Alright, we’re recapping Breaking Bad. I make this decision with much trepidation, mostly because unlike the other shows I’ve enjoyed recapping — namely Top Chef, Lost, and The Walking Dead — Breaking Bad already possesses a tremendous sense of humor about itself, plus compared to those other (also great) shows, it’s a tad less… completely f***ing ridiculous all the time?
That said, Breaking Bad is also my favorite show on tv and I like talking about it, so I’m just gonna go ahead and do that now. Plus 100% of people that I just surveyed in my empty office love my awful Photoshops of really good tv shows, so I wouldn’t want to deprive the me-sses. Masses. I meant masses.
Your spoiler-filled Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Recap is after the jump:
The episode cold-opens with Gus talking to Gale in the box-filled superlab — OH MAN GALE’S A ZOMBIE AND THIS IS BREAKING BAD SEASON 4 AND WALKING DEAD SEASON 2 ROLLED INTO ONE!!!!!!!! — or it’s a flashback. Gale is opening boxes filled with all the brand new high-tech lab equipment that Gus has ordered for him, cutting the tape with a very conspicuous box cutter that he sets down right in front of the camera then winks at the camera and goes “And that is all for this box cutter WHEW I AM PARCHED!” then drinks a bunch of Sunny D.
Gale’s nerdy lab-boner for the nice equipment is softened, however, by his guilty admission that he lacks the capacity to produce meth on the quality level of Walt’s. Gus re-iterates to Gale that he doesn’t want to go into business with Walt because he “isn’t a professional,” meaning, “Jesse will show up and instantly ruin things with Jar-Jarlike speed.” Gale remains honest about his own limitations, though, despite his unique qualifications:
First Breaking Bad intro titler of the season! So exciting!!! Oh periodic table letters zooming in and becoming some of the letters in the title of the show, how we missed you!
Flash forward to the present. Jesse has just fired the gun, and it made the camera go all woozy. Surely Breaking Bad won’t take some lesser-show’s cop-out and have it turn out that Jesse didn’t actually shoot Gale but, like, Gale’s talking parrot actually made a lifelike bullet sound and Jesse got startled and ran away, right?
Gale is dead. Long live the Gail.
Victor, one of Gus’s goons, runs into the apartment to confirm that Gale has been shot, and in the process casually strolls past a bunch of neighbors who’ve arrived on the scene and called the cops. (Sidenote: Thank God there were regular non-character cops — if they had called crippled Hank to the scene just to tie things together, that would’ve been a dealbreakingbadder, ladies!)
Victor confirms to Mike The Cleaner that Gale is indeed dead, and an exasperated Mike relays the info to Gus, keeping Walt captive in the meantime. This marks my first favorite part of the episode (out of all of them): I always enjoy when a show or movie builds up an ‘invincible badass’ character like Mike, who casually and infallibly just dominates every confrontation, then finally slaps that character with a situation he can’t handle. Just seconds after Walt was almost effortlessly killed by Mike, like so many of Mike’s faceless past victims, Walt manages to turn the tide to the point where he instantly has leverage over a trained killer who’s physically keeping him captive at gunpoint. It reminds me of the part in Dark Knight where the Joker’s boat plan fails, or when the killer in No Country For Old Men lets his concentration lapse briefly and takes a square bullet.
In any case, it’s a trillion times more interesting than Walt cutting through his hand-ropes on a loose nail and shooting Mike while his back’s turned. Aka, Everything Ever That Is Not Breaking Bad. (Fixing…Good?)
Too many words in a row! Here’s a funny GIF:
Gus finally arrives at the lab to find Victor surprisingly adeptly attempting to replicate Walt’s cooking methods to keep production on schedule. Without saying a word, Gus calmly strides past Walt and Jesse and begins changing into a lab suit; the heavy silence cues Walt to begin pleading his case for leverage, saying that Gus can’t afford to kill him since he’s the only one who can run the lab, and in a display of his newfound loyalty (and partly to seem like he’s more in control than he clearly actually is), Walt adds “you kill Jesse, you don’t have me.”
