‘Breaking Bad’ Season 4 Premiere: Box Cutter
Breaking Bad is back and, this season, it’s more than Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) doing the cooking—the show, itself, is really starting to heat up. AMC’s Emmy Award winning and Golden Globe nominated show returned last night with its 4th season after taking a 13 month break— and what a season premier it was.
The show picked up almost exactly where it left off: with Gale, Walter’s ex-partner in crime, but this time in a flashback. When we last saw Gale, he was on the other end of Jesse’s gun begging for his life. But, in said flashbacks, instead we see Gale ecstatically opening boxes and putting together the lab. To poor little Gale, this was on par with Christmas morning, if not better. His one concern is the methamphetamine that his boss, Gus, presents him—a blue meth that appears to be as pure as can be. Gale’s main concern is that, no matter how productive of a lab they create, their meth of 96% purity could never compare. And so he, unknowingly, seals his fate by getting Gus to hire the very man who would be [in]directly responsible for his death. And, sadly, after the opening credits, Gale’s fate is sealed. To most viewers, it was quite clear that Gale’s life would end right then and there but, of course, the writers left us with a bit of a cliffhanger, hinting at a possibility that Gale’s life would be spared.
Nope. Jesse shot Gale right under the eye, just as Walt ordered him to do in the thrilling conclusion to season 3.
Speaking of Walt, when he first gets his screentime in this already exciting premiere, one can’t help but notice the triumphant look on his face.
And then, just as quickly as he appeared on-screen, he’s off it. Instead we’re presented with his home back in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where a just-out-of-bed Skylar answers the door to find Marie, her sister-in-law, at the door with the bills for husband’s and Skylar’s brother’s hospital bills. Only a few seconds after she hands Skylar the bills does she mention how she absolutely adores that Walt and Skylar are living back together, as Skylar demanded a divorce upon finding out about Walt’s “side-job”—you know, that whole “cooking meth” thing. She points out Walt’s car in the driveway, which Skylar had been unaware of up until that point and, the instant Marie leaves, drives it to a distant part of the neighborhood for Walt to pick up later—assuming there is a “later” for Walt.
His life is in peril, and that look of triumph we saw earlier is now gone and, instead, replaced with his more familiar worrisome face. Walt gives an elaborate speech trying to convince Mike into letting them cook, hoping to manipulate him into seeing that their lives still mean something and are as valuable to Gus as they ever were, especially with Gale gone. Few people are as worried about their lives in this show as Walt.
Then again, Skylar was pretty damn concerned for her ex-husband’s life in this episode which was a little odd, especially considering how unpleasant she had been with him in the previous seasons. The following scenes involve her calling Saul, their “drug lawyer,” hoping to learn of his whereabouts. Saul is busy tearing his office apart in search of something, probably something ridiculous, knowing him, and doesn’t really have time for a worried spouse, and so he promises her Walt is fine. Skylar, being the determined woman she is, gets a top master locksmith to [illegally] open the doors into Walt’s house after a good deal of faking all sorts of mental breakdowns and coming up with the most ridiculous excuses.
That’s the last we see of anyone’s storyline who isn’t Walt or Jesse, with the exception of a quick scene where we see how Hank’s recovery is going. After a few debacles between Walt and Mike in regards to whether or not him and Jesse are worth much to Gus anymore, Victor starts cooking meth, simply to prove that their value really has diminished. That is, until Gus silently walks in, puts on what appears to be an expensive poncho, walks around with a box cutter—no doubt where the episode got it’s name, “Box Cutter”—and…slits Victor’s throat, right infront of Mike, Walt, and Jesse. He does all of this without even a word, apparently ignoring Walt’s pleas for their life, as Walt no doubt assumed that the box cutter would be turned on his and Jesse’s necks, until he’s about to leave the laboratory, at which point he tells them to get back to work in no more words than…well, just that. The camera lingers on Jesse’s angry face upon Victor’s death, which gets one to think—is Jesse going to be the one to extract vengeance on Gus, both for Victor, for having to kill Gale, and for the death of his friends? Only time will tell.
The last 15 minutes of the show were particularly enjoyable, as each moment of it seems to be an allusion to something else, whether previously in the show or a totally unrelated matter. For instance, Walt and Jesse dispose of Victor’s body the way they tried to dispose of a body in the second episode of the show—with hydrofluoric acid. This time they remember to put the body in a plastic container and, when Mike asks them if they “sure it’ll do the job,” Jesse snaps back “trust us.” It got a chuckle or two out of me.
As they mop up the remains of Victor, his blood, the camera then flashes to French fries swirling in ketchup at a Denny’s, where we find Jesse and Walt cooling down after a thrilling first episode back. Jesse is devouring all sorts of food and Walt is very much still in shock, sitting there thinking—his appetite was as ruined as mine was after that blood-to-ketchup shot. Walt is in such shock that he forgets to remove the stickers that come on newly T-shirts from his…new T-shirt, which just happens to be the same shirt Jesse is wearing. In fact, both Walt and Jesse are wearing the same clothes, from head to toe, while they sit at the table and brainstorm a way to get out of the messy situation they’re in. It was very Pulp Fictionesque. The two had been close to enemies last season, so it’s great to see their first season dynamic return, if only for a moment, as Walt returns home right after. What’s the point of being at a diner if you’re not actually eating, right?
Upon his return home, Walt is greeted by Skylar in the driveway and, based on their interactions and the friendly exchanges returned, it seems like their relationship is healing and Walt won back what meant the most to him—his family. To think, had he not gotten cancer everything would have been just fine. And, to be honest, if it hadn’t been for his subtle cough in the driveway, I would’ve totally forgotten he’d even had cancer.
The final shot of the series was of the police in Gale’s apartment, searching for evidence and noticing the folder on his desk that reads “LAB NOTES.”
Uh-oh. After an absolute roller-coaster of a first episode back, I really can’t wait to see what the guys at AMC have in store for us next Sunday.
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