After a hiatus that felt like forever, Breaking Bad is back to kick our ass. Last season’s finale, “Full Measure,” left us pulling our hair out over whether a weepy Jesse shot Gale – or of that last second camera shift had Jesse firing over Gale’s shoulder in hesitation. More happened in the season four premiere, the gruesomely titled “Box Cutter,” than just the reveal of Gale’s execution. In true Breaking Bad fashion, creator Vince Gilligan and his crew delivered a suspenseful and darkly hilarious episode that began with a shocker of a flashback. We also got see Walter resort to his sniveling, bombastic Mr. White persona as Skyler continues to “break bad” even further. And poor Jesse’s now lost any shred of innocence he may have had left. It’s been a long time coming for this episode and they knocked it out the park, into the parking lot, and right through the windshield of your Pontiac Aztec.
There was never a moment where Gale wasn’t an interesting and baffling character. He came off as even more of a black sheep in the drug world than Walt did in the initial episodes. He possessed a unwavering gusto for the nooks and crannies of chemistry, but what was this tea-sipping pacifist who spends his free time tending his plans while listening to Italian quartets from the ’40s doing cooking meth for Gus? He’s always been an enigma and now he’s a dead enigma. In the episode’s insightful flashback, we see Gale joyously opening the crates of equipment for the Meth Cave (with a bright green foreshadow of a box cutter). Almost in awe, he tells Gus how pure the “competition’s” sample is: 99 percent compared to the 96 Gale can cook up. His integrity as a chemist defeats his apprehensive to step out of line in front of the boss, however, and he implores Gus to try to employ the competition. There it is. The seed that would draw Gus to Heisenberg and eventually bury Gale.
Jumping forward to the present and Gale’s apartment, wee see that Jesse’s bullet went through Gale’s head and into the teapot. Victor’s too late to prevent the shooting, but he catches Jesse, hollow and speechless, in his car outside. Later, in one brilliant moment of foreshadowing, a forensics team doing CSI stuff in Gale’s apartment, and the camera pans to the lightning bolt “Lab Notes” folder sitting on Gale’s table. That damning piece of evidence hopefully does not contain the address of the Meth Cave or mention Walt’s name. Unless you’re rooting for the DEA, then I hope it does, jerk.
Back at the Meth Cave, Walt and Jesse get their bittersweet reunion. Walt is relieved Jesse is alive and Gale is dead. Jesse, who doesn’t speak until he gets some Denny’s in him, which is nearly the entire episode, can’t even look at Walt. His hands are too dirty, he’s retired his wigger cap, and I’m sure he resents Walt for dragging him back into Gus’s lap. Aaron Paul is brilliant as Jesse. We all know that. This is looking like the darkest season yet for Jesse and Paul’s going to really shine, I bet. The unhealthy, polar sides of him were on display in this episode: the dormant emotionless sinner to the collected drug dealer, cracking jokes, eating pancakes, and rearing to work. Going from those two extremes in one day shows a sickly mental state on the border of collapsing. Hang on tight, Jesse.
“Well, get back to work.” After his chat with Gale in the flashback these are the only words spoken by Gus for the rest of the episode. His actions, however, spoke volumes about his approach to management. Once Gus entered the room, the suspense was almost unbearable. From his slow walk and methodologically precise manner of undressing/dressing to slitting Victor’s throat, every second of Gus on screen was an eternity. Even weathered Mike was shook. During the show’s break, Vince Gilligan stated that Jesse did indeed shoot Gale, so all that was left to know was what Gus was going to do about it. I think him dropping Victor had more to do him putting the fear of god into Walt, Jesse, and even Mike than it did with Victor being seen at Gale’s apartment after the murder or him defiantly starting a cook without permission. And Gus is damn sure that Walt and Jesse don’t miss a second of Victor’s brutal death.
When Jesse does speak, it’s a nice nod to the disposal of Emilio’s body from season one. While he’s convinced that Gus now needs them to cook, Walt, after watching Victor drain out at his feet, believes Gus is going to take them out at the first opportunity. The two will have to collude more than ever now, so it’s good that they picked up some matching Kenny Rogers shirts from Target. Walt’s whole getup when he goes back home was hilarious; from the red Chuck Taylor knock-offs to the white jeans to his need for a belt. His walk to the Aztec might be more embarrassing than Skyler’s walk from it in her robe.
IN BRIEF: Skyler continues to break her bad. She uses baby Holly as a tool to sucker the locksmith into letting her into Walt’s condo, which is bare bones empty besides the teddy bear eyeball in a kitchen drawer. Hank is only in the episode for a few minutes, but it’s enough to show how crippling his misery is. At least he’s found in a new hobby in collecting cheap minerals. After Mike showed his true colors to our favorite slimy lawyer Saul in the season three finale, Saul is now a full-blown paranoid – The Conversation style.
This article originally appeared on the Mishka Bloglin.