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Hey everyone! Welcome to Season 4 of Breaking Bad. It’s our first season of BrBa coverage on the ‘gasm and I’m excited as hell to be the one doing it.
It’s kind of a new experience for me. I should probably tell you right off the bat that Breaking Bad is by far my favorite show on TV, and probably my favorite show of all time. No exaggeration. I haven’t seen EVERYTHING out there, but I’d definitely put it ahead of stuff I love like Mad Men, The Wire, The Shield, Big Love, Friday Night Lights, The X-Files, and so on. And that’s new for me because I’ve mostly picked shows to recap based on how well I could make fun of them. This is the complete opposite. I doubt these will be snarky. I’ll try not to gush too much.
Now then, let’s get’s get to the show…
PREVIOUSLY ON BREAKING BAD
I could write 100,000 words on all the things that happened in season three alone, so I’ll keep it relatively short here and fill in stuff as we go along. The last thing we saw in Season 3 was Jesse standing in Gale the chemist’s doorway with a gun pointed at Gale’s head, and then pulling the trigger on him. Real quick, here’s the chain of events that led up to this:
Wayyyyyyyy back in season two, before Gus came along, Jesse and Walt had constant distribution problems with their business, and Jesse made the ill-advised move to have a couple of his friends deal blue meth on the street. But they inevitably encroached on a rival gang’s territory, and one of Jesse’s dealers, Combo, was killed.
Cut to the last couple episodes of Season 3. Walt and Jesse are entrenched in Gus’s business. Jesse finds out that the street gang in question is Gus’s distribution arm, and Jesse suspects Gus ordered the hit on Combo. Gus tells Jesse to shut the fuck up about it and focus on cooking, but Jesse flies into a rage and decides to shoot the two dealers on the same street corner where Combo was shot. Jesse walked up on the dealers to do this, the dealers drew their guns, and it looked like Jesse would be easily mowed down, but then Walt showed up out of nowhere and ran the dealers down.
So that kind of messed up the relationship between Walt and Jesse and Gus. Jesse immediately went into hiding in Albuquerque while Gus’s men looked for him. Walt had a face-to-face with Gus in which he negotiated a deal: forget about Jesse, I go back to work, and we resume our profitable business arrangement. Gus agreed, but also ordered that Walt go back to work with his first assistant in Gus’s lab, Gale, the chemist whom Walt once got rid of way back for not having a rapport with. It was clear to Walt that Gus was keeping him around only long enough for Gale to learn all of his secrets, so he began plotting to murder Gale himself. But a couple nights later–we’re up to the Season 3 finale now–Victor surprised Walt at home and took him to the lab to dispose of him.
Walt begged for his life and offered them Jesse’s location for sparing him. Mike agreed and gave Walt a phone to call Jesse, and in the brief call Walt managed to tell Jesse to kill Gale for him. Bumping off Gale would make Walt their only chemist again, and that gave them leverage.
I said quick, right? OK, let’s go!
We open in flashback, with a shot of a box-cutter slicing open a plastic packing ribbon on a large wooden shipping container. We’re in Gus’s underground meth lab, only none of the equipment is set up yet. So this is taking place chronologically somewhere early in Season 3.
Opening the box is Gale, the eager, earnest, sweet-natured chemist who somehow is making fucking crystal meth. Gale’s excited to be opening the box because it’s got some shiny new lab equipment. He looks like a kid on Christmas morning. I know this because he promptly says, “This is like Christmas morning!”
Why the on-the-nose dialogue all of a sudden? Did this show turn into V?
Gus Fring arrives to see how the unpacking is going. It’s going splendid! All this lab equipment might be expensive, Gale says, but they’re getting quality. Actually, this equipment is what the use over at companies like Pfizer and Merck. Don’t you love that he’s so excited about the equipment he’s going to use to make drugs that will help to destroy the fabric of Albuquerque?
Ohhhhh, the first name’s Gale, the last name’s Boetticher, and the middle name’s…Cognitive Dissonaaaaaance, yeah!
