Another stellar, high drama, edge-of-your-seat episode, Breaking Bad at its finest. And this one has one of my favorite ever images.
Towards the end of last season, I was talking about these little moments Jesse and Walt both had standing up to Gus. The idea was that though Walt’s decision to start cooking meth back in the pilot has mostly wreaked havoc on both of their lives, their families, their souls, Walt and Jesse have also become more courageous. Maybe the good thing they’ve both gotten from all of this is a certain lack of fear. In the latter half of this season, Walt and Jesse each get a big moment of bravery. These are moments where maybe they should be afraid, and maybe they are afraid, and if these moments had happened a few seasons back, they would’ve crumbled, but this time they show big courage in the face of all that fear.
On the Sunday that marked the midway point of the camp session, the routine changed. We got to sleep in an extra hour, and after breakfast, we had Sunday Morning Program. Phil opened the program with a new song, a slower song than the whale song or “Great Balls of Fire” or the aorta song.
“Welcome to my morning
Welcome to my day
I’m the one responsible
I made it just this way
I made myself some pictures
To see what they might bring
I think I made it perfectly
I wouldn’t change a thing
I LOVE this episode. Maybe my favorite of the season actually. As with so many, so much happens. This is an episode where certain storylines, like Gus trying to pit Jesse and Walt against each other, come to a climax, and other storylines, like Ted and the IRS trouble, are just beginning.
We haven’t seen Ted in a long while, not since he came to visit Skyler in Season Three after Hank got shot. Tio came back in the last episode, Ted in this one. No one ever goes away for long on this show. But Ted’s not back for a romantic rendez-vous as Skyler first suspects. Oh no, he’s got much bigger troubles. The IRS. An audit. With Skyler’s name on record. Meaning she could get investigated as she’s laundering Walt’s drug money through the carwash. Bad news bears for sure.
“We’re not literally going to die,” I reminded Natalie as I gathered up my things to leave her apartment and walk back across the street to mine. “I mean, no one’s going to shoot us or anything. The worst that will happen is that we fail–”
“I kinda feel like I might actually fail,” Natalie said, sort of laughing the way people laugh when they’re trying not to cry. I knew that laugh so well by now, had laughed it myself so many times.
I grabbed my huge eight-pound book with the fluorescent green cover and shoved it into my backpack. “Me too,” I admitted. I looked around her living room, to all of our practice tests and answer keys scattered over her couch, chair and coffee table; the erasers bloody with pencil shavings, my pink and purple mechanical pencils and Natalie’s straight-up golden #2s; our notecards in several haphazard piles; our identical molecular models of cyclohexane with their carbons and hydrogens in the most stable chair conformations. Natalie sat on her couch, pulling a plush brown blanket around her shoulders. Her apartment looked like a warzone. “That practice test was brutal,” I said. “I’m the one who couldn’t even finish it.” I had given up early into the second practice test, as per usual, feeling I just didn’t know enough to go forward, every question making me feel more like a failure than the last.
I will say this. There is a perfect “That’s what she said!” moment in this episode. Go forth and find it.
So, this is Breaking Bad, and that means that there are no clear villains or heroes, as it should be, as it is in life. Characters are complex and have many layers. Gus is sort of the antagonist to our antiheroes Walt and Jesse, and I want to know what others thought before this episode. Did you hate Gus? Did you think he was evil?
I didn’t. I don’t know what it is because to just think about the bare facts, maybe hating Gus and thinking of him as evil makes logical sense. He slit a guy’s throat in a brutal silent scene in front of Walt and Jesse, and anyone reading these posts knows I had a thing for Victor. Gus has also intended to kill both Walt and Jesse. He’s done a lot of bad things and he’s been a threat to the dynamic duo, but Gus is somehow….so likable anyway.
Finally our names are called, one by one, and we get our bags. I peer into mine. “Ice cream, no way!” I never dreamed they’d give us dessert.
When we unpack back at home, I see that’s mostly what they give us. There’s cake and bags full of Christmas cookies. I open it and pop one red-and-green sprinkled cookie in my mouth. “Kinda stale,” I say, “but better than nothing.”
There are chicken poppers, catfish sticks and cans upon cans. At the bottom of all of our bags are onions and potatoes. “Not bad,” I remark as we fold our bags up and close the cabinets. Sadly, this is the most food I’ve had on hand since my grocery shopping spree when I first moved to Seattle, more than two months ago.
This episode is the halfway point for Season Four–six episodes came before, six will come after–and it feels like a tipping point of sorts. Skyler, Walt and Jesse all wrestle with decisions, and a lot of plot turns happen in this episode.
But before we get to any of that, how freakin’ AMAZING is Jesse’s monologue at his rehab meeting? One of the best moments in the entire series, in my opinion. So tortured. So moving. So raw. You’re right there with him, in that intensity. To me, this speech is a bit like Walt in “Fly” last season. Jesse’s reckoning with what he did at the end of the last season, and it’s an outburst filled with guilt and it doesn’t happen right away. The fallout takes time, which is so real. It also feels true to Jesse’s character that he’d still be in turmoil this long after. He’s also newly sober, four days, so perfect time to be wrestling with his soul, especially now as Walt’s asked him to murder again.
When I saw this episode for the first time, I wondered if there was a little Season Two action going on, because here we have a teaser that starts almost identical to the one a few episodes back, and they have a specific color palette, starting with the blue breath, just like the ones in Season Two had their black and white and pink bear palette. But these aren’t flashforwards, and there’s no hidden message in these episode names. It’s just the cartel, amping up their aggression towards Gus’s operation. There’s something very artistic about these openings, the cool blue of the inside of the refrigerated truck, the way the light comes in through the bullet holes. Always an eye for that sort of thing on this show, how to play with light and color to make scenes not only dramatic but visually interesting and artful.