Hey Breaking Bad-ers! Welcome to the second episode of season 4. Did you catch this interview with Bryan Cranston, from right before the fourth season started? He mentions a fact about the in-show chronology of Breaking Bad, which is, that by the end of the fourth season, only one “TV year” will have passed in the characters’ lives. So at this point in the show, two episodes into the fourth season, it hasn’t even been a year since Walt was diagnosed with cancer and became a meth cook.
The first thing I thought when I saw that was, holy shit, that’s an incredible amount of horrible stuff to happen to someone in less than a year. How is Walt still standing? But that fact also plays heavily into this episode, I think. With all the stuff that’s happened to Walt, and to all the other characters on the show, yeah, they would have changed somewhat, but they wouldn’t be completely different people. Less than a year of being a criminal hasn’t made Walt into a criminal. He’ll probably never fully be one.
But he’s still going to try, and this week we see what happens.
No flashbacks this week. Instead the show jumps right in to see how Victor’s murder has impacted everyone. Walt has decided to buy a gun.
We’re in a seedy motel room somewhere, the kind that’s only ever used for illicit business. Walt is looking at himself in a spotty mirror. Behind him, sitting on the bed, is a rough-looking character, repeating a question Walt’s just asked him. “Do I see it?”
“It” is the huge 9mm handgun Walt’s got in a holster under his jacket. Walt needs a concealable and deadly weapon and this is the one he’s picked? That’s a pretty good illustration of how clueless he is right there.
The gun dealer tells Walt he can see the handgun clearly. It won’t do. Walt needs something stealthier.
The dealer pulls a .38 snub-nosed revolver out of his case and offers it up. The .38 has only five bullets to the 9mm’s eleven, but the dealer suggests that if Walt can’t stop somebody with five bullets, six more probably won’t help.
Walt takes the .38 and aims it at his reflection in the mirror. Puts the gun in his pocket, quick-draws it to see if it feels comfortable. The dealer points out all the advantages of a .38—dependability, small size, good stopping power. He hands Walt a leather holster. Walt slips it onto his right hip. Even though Walt’s got it on the correct side technique-wise, he still switches it over to his left, thinking a cross-body draw with his right hand feels more natural. The dealer advises him to stick with what most people do. There’s a reason it’s standard to arrange your holster based on your handedness: so you won’t shoot yourself in the guts when you draw.
Then Walt notices a scratchy part on the barrel and asks what it is. The serial number has been scratched out, and as we all know from watching a million TV shows and movies, that means it’s untraceable. It’s the whole reason why you’d go to a dealer like this in the first place, but somehow Walt didn’t put two and two together. As usual, he’s clueless in his dealings with the underworld.
Smooth move, four-eyes
Anyway. This has to be an awkward situation if you’re a gun dealer, selling an unmarked gun to someone. You know why people need unmarked guns. The customer is basically saying to you, “Hey, I’m gonna go commit a felony soon! Wanna get me started?” It’s probably best to keep silent about it, but despite himself, the gun dealer goes ahead and asks anyway…is Walt really buying it for self-defense, like he says he is?
Walt sticks to his cover story. Of course he’s buying it for self-defense! The dealer wonders why you’d buy an unmarked gun–which carries the risk of a felony charge if you’re caught with it–for something legal like self-defense. Not to mention Walt would save a bunch of money by purchasing the .38 legally.
You know, if he’s really buying it for self-defense. Like he says he is.
Unlike Skyler, Walt can’t cook up a plausible cover-story so he just keeps insisting that he’s buying a concealable, deadly, unmarked handgun from a shady dealer JUST for self-defense. The dealer knows Walt is lying. But he’s not realty trying to catch Walt in a fib so much as indirectly trying to warn him to get the hell out of this while he still can. Anyone could see how out of place Walt is right now. The dealer’s just trying to be merciful.
I think the overall message is, we all need to watch a little TV. Walt clearly watches none. How else would he know so little about guns?
Then it’s over to Mike. He’s sitting in a divey bar having a cup of coffee. He looks completely exhausted. A few episodes ago he complained about how cleaning up all the crazy goings-on with Jesse and Walt have kept him from getting any sleep, and it looks like he still hasn’t caught up. He notices a speck of blood on his shirt cuff and scrapes it off.