Gus just wants to know how long it’s going to take to have the lab set up, and Gale tells him a month. Gus’s assistant Victor corrects him. Two weeks. Gale agrees, apologetically. This is just the first of many times they’ll push Gale around.
Gale walks over to a table and picks up his lab notebook. He’s been studying the sample of blue meth Gus gave him. We of course know the blue meth is Walt’s signature product, but Gale has no idea where it came from. All he knows is that the blue meth is incredibly pure. He can’t tell why it’s colored blue, though. (It’s because way back Walt and Jesse had to break into a chemical depot to steal some weird Sudafed-substitute because they couldn’t get enough Sude from the drug stores).
Gale’s good, but he isn’t this good. Blue meth is 99% pure whereas at best Gale’s would only be 96%. Gus doesn’t seem to mind. That small a difference is unimportant. But Gale…for some reason…insists they hire the guy who makes the blue meth. That 3% difference is worth it. So not only is he denigrating his own skills to his new boss, he’s unwittingly signing his own death certificate.
Gus thinks it over. We already know decides to go with Walt. So why include this scene? At this time in the show Gus was weighing whether to incorporate Walt into his business. Walt, or “Heisenberg”, is an unpredictable factor, and Walt’s previous distributor, Tuco, just wound up dead. Would you want to bring a Heisenberg into your top-secret criminal enterprise when you’ve already got a Gale?
But if Gus’s own chemist is in awe of him, he really has no choice but to bring Walt in. He’ll have a chance to offer the best product on the market. This is the moment when Walt’s potential value is clear to Gus, but it came with a price, and now in Season 4, we’re going to see whether the value is still worth the risk.
Also, this reminds us just how much of a dolt he really is.
“Hey, Mr. Terrifying Drug Lord? I know you’ve already revealed the entire scope of your hugely illegal criminal organization to me, but I just don’t think I’m right for the job. Good luck to you. Should I show myself out?”
I would guess Gale was written this way to show Walt and us how NOT to deal with crime bosses like Gus. Don’t be like Gale. If you try to navigate the criminal underworld the same way you navigate polite society, you will be shot in the face.
But I’m gonna miss ol’ Gale. I always felt he was a pretty wacky character, so passionate for the chemistry without worrying about the effects of what he was making. I guess in that way he’s an exaggeration of Walt. Have we ever seen Walt lose sleep over the actual people who buy his product?
I’m also dying to know what propelled Gale into meth-making in the first place. My guess is student loans.
Now we’re back to the present. The moment Walt called Jesse to put out the hit on Gale, Victor raced to Gale’s apartment to try to intervene. Now he arrives and he’s too late. A couple neighbors are standing in Gale’s doorway on the phone with 911, and Victor pushes past them to get inside. And there’s Gale.
Estimated amount of time it will take the cops to figure out this was a drug murder: .06 seconds
Victor’s aghast. Nothing else to do here, so he heads outside. And then, in the parking lot, he spots someone sitting in a parked car. It’s Jesse.
Jesse, in shock over what he’s just done, can’t bring himself to leave the scene. He barely looks up when Victor jumps into his car, gun drawn, and tells him to drive.
Walt and Mike are just sitting across from each other, looking at each other, waiting for Victor or Gus to show up and move things along. The moment lasts a while. They have nothing to say to each other.
Then Victor arrives, leading Jesse into the lab at gunpoint. Walt’s surprised to see Jesse, and a lot upset. Mike throws him a look. “See what you did? Coulda let Jesse escape.” Walt looks away.
Victor shoves Jesse into a chair next to Walt and keeps his gun on the both of them. Here they are yet again, side by side, looking down the barrel of a gun.
“Another fine meth you’ve gotten me into!” is what he should say
Wordlessly, Victor walks away and kicks over a table piled with glassware, in frustration. Mike realizes Victor doesn’t have good news. He walks over to Victor and asks for the update. Walt overhears and looks queasy over learning that poor Gale really is dead.