Gus finishes getting dressed, and, in the episode’s oddest tangent, joins Devo:
Jaykay! Little joke to break the murderice. What murder? Oh, Gus picks up the boxcutter that Gale was using earlier in the episode, ejects the blade and worldelssly circles the captives:
This marks Favorite Part #2: Walt, in an allegory for the entire last two seasons of the show, attempts to display aggressive bravado by logically explaining why Gus can’t kill him, even though everything about this scenario suggests the exact opposite, and Walt and Jesse (the latter of whom is deathly silent throughout the sequence) both know it. As usual, outstanding acting all around in this scene, even with almost zero dialogue besides Walt’s confident-but-desperate spiel.
Finally, the tipping point — Gus turns the box cutter on Victor and performs this highly unseemly ventriloquist act:
Gus brutally cuts Victor’s throat and bleeds him to death with his own hands, displaying a far more firsthand level of brutality than he’d ever shown in the past with his calculating ordered-violence. Walt and Jesse are shocked by the murder — which AMC showed in full, allowing the viewer to be similarly startled — and even Captain Calm Mike doesn’t know what to make of it.
Gus washes himself in the lab shower, changes back into his original clothes in total silence as Victor’s body bleeds on the floor, and on his way out finally utters one line: “Get back to work.” It’s unclear how premeditated this entire scene was — did Gus walk into the lab knowing he was going to kill Victor, and that’s why he immediately changed into E.Z. Murderclean Clothez? Or did he know he was going to kill someone, weighed the possibilities in his head, then seeing Gale’s box cutter pushed him over the edge towards choosing Victor, realizing that severing ties to the Gale murder was the preferable alternative to finding another qualified and trustworthy chemist to run the lab?
Either way, Gus certainly accomplished one thing: He completely re-asserted his dominance:
Walt, Jesse and Mike dispose of the body and the murder weapons by dissolving them with hydroflouric acid. In a nod to Season 1, Mike asks “Are you guys sure this’ll work?” to which Jesse replies, “Yeah, we’re sure.”
Having temporarily extended their stay of execution, Walt and Jesse celebrate the only way anyone who stared down death but lived could: They get breakfast at Denny’s. Walt suggests they plan their next move knowing that Gus will kill them the first chance he gets, but a suddenly-talkative Jesse replies that Gus won’t be able to find a replacement who’s skilled, discreet and willing. Jesse’s sudden calmness might just be self-rationalization to numb himself to his terrifying situation, or it could be a clearheaded and salient argument, but either way, Jesse’s loving those pancakes:
Favorite Part #3: Loved the detail in the scene with Jesse and Walt eating, particularly Jesse casually putting syrup and sugar on his pancakes. It just seemed so strangely human and believable — what else is there to do after escaping such a near-death experience, just to sit there terrified forever? Jesse’s hungry, he wants pancakes, and he wants syrup on them. So much more captivating than if they’d drawn out some stock-drama scene where they keep repeating “Don’t you see?? We almost died. I won’t look at things the same way again…” etc. Nope! Pancakes. This show rules.
Welp, that wraps up alllllllll the loose ends. OOPSIE! The cops investigating Gale’s apartment are about to come across Gale’s (HILARIOUS) folder of Lab Notes:
BOOM! “Executive Producer: Vince Gilligan”.
And that’s a Breaking Bad premiere: One psychotically calm throat-slitting, one body dissolved, and one loose end tied up at the expense of numerous far worse problems appearing on the horizon. We saw brief glimpses of Sklyer worrying and Marie helping Hank with his poo-rehab, but we just scratched the surface on those plots — the majority of the episode was one interaction in one location with very little dialogue, and it wasn’t boring for a second. Even the cut to the fries in the ketchup was frickin’ captivating. Though really, when is that not?
BREAKING BAD SEASON FOUR is underway, fellow Bad News Breakers (what I call devoted Breaking Bad fans)!!! Leave your Season Premiere thoughts in the comments.