And finally, Jesse. We get a glimpse of what his personal life is like—flush with cash, devoid of relationships, and plenty of free time to mull over his recent sins. He’s just purchased a tricked-out stereo system, a few furniture, and even a Roomba sweeper. His bare house looks a little inhabited now. He stares into his stereo’s multi-colored light display.
There’s a knock at the window. It’s Badger and Skinny Pete. He’s invited them over to share in the luxury, and they’re impressed. They stare into the light display while Jesse lists off all of the amazing features, but they’re just mesmerized at the visual.
Jesse starts dividing up some rails for everyone. Badger and Pete are reluctant. They’ve still been attending their 12-step program and look like they’re serious about it. By the way, they mention, they ran into Andrea at a meeting the other day. Jesse says nothing.
(If you’re just joining us, Andrea is a gal Jesse briefly dated last season. Some street thugs murdered Andrea’s little brother, prompting Jesse to plot to murder them, but Walt had to intervene to save Jesse’s life by running the thugs over with his car. This is one of the early dominos that led to the throat-slashing last week. So, yeah, Jesse’s probably not all that thrilled to hear about her right now).
Instead, he pushes the coke toward them. Pete declines. Badger thinks a little bump couldn’t hurt, and soon the three guys are off to the races.
In case you haven’t noticed I’m terrible with the drug lingo. I sound like an episode of the Dragnet
And then they sit back and enjoy some conversation. What do Badger and Pete talk about while they’re high? Would you be surprised if they debate what video game has the best zombies? I’ll answer that for you: you would not. (It’s between Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil 4, and the CoD expansion pack with the Nazi zombies. My vote is Left 4 Dead).
It’s your pretty standard high-dudes-talking-about-geek-stuff conversation, but I did like when Badger lobbied heavily for the Nazi-zombies, and for proof pointed out they’re actually Waffen SS zombies, which were most badass Nazis in real life. He must watch a lot of the History Channel during the daytime.
Jesse’s not participating in the conversation. A small group is too intimate company for him right now. He needs noise and a crowd. Cut to…
I bet there are drugs at this party! See? I’m hip.
That night, Walt sits across from an empty chair. He appears to be imagining an assailant sitting across from him. Waits a beat, and, BOOM! Pulls out the .38 and dry-fires. Isn’t that adorable? Walt’s practicing. As if sheer effort and will might transform him into an assassin.
I’ve totally been in this situation. When I was a junior in high school I decided to play football for the first time. I had literally never played full-contact football in my life before and somehow I thought I could just step on a field and know how not to get killed. I spent a few days that summer watching NFL games and trying to mimic what the linemen were doing. In my living room, by myself.
It didn’t work out too well.
But what do you think? Are you buying Walt’s behavior here? He’s directly killed, what, four people by now? The two drug dealers at the very beginning of the show, then the two gang members at the end of last season. (Not including Jane). Wouldn’t you think he’d be a little more hardened than this? Or do you think the point is that leopards can’t change their spots, that no matter how much he does, Walt will still be Walt?
HANK AND MARIE’S HOUSE
It’s late at night. Hank is sitting up in his adjustable bed. He’s got a whole setup for his weird new mineral hobby, including an adjustable lamp/magnifying glass over his shoulder.
Marie wakes up and adjusts her own bed up next to Hank’s. She asks if he’s having trouble sleeping, and he retorts that no, he is sleeping, right now. Marie, exasperated, tells him that all she sees is him looking at some rock, and like last week, he corrects her. It’s not a rock, it’s a mineral. In fact, “blue corundum”. Would she like to hear more detail about it? (Anyone else think it’s a little too coincidental that Hank was obsessed with finding the truth about Walt’s blue meth, and now that he’s bed-ridden he’s obsessing over blue crystals?)
Marie reiterates that she was just making sure he’s doing OK, and Hank cuts her off. There are four bedrooms in their house, if he’s keeping her awake. Hurt, she adjusts her bed back horizontal and pulls her sleep mask over her eyes. This is tough to watch.
WALT’S APARTMENT/THE WHITE HOUSE
The next morning Walt is finishing up his morning routine to leave for work. He’s still brown-bagging it. That’s always been my favorite “Walt is a sad sack” image and it doesn’t disappoint. It’s even better when he keeps his gun next to it in the morning.