Mike presses Victor for details: was Jesse witnessed? Was Victor? Not sure to the former, but most definitely to the latter. That might prove to be a huge mistake on Victor’s part…
Mike heaves a sigh and picks up the landline to give Gus the news.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Our first time-lapse of the season! Night turns into day, and over at the house the doorbell wakes Skyler. She throws on a robe and checks who it is. It’s Marie
Marie claims the early visit is just because she’s stopping by on the way to run some errands, but then gives Skyler Hank’s newest medical bills. Last season, after the cartel assassins attacked Hank and left him paralyzed, Skyler promised to pay his medical and rehab bills until he could walk again. She’ll be using Walt’s meth money, of course. It’s the only reason she’s sticking with him, but it’s drawing her into the life of crime, too. Won’t be changing any time soon, too, because the bills are getting more expensive.
Marie then points to the driveway and asks, “does this mean what I think it means?” Skyler has no idea what she’s talking about. Then Marie tells her Walt’s car is still parked in the driveway. He was supposed to have gone home last night. (She doesn’t know it, but the reason the car is still there is because last night Victor picked Walt up unexpectedly and the car got left behind). Skyler can’t come up with a cover story to tell Marie, and if the kids see the car they’ll make the same assumption.
Marie leaves. Skyler checks the driveway, and his car is indeed there. She has to act fast. She goes back inside and checks to see that the baby is asleep. She is. Then she checks Walter Jr.’s room. Looks like he’s just waking up. Back outside, Sky finds Walt’s car keys in a wheel-well, gets in his car, and drives it a couple blocks away to a random cul-de-sac.
Back in the house, Walter Jr. comes out to breakfast just as Skyler’s coming through the door—with the paper in hand, to give her a plausible reason for being outside.
Know what? We’re gonna shoot this scene from a basketball hoop. BOOM SHAKA-LAKA. You just got cinematographied
Some of you don’t like Sky very much. How about if she’s a criminal? I dig it.
Walt, Jesse, Victor, and Mike have now gone a full night without sleep. Finally, Walt speaks up. Why not just let him and Jesse cook? If production is shut down for much longer, they’ll miss a batch and that would probably piss Gus off even more. Why don’t they just move forward and forget what happened?
Victor just gets up, goes over to the power panel, and turns all the equipment on. Then he throws on a gas mask and starts pouring whatever chemical it is that you use to start making meth.
Does anyone out there know how you make meth? Is the show accurate? I can see your IP addresses when you post but I won’t share it with anybody
And just to make sure Walt gets the point, Victor looks over and says, “That’s right, genius. We ain’ missing no cook.”
In other words: “Hahahahahahah, nerd”
THE LAW OFFICE OF SAUL GOODMAN
Saul’s office! I’m excited.
It’s still early morning so work hasn’t started yet. An enormous security guard is sitting in the waiting room. Looks like Saul’s hired some muscle. I’d guess it’s because he helped Walt and Jesse the day before, when Gus’s men were trying to find Jesse so they could kill him.
Some dirtbag starts banging on the door. The security guard heaves himself up and yells at the guy that the office is closed, and the guy wanders off.
The security guard heaves himself back into his seat, and the camera stays on him for at least twenty seconds,. That’s the whole moment, just a huge, slow-moving dude, breathing his sleep apnea-ish breaths, staring into space while the world moves on around him.
This moment exists for no reason whatsoever and for that I love this show
Seriously, I fucking laughed out loud at this part. It’s so weird!
The phone rings and the secretary answers. It’s Skyler. The secretary tries Saul on the intercom but he doesn’t answer. She goes into his office. It’s a mess. Saul is on his hands-and-knees sweeping the room for bugs. She tells him again and snaps him out of his paranoia.
Saul, sniffling like he’s done a few morning lines, calls her back on a nearby pay phone, his security guard in tow. Sky wants to know where Walt is, and Saul just tells her over and over that he has no idea, but he’s sure Walt is fine. Eventually Sky just hangs up.
Saul asks his security guard if he has a passport. I guess it’s not so he can skip town, but I have no idea why else he’d want it. Ideas?
Next, Skyler heads over to Walt’s place. It’s locked and there’s no answer on the buzzer.
