealing with his cancer. But it also reaffirmed to the audience that Walt no longer cares about it—and having that power to not be afraid of his own death is a huge factor as to how Walt has become the man that he is today.

Following up Hank’s suspicions of Gus, the DEA call in Gus so they can ask him about his fingerprints at Gale’s place. Gus, of course, is entirely prepared. He tells a very convincing story about how he knew Gale through a scholarship program he had funded and that Gale had visited him recently, inviting him over for dinner so he could ask if he wanted to invest in a project that he was working on. Hank doesn’t buy any of this. He starts to press Gus on his past and why there is no record of him from Chile. Gus shrugs this off and says the country was not only terrible with human rights at the time, but also with keeping records. As Gus exits the station, the look on his face shows pure anger.

All of this leads up to an incredibly intense scene where Hank takes Walt to Los Pollos Hermanos and asks Walt to plant a tracker on Gus’ car. Hank tells Walt about how he suspects Gus is the man pushing the blue meth and how Gus’ fingerprints were at Gale’s apartment. Walter, feeling the walls closing in on him, then sees Mike pull up beside him in his car. Hank pressures Walt to go put the tracker on the car, and without having a choice, he does. He then walks into the Los Pollos Hermanos where he shows Gus the tracker and says he didn’t do it. Gus then tells him to plant it on his car and to make an order. The scene was heart-pounding, and they did an incredible job capturing Walt’s anxiety. It reminded me of season three’s “Sunset” when Hank was waiting outside the RV for Walt and Jesse to open up. Only this time, it was Walt working on behalf of Hank.

Meanwhile, we had another example of Walt and Jesse still being distant when Walt paid Jesse a visit. Walt is feeling pressure over the fact that Hank not only is closing in on Gus, but that Gus could try to kill Hank or even him any day now to solve this situation. Jesse, as usual, gets the end of Walt’s anger. Walt wants Jesse to hurry up and kill Gus and is irritated by Jesse’s seemingly lack of initiative. As Jesse goes to the bathroom, his cell phone goes off. Walt reads it and sees it’s a text from Mike about their meeting with the boss being called off due to something important coming up. At this point, I started to wonder if Jesse’s house had been bugged all along. Of course, this could have been purely coincidental, but a part of me wonders if they sent that text the minute Jesse was away from Walt so that he would see it. Walt then asks Jesse what the text was about, and Jesse basically says it was nothing. At this point, Walt starts to realize that he’s losing Jesse, that Jesse is no longer telling him the full truth, and that his only ally could be gone.

Gus for the most part, has been quite the mystery to us. We know a lot about how he runs his business. He’s careful, he’s efficient. But he also has a darker side. This is a man that is friends with the DEA and goes to hospital charities, but is also willing to kill an employee by digging a box cutter into his throat. Simply put, Gus has many sides to him. And up to this point we haven’t known a lot about Gustavo outside of mentions here and there from the Cartel. This week’s episode really gave us some needed background information to further understand the man.

The episode ends with a lengthy flashback that shows Gus meeting with the cartel when he originally opened Los Pollos Hermanos in Mexico. While the cartel’s workers were getting food at his restaurant, Gus had given them samples of his meth, in hopes they would tell their boss. The meeting was set up because of this. But we also see that the cartel leader feels disrespected by Gus’ methods of getting the meeting. We then see that Gus had a partner who was the cook. Not only does he cook the chicken, but he also cooks meth. The cartel leader laughs it off, saying that there is no money to be made in meth, that it’s the poor man’s version of cocaine. Gus tries to explain how meth is the drug of the future, because it can be artificially made and sold in much larger quantities, with all the profit going directly to them. He also explains that his partner cooks meth unlike any before. Out of nowhere, smoke and blood hit the side of Gus’ face—his partner had been shot right in the head. They hold Gus down by the pool and tell him that the only reason he isn’t dead is because they know who he was in Chile. The camera then pans up, and the pool that Gus is lying next to has blood seeping into it, tying back to the opening scene with the bloody water.

This scene was extremely important for a couple of reasons. For starters, it showed us the origins of Gus. We get a better understanding why he betrayed the cartel in season three, and why he was so happy to help Hank kill the twin nephews (outside of the business implications). This cartel war going on isn’t just a war over drugs or money, it’s a personal war fueled by revenge. Most importantly, the scene also showed why Gus has showed so much interest in Walt in the past season. In a lot of ways, he sees his original cook partner in Walt. When he invited Walt over for dinner in season three, it wasn’t just him showing Walter what his life could be, it was a bond he was trying to establish. But Walt’s priorities weren’t with Gus; he already had his loyalties to his partner Jesse. The disappointment that he couldn’t find that loyal friendship again in Walt in a lot of ways is what makes them enemies now. And it even explains why Gus is putting a wedge between Walt and Jesse. Sure, there are always strategic reasons for the things Gus does. But we now see there is a lot more going on with the man and the actions he takes.

This was not only this season’s best episode so far, but I would argue it was one of the best in the entire series up to this point. “Hermanos” was filled with incredible dialogue and exposition. It was perfectly paced and had some of the best acting the series has seen. It would be absolutely criminal if Giancarlo Esposito doesn’t win an Emmy for his brilliant portrayal of Gustavo Fring. If anything, this episode reminds us that Breaking Bad doesn’t need to have big action sequences to have us on the edge of our seats.

Stray observations:
• Gus must have been someone huge in Chile. Not only did the cartel spare him his life, Gus wanted to make sure that his past was wiped. I’m excited to see how they further develop this.
• It was nice to see Jesse using his money for good things. Taking care of his ex-girlfriend and her son reminds us that Jesse has always been one of the moral centers of the show.
• It’s obvious that Jesse and Walt are not on the same page and are distant. But I think when all is said and done, their deeper bonds will hold strong. I just wonder when Jesse will find about how Walt let Jane die.

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