Loved this shot. “Let’s see, wallet, keys, bullets, OK, I’m good”
The phone rings. He ignores it. The answering machine kicks in and it’s Skyler. She gets right to business while Walt loads up.38. The bills are piling up and she hasn’t seen a check from Walt in a while. One of the bullets slips out of his hands and he gets down on all fours to pick it up. Next Sky mentions that she’s going to scout out the car wash to begin the process of buying it. Walt jerks upright, banging his head on the countertop. (The car wash, by the way, is where Walt was working part-time when the series began, and last season Skyler and Walt were planning on buying it as a front for funneling their money)
Walt grabs the phone. Is Skyler crazy? What the hell is she doing, openly mentioning their plan to buy a car wash, on his answering machine? Is she trying to leave a paper trail?
Sky seems obtuse here, like she has no idea what he’s talking about. What’s the big deal? Why can’t she mention it? she asks. (I’m wondering, is the answering machine recording all the talk AFTER Sky’s message? If her message wasn’t incriminating, the conversation about it sure is).
Finally, Sky relents. The camera cuts over to the White house. Walter Jr. is coming out of his room to the breakfast table. Sky moves the phone away from her mouth and tells him there’s cereal on the table.
This is the fishiness I mentioned in the Minicap. Over the first three seasons of Breaking Bad, the Whites had a habit of eating big, hearty breakfasts every single morning. Every time you saw them at the table they were eating toast, or eggs, or waffles—stuff Skyler would have had to spend time preparing. I only noticed it because it felt so odd to me. Why are they eating like they’re going to spend the day doing heavy physical labor?
So the fact that she’s now pointing him in the direction of some cereal caught my eye. Are her new criminal responsibilities pulling focus away from her motherly duties? If so, it’d be one more of a million effects Walt’s decision has had on everyone.
But the idea you can’t be a mother and a crime lord at the same time? Sexist
Walt tells her to drop the car wash idea, that he’ll handle it. And then, rather than holster the .38, he stuffs it in the front of his waistband. Right above Little Walt. Good call.
The party over at Jesse’s has died down. His whole living room is covered with partygoers sleeping off the night before. One guy bounces a tennis ball over and over.
And, Roomba cam!
Jesse steps over some people and shakes Badger awake. He’s heading off to work. Badger says he feels like he “could use a brain transplant right about now”. Badger wakes up Skinny Pete and Pete punches him on the arm hard for violating his zone. Badger tells Pete it’s time to clean up, but instead Jesse pulls out a wad of cash and tosses some bills on the floor. Get everyone some breakfast, he tells them, and keep the party going. He wants the place “kicking like a sensei” when he gets back. Before he goes, he turns on his stereo and cranks up the volume. Badger and Pete seems surprised, but they roll with it.
Later, Walt and Jesse are finishing up their first batch of glass post-Victor. Walt watches as Jesse loads individual crates of product onto the scale, then slips his hand into his locker and retrieves the .38, as discreetly as possible. He walks under the catwalk to a lab table to check some equipment.
Above him, the door to the lab opens and someone walks across the catwalk. Walt can’t see who it is. Gus? He starts to panic. The footsteps reach the spiral staircase. Walt turns his back to the stairs and reaches for the .38. He looks over his shoulder with his peripheral vision as the visitor reaches the lab floor…and it’s a stranger.
Holy shit, it’s that serial killer from The Shield
Walt tries to act cool and moves his hands away from the gun, a little too awkwardly, and winds up folding his hands in front of his junk. Jesse looks up and asks if this is “the new guy”—or, Victor’s replacement. It is. No name yet. Guess it wasn’t so hard to replace Victor after all.
The New Guy asks Jesse for the weight of the batch. It’s 102.6 pounds. Up above, Mike appears and asks for a recount. New policy, he says.
Walt looks like he wants to say something, so Mike presses him. Can Walt see Gus? He doesn’t “feel comfortable with where they left things”, as if that’s all Gus needed to hear to start mending fences, as if Gus isn’t a psychopath.
Mike smirks. Walt’s never going to see Gus again. He turns and walks out.
OUTSIDE THE CAR WASH
Sky’s sitting in the car with the baby. It’s midday. Business is moving along at the car wash. Skyler’s feeding the baby with a bottle. (Does anyone remember the baby’s name? I have no clue).