A short time later she has a locksmith there, but he won’t let her in without some kind of proof of ownership. She tries telling him that all her ID’s and other stuff is inside. The baby starts crying for some added urgency.
He won’t budge. She starts up a story about how her purse was actually stolen, and the locksmith offers to take her down to his office to file a police report.
So, she whips out the ol’ fake asthma routine. Oh no, she’s having an attack, the medication is inside, can you hold my baby while I die on the sidewalk, etc etc.
I’m surprised people fall for the ol’ “fake asthma” trick. My parents were using it in 1996
Kinda runs in the famiuly, too, given that Marie was pulling this kind of shit when she was shoplifting. I wonder if the two of them have a shadier past than we think?
Sky does a quick scan of Walt’s place. He’s nowhere. Checks his dresser. Still plenty of underwear and socks. He probably hasn’t gone anywhere. (I’m assuming) she’s thinking Walt’s either off on business or dead.
MARIE AND HANK’S HOUSE
How about a quick update on Hank’s situation and the toll it’s taking on his marriage? Huh? Huh?
Marie arrives home from her errands and finds Hank sitting in bed. The laptop is on his lap and he’s idly looking over a website that looks like eBay for minerals and crystals.
Looks like Hank has a new hobby. And he’s also getting into minerals and crystals—whoa, cum joke!
Marie comes in and asks him how his physical therapy was today, bubbling about how much she likes the new therapist and his good demeanor. The therapist told her Hank’s been making progress.
I’ll just transcribe Hank’s response here: “I broke new ground? I walked sixteen feet in twenty minutes. Which is up from, like fifteen-and-a-half yesterday. And maybe this much less shit in my pants. [Holds up two fingers close together]. So yeah, if you and everybody else in America took a secret vote, changed the meaning of the English language, yeah, I guess I broke new ground.”
And you know what, she doesn’t bat an eye. She moves around the bed and asks him about his new rock hobby, and, clinging to his last shred of dignity, Hank corrects her that he’s been bidding on minerals. Then he chucks the laptop aside and tells her he has to take a shit.
And she helps him lift himself off the bed, wedges the bedpan under him, pulls down his drawers, and leaves him to it, mentioning she likes his newest mineral on the way out. Hank’s got a long way to go but I think he’ll be all right.
After the break, time has passed and Victor is still working away at the new batch. I’m just thinking about the fact that they’ve all been sitting in this room for like 12 hours with no sleep. Yuck.
Walt’s observing Victor’s craftsmanship but has managed to keep silent so far. He does mention that they should all be wearing gas masks, but nobody listens to him. Mike gets up and pours a cup of coffee from Gale’s Rube Goldberg contraption.
Walt scolds everyone again under his breath and watches Victor some more. He makes a smug prediction to Jesse that Victor’s going to forget to add aluminum to the batch, but Jesse is in almost a catatonic state from last night’s events. And then, Victor DOES add the aluminum. Maybe Victor’s more competent than Walt thinks.
Finally, Gus enters the lab.
He pauses on the catwalk and glowers down at everyone. Walt looks away. Gus sees that Victor is picking up the slack, and Victor takes off his mask and smiles up at him, proudly, almost child-like.
Gus comes down the spiral staircase and slowly walks up to his two troublemakers. Victor looks extremely pleased. Gus looks them over, silent.
Still saying nothing, he walks past them to the coat rack where the hazard suits are hanging. Takes off his coat, starts changing into one. Does this mean Gus is joining Victor in the cook?
Walt wilts. “Let’s talk about Gale Boetticher”, he mutters. Gus ignores him.
So Walt starts off by saying he liked Gale, thought he was a good chemist and a good person. But he’d shoot him all over again if it meant his life or Jesse’s. The tough talk just bounces off Gus and he keeps changing.
The silence is unnerving. Walt blames Gus for Gale’s death. How else would Gus expect him and Jesse to respond? More nothing.
