Swerving chaotically in and out of traffic, Walt races across town fumbling with his cell phone. He still can’t get a hold of Jesse, and he’s telling Saul to give all the money that he’s made to his wife in the result that they don’t hear from him again. Similar to the opening scene in season one, he tells his family he loves them by making a call to the home answering machine. Walt is preparing for the worst as he races towards getting Jesse back.
After confronting the shift leader at the Lost Pollos Hermanos restaurant, Walt waits for Gus to come out and see him. Then Mike calls. What then entails for the much of the episode is quite the opposite of this intense opening sequence. We see Jesse and Mike travel across long distances, picking up money drops in various locations: a dirt patch in the middle of nowhere, an abandoned warehouse. I was on the edge of my seat wondering what the hell any of this meant. Jesse eventually jokes: “If your job is to bore me to death, then congratulations.” I don’t want to read too much into the writers’ intentions (they have been known to throw stuff like this into past episodes), but I get a sense that they knew this episode was going to be all about the slow build up, testing the patience of both the audience and the characters.
Walt is told that Jesse is working with Mike that day and that he needs to go back to the lab. He has no other choice, so throughout the episode he works the lab, doing all the cook work by himself—sometimes struggling. Eventually he has to head back home to finalize the car wash sale with Skyler. After the signing, Skyler tells Walt that they have to promise to be completely honest with one another from now on. Then she plays the answering machine and hears Walt’s message from earlier. I thought at first she was going to scold Walt, given that he left the message in a time of duress and he just got done telling Skyler they were going to be all right. But instead she takes it as Walt just missing the family, and they tumble into bed. All of this leads to an interesting turning point for Walter. In the past seasons, all he wanted was to be back in the family, but now that Skyler wants him to move back in and he’s confronted with that reality, he questions if that’s really what he even wants. Breaking Bad has done more than internally set him free. It’s also, in a lot of ways, let him live how he wants to, so fitting back into that family role is a bit of a wake-up call.
As Jesse’s long journey continues, we see a montage of him fiddling around in his seat like a child. Mike gets annoyed, and it’s basically played out like a parent dragging a kid around to do errands. In Jesse’s mind, his job is to be the lookout while Mike picks up the cash. Eventually Jesse confronts Mike and says: “If I’m going to be the guy, we need to communicate.” Mike then pulls the car over and scolds him, saying, “You are not capable of being the guy.” Eventually Jesse’s arduous journey comes to its conclusion as Mike picks up the final money drop. Jesse notices a van pull up from behind, and a man walks towards the car with a shotgun. Jesse quickly throws the car in reverse, brushes the shooter and smashes into his car.
But all of this turned out to be a ruse. The guy with the shotgun? He was of course on Gus’ payroll. The whole point of the drawn out day was to make Jesse feel like a “hero.” But we then see it’s a bit more then that. As Walt walks into the lab and finds Jesse crushing the meth, he races down to ask him what the hell happened. Jesse of course feels good about what he did, but Walt is not concerned about that. He’s concerned about why his partner was gone for an entire day, spending time with the “enemy.” Jesse then says he has a second job working with Mike some more. Similar to in season three, Gus is playing his game using strategy, driving the wedge between Jesse and Walt—but it could be more than that. I think it’s certainly a possibility that they are going to try to bring Jesse under their wing and eventually get him to take over. They would no longer need Walt, and Gus clearly sees Walt as his biggest threat. Which makes me wonder: Could Jesse be the next Heisneberg? Or perhaps he is just breaking the team apart, and Walt is okay with Jesse being taken out of the equation. This whole problem, after all, stemmed from them fearing Jesse was being reckless with his lifestyle. Whatever it is, one thing is clear: Gus is filling the void that Jesse desperately needed after the Gale killing. Walt was so caught up he didn’t have time to be there for Jesse, and Gus and Mike now are.
One thing that is bothering me about this season is Walt’s reckless nature. In the first couple of episodes, I found it to be understandable. He literally thought they were going to die any day. He had no idea what was going on and felt like it was a kill or be killed first kind of situation. But things like him driving in and out of traffic in broad daylight with a gun on his passenger seat just seem absurd. And the worst part? The dinner scene at the end where Walt foolishly tells Hank that Gale was probably not Heisenberg. He even tells everyone at the table that “maybe this genius is still out there.”
I get that Walt is in a terrible position right now. He feels isolated from his partner. He’s being thrown back into his old life again. Everyone thinks Heisenberg was someone else. And Gus has him under his thumb. Basically, Walt is completely smothered out, and he doesn’t like it. But is his character so arrogant and stupid that he would act in such a way to only further make himself look suspicious? I’m really hoping Walt snaps back into it and starts thinking things through. As I mentioned in past episodes, the only way Walt is beating Gus is through well-planned strategy. This action-first stuff isn’t going to work—and in fact, it could get him caught. His actions are not completely unrealistic, as Walt is by no means a seasoned criminal. But Walt, first and foremost, has been a thinker. And I hope he gets back to this.
The title of the episode was semi-misleading. There was an actual shotgun, but the title was referring to Jesse riding shotgun with Mike the entire episode. Those that have found this season to be slower than past seasons might see themselves being tested with this episode. Not a whole lot goes on in the grand scheme of things. Walt is still stuck in his corner, and he hasn’t yet figured a way to make a next move. Much of the episode featured long, scenic shots of Jesse and Mike traveling. Then again, fans of the show should know by now that Breaking Bad has never been afraid to take its time and really use spacious shots to convey the emotion of the characters and story. But I expect many are waiting on the edge of their seats for the season to really take off as we near the halfway mark of the season. “Shotgun” was by no means a wasted episode. Everything about it was necessary to further the plot and set things up for the second half of the season. I think some of the frustration from this episode actually comes from my frustration with Walt—or even sharing Walt’s frustration at his current predicament. Hopefully Hank’s investigation into the Los Pollos Hermanos bag they found at Gale’s apartment will get things rolling.