Sky watches cars pull into the wash, noting down what each customer is buying—a detail here, a hand-wax there. Figuring out what the place is worth.
To follow up on the cereal-for-breakfast bit from earlier, did you think the fact that Skyler was feeding the baby from a bottle, at arm’s length, fit into that notion? Or maybe she’s just a pro-formula mom.
HANK AND MARIE’S HOUSE
Over at the Schroeder’s, Hank’s in a session with his physical therapist. He’s using a walker to go from the front door to the bedroom. About fifteen feet, and almost beyond what Hank is physically capable of. It’s not even really walking, more like dragging his feet.
Pretty good Disabled Guy Acting from Dean Norris, too
Marie and the trainer cheer Hank forward. Ten more steps. Then five. Then two. Then he flops on the bed. He’s done it. The three of them cheer. Hank and the trainer high-five, then the trainer and Marie. Marie tries to high-five Hank and his mood darkens. He flaccidly returns it.
Marie walks the trainer out. He’s happy with the day’s work but Marie’s so elated she’s at a loss for words. The trainer can pretty much intuit how much this means to her, and how difficult this is for her, and he reassures her. One day at a time. She blurts out she wishes he could be a full-time caretaker, but he just smiles and walks out to his car.
Marie rejoins Hank in the bedroom, where he’s just lying on the bed, despondent, probably thinking about a whole day of inactivity ahead of him, how it’s all going to go downhill fast. Marie’s still exuberant and doesn’t notice his mood. She’s thinking about cooking tonight. But before she can tell him what’s on the menu, he tells her to get out of his room.
At Jesse’s, the party is moving into its second night. A stack of pizzas has been delivered. Jesse opens a box and grouses that the pizza hasn’t been cut yet. Badger and Skinny Pete riff on the gimmick, that a pizza place doesn’t cut its own pies to “pass the savings on”.
Remember when Walt brought the pizza home as a peace offering, and when Skyler wouldn’t accept it he threw it onto the roof in frustration? I was wondering how that pizza stayed intact. I guess that’s how. How the fuck do the writers keep track of stuff like this?
The doorbell rings. It’s Andrea.
A minute later, he joins her outside. Asks how she’s been. She’s fine. So’s her son, Brock. Brock’s actually waiting in the car right now, and right on cue he opens the door and starts to step out, but Andrea tells him to go back inside. Jesse reassures the kid. Maybe realizes a little what he’s missing.
He starts to make excuses about why he hasn’t called her, but that’s not why Andrea’s here. She pulls an envelope of money out of her pocket. The money appeared in her mailbox the same night the two bangers who murdered her brother wound up dead—the ones Walt ran over with his car to save Jesse’s bacon. Andrea’s not an idiot, and Jesse’s silence confirms her suspicions that he had something to do with the killing.
She doesn’t really care, I suppose because they didn’t date long enough for people to connect her to Jesse. What primarily worries her is whether the money is dangerous. Will someone come looking for it? Jesse tells her no.
The moment lingers a bit longer. She asks him what she’s supposed to do with the money. Jesse tells her it’s to get herself and Brock out of their horrible neighborhood. Of course, she’s free to spend it on meth. Would she promise she won’t do that?
She turns and leaves. He doesn’t stop her. Andrea and Brock drive away.
OUTSIDE GUS’S HOUSE
And that night, a car pulls up outside Gus’s house. It’s Walt, of course. He’s about to do something very, very stupid.
Gus has a huge American flag posted on his mailbox. Loved that. We don’t know much about Gus’s Chilean upbringing, but I assume he was a pretty high-ranking member of the Pinochet administration.
Where he ran the Department of Agriculture & Rape
Walt unbuckles his seat belt and zips his jacked up over his gun. On the seat next to him is his Heisenberg hat. He puts it on and gets out without hesitation.
He walks toward the house. The camera stays over his shoulder the whole time, so we don’t even see his face.
And then, his phone rings. Deus ex Motorola.
Walt picks up. “Go home, Walt”, Gus says.
HANK AND MARIE’S HOUSE
After the final break, we’re at the Schroeder’s again. Marie’s cleaning out Hank’s bedpan.