And now the bargaining starts. Whatever Gus’s plan is right now, Gus needs a real chemist, not someone like Victor
Victor steps up. He’s been observing Walt’s methods for weeks. He can replicate the process, no problem.
Walt laughs at him. He lets loose a string of chemistry terms I couldn’t hope to replicate, just to prove that Victor doesn’t know the first thing about it. Victor isn’t impressed. It’s called a “cook”. Whether the recipe is simple or complex, you’re still just following steps.
Gus finishes dressing and comes back over to the group. Jesse’s still catatonic. Mike’s looks genuinely bewildered. What’s Gus gonna do?
Walt throws out more challenges for Victor, desperate. Gus walks over to some wall-mounted cabinets and looks for something, then opens a drawer and finds a box cutter—the same one Gale was using to unpack the lab equipment. He extends the blade and Walt’s voice catches. Victor smirks.
Walt pleads that without himself and Jesse, Gus’s entire business empire will crumble. Gus walks up to Jesse. Walt’s gonna lose it…
“Take Jesse! Take my wife! Take my kids! Take my brother-in-law and sister-in- law! Take my friends…oh my god, I don’t have any frieeeeeeeeends! (sob)”
Gus walks around behind Walt and stands next to Victor, facing them again.
And then the begging. Walt pleads for Gus to let them go back to work.
Gus looks like he’s satisfied with this amount of begging, so he turns and slits Victor’s throat.
So in the comments to the minicap, people were wondering how Gus could kill Victor, being that Victor is his right-hand man and intimately familiar with the entire business. I thought it might have been punishment for Victor letting Gale get killed. But I re-watched the Season 3 finale and saw that it was kinda Mike’s fault—he gave Walt the phone that let him call Jesse and give the orders.
Gus killed Victor because Victor was spotted at Gale’s apartment. This could potentially bring the business out into the open. That’s about the worst thing that can happen to a guy like Gus. Back in the Season 3 finale, when Gus confronts Walt over killing the two drug dealers, the first thing Gus says is, “You could have gotten us exposed!”
If you re-watch this episode, you can see this on Mike’s face as the story goes along. The moment Victor told him he was seen, Mike knew Victor was dead. Later when Victor was starting the cook himself, it looked like Mike looked like he was thinking, “What’s the point in trying to impress the boss? You’ll be dead anyway.”
My coworker is sooooo stoopid, srsly
Not that Gus doesn’t give a shit about what Walt and Jesse did. He totally does. But Walt does have a point, that without them, there’s no meth.
So for now, it’s bleeding, bleeding, bleeding. Tears, tears, tears. From Walt, not from Jesse. Jesse actually snaps out of his funk and glares up at Gus, showing no fear.
Gus lets the body fall over. While Victor’s carotid artery spurts blood at Walt’s feet, Gus walks over to the shower and cleans himself off. Walt, Jesse, and even Mike try to collect themselves while Gus changes back into his suit and walks upstairs.
And before the boss leaves them, he turns to his employees and finally says, “Well? Get back to work!”
“I hope I don’t have to…cut…any more overhead” is how he would exit if he were David Caruso
One of the funniest and grimmest episodes this show’s ever had was when Walt and Jesse had to get rid of a body for the first time. They had no idea how to do it. Walt suggested they try using acid to dissolve their victim, a small-time drug dealer, so they got some acid, a plastic bin, and did. Jesse then poured the bin’s horrible stew down the drain of the bathtub in his aunt’s house, rotting the whole plumbing system and making the whole bathtub fall through the ceiling.
Not gonna happen this time. Walt and Jesse are old pro’s. They’ve already got their plastic barrel and the acid in the lab, so they just have to life poor Victor into it and pour away. Mike watches them struggle to get Victor into the barrel and grimaces in his “I can’t believe these middle-class assholes” kind of way. Things are getting back to normal.
Mike goes over and helps them get Victor into the bin and prop the barrel upright. They commence to pouring. And,
Bluhhhhhhhhhhhhh. That’d be a tank of acid mixed with human body, naturally
When they’re done, they send the barrel to the surface, where a man in a harardous chemical-disposal truck arrives and takes it away. Jesse mops up what’s left of Victor’s blood…
A ROADSIDE DENNY’S
And they match-cut to a plate full of ketchup! We’re in a Denny’s and a fat guy is swabbing the ketchup with his fries.