The doorbell rings. A delivery guy is at the door with an enormous pallet packed with boxes of minerals. He brings them inside and deposits them on the living room floor.
Marie stacks the boxes up into a pile, still somehow keeping it all together. Offscreen, Hank calls out to ask if his minerals have arrived. Have any been damaged?
“They’re rocks, Hank”, Marie says. And yet again, Hank corrects her. “Minerals”. And would she please check? Those delivery guys are notoriously half-assed. She sighs. He pleads with her just to please check for him, to carry out his request. It almost sounds like the edge is gone from his voice.
Skyler sits down with the owner of the car wash, Bogdan. She comes right out with the purpose of her visit: she wants to buy the car wash.
Bogdan starts out with some easy sexism. This is a hard business, scrubbing with chemicals and such. Does Skyler really want to ruin her nice soft skin?
Sky’s serious, and she tells him so. But so is Bogdan. He built this business up from nothing over thirty years.
Sky respects that, but she’s ready to talk numbers right now. What’s a number that makes sense for him?
Ten million, he says.
Skyler counters with $879K.
Bogdan scoffs. Where did she get this number? “From out of her behind?”
Sky pulls out a business abstract for the carwash, one she clearly made at Kinkos. She tells him the number is based on the actual value of the place, which she’s calculated accurately by observing how much business he does, how much he spends, how much the land is worth, etc.
Bogdan can see she really is serious. So he ups the price to $20 million. Now it’s personal. He knows full well Skyler is Walt’s wife. So I guess all the nastiness earlier in the conversation was on purpose. Bogdan hasn’t forgotten the scene Walt made when he quit—he can list off each and every little thing Walt did, from breaking some air fresheners to grabbing himself. The guy can keep a grudge.
Bogdan is insulted that Walt would “send his woman” in his place instead of meet man-to-man, yada yada yada, and it looks like that’s that.
I really hope the Whites buy the laser tag place like Saul wants them to.
Back at the bar Mike is having a drink and watching one of Saul’s ads on TV. Saul is telling people he can get them a settlement if they were even tangentially affected by the midair collision over Albuquerque two seasons ago.
The sad thing is…it’s really hard to exaggerate these types of ads
Mike shakes his head. To me, this moment is Mike’s “rock and a hard place” realization. Sure, it sucks working for a psychopath like Gus, but the alternative is Saul’s horseshit.
Walter comes in, but before he can sit down, Mike dryly remarks that Walt ought to improve his tailing skills if he’s going to be doing it regularly.
Walt buys Mike a drink. It’s not unlike the way he might approach a lady at a bar. Mike, of course, can see everything coming a mile away, but Walt presses on.
First, he hopes he and Mike can bury the hatchet. Walt hopes Mike can understand why he had Gale killed, and reassures Mike that he harbors no ill will about that time when Mike was going to kill him.
“There’s a load off my mind,” Mike says.
And then Walt goes into his own sales pitch. Crazy times like these make a man want to know where he stands. Mike scoffs in disbelief. Is Walt really doing this?
Before Walt can go on, Mike throws him off balance. What’s with the .38? Mike noticed it the other day but didn’t bother saying anything about it. There goes Walt’s little illusion of bad-assery.
Undeterred, Walt keeps going. He and Mike are in the same boat. Gus killed Victor. See where Walt’s going with this?
“Drink your drink,” Mike says.
If it could happen to Victor, Walt insists, it could happen to Mike.
Mike finally tries the direct appeal. “Learn to take ‘yes’ for an answer”. Do yourself a favor. GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE.
And Walt makes his own direct appeal: “get me in a room with him”.
Mike asks Walt if he’s finished making his pitch and punches him in the face. Walt falls to the floor. Mike kicks him a few times, probably right where the tumor is. Walt heaves. Mike thanks him for the drink and heads out.
And over at Jesse’s the party is finally breaking up. Even Badger and Skinny Pete are heading home. Jesse teases them for pussying out, but the truth is they’re just exhausted and need some sleep. Jesse looks devastated.
Finally alone, Jesse walks over to his stereo and turns it up. He sits down on the floor and leans against one of the speakers, drowning out his thoughts.
That’s the episode. Do you think this season is going to be about Walt taking out Gus? Does that even seem remotely plausible to you? At least he’s got eleven more episodes to figure out a plan.
Thanks for reading!