It’s much later. Walt and Jesse are both wearing Kenny Roger’s shirts, god knows what happened to their regular clothes. A waitress brings Jesse a grand slam breakfast, but nothing for Walt. Jesse digs in.
Walt looks drained. He asks Jesse how he’s doing, clearly wanting Jesse to ask him that question. Jesse keeps eating, but for the heck of it Walt tells him he had no other choice than to kill Gale.
Then Walt asks Jesse what their next move should be. Gus is obviously going to kill them right? Jesse doesn’t think so. Gus could have killed them easy back at the lab and didn’t, so why would he wait?
Walt disagrees. They bought themselves some time by killing Gale, but Gus has to be looking for another chemist.
Does Walt really think Gus can just find another one like that, Jesse asks? Gus needs someone with both chemistry skills AND discretion. (And hopefully he’s obedient, but Walt and Jesse fudge that one). Upstanding chemists who also make meth on the side aren’t exactly common. Jesse bets it took Gus years to find Gale and chuckles at how ticked Gus must be right now.
In a way, Jesse is relieved. At least everyone’s on the same page. As Jesse puts it, “If Gus can’t kill us, we’ll sure as shit wish we were dead.”
And with that, he orders some more iced tea.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Walt cabs it home and coughs his dry lung-cancer cough. On the way in the house he stops in the driveway. His car is gone. Skyler meets him.
She explained why she moved the car—so Walter Jr. wouldn’t think they were getting back together. No, “Hello,” no, “Hey, I thought your meth lab job went south and maybe you were dead or something.” All business.
She notices his Kenny Rogers shirt, and then notices there’s still a tag on that shirt, but she holds back the questions. Asks if he’s OK, that’s all. He says he is, she points him towards his car, and Walt walks away.
One last thing…
The Albuquerque CSI unit is combing over Gale’s place. The camera pans over to the coffee table and finds his lab notebook.
Pretty good BrBa episode overall. Coulda used more Saul, but he’s lined up for the whole season so we should be getting our fill.
If you’ll indulge me, here’s a couple more things I want to talk about this week…
First, I’m excited to see just where the hell the show is going to go. All the other seasons have had a big story arc for Walt. Season One, Walt starts cooking meth for the first time. Season Two, Walt gets into bed with Tuco. Season Three, Walt gets into bed with Gus. But for season 4, Walt is STILL in bed with Gus. The relationship is changing but the business arrangement hasn’t, really. I have no idea where they’ll go with that. Walt becoming a full-fledged crime lord, maybe? That’s what they did on Weeds, and…yeah. I haven’t watched that show in a while.
And second, I really dig where they’re going with Skyler, and here’s why. I’ll just steal from Modern Family and call her a Mob Wife archetype–a spouse whose husband is involved in a criminal enterprise. We’ve seen a lot of Mob Wives over the years, from Mrs. Corleone to Carmela Soprano and Gemma Morrow and Corinne Mackey and a bunch of others I’m sure I’m leaving out for lack of knowledge. And these shows and movies have dealt with all the varying ways you could respond to the predicament of being a Mob Wife. You could flee, you could participate in the crimes, you could be the emotional bulwark for your husband and his henchman, etc etc.
But I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a character BECOME a Mob Wife. All the others I can think of pretty much knew what they were getting into when they signed up. Skyler didn’t. What’s gonna happen to her? She’s getting into the business for the same reason as Walt did at first, to pay medical bills. But she’s also got a frustrated past since she wanted to be a writer, like Walt wanted to be a Nobel-winning chemist. Is she going to let that kind of deep-seated frustration corrupt her like it has Walt? Will she also be forced to do some horrible, consequential shit the way Walt has? And, since subterfuge comes naturally to her, is there more to her past than we know? I’m excited to find out!
I better stop there because I could go on forever. Thanks for reading!