S04E05: I would have to compare the experience of watching and recapping last night’s episode of Breaking Bad to that of seeing, in theaters, the movie Black Swan. After the first and only time I saw Black Swan—for which I was insuperably excited—I was so perplexed and so psychologically, cinematically and emotionally overwhelmed, that I had no idea whether I loved the movie or hated it. This mirrors my reaction to last night’s Breaking Bad, Shotgun. In both cases, I eventually realized (with this realization coming much more rapidly) that the work of art in question was outstanding. Onto the recap.
The episode opens in a scene visually deserving of an IMAX theater: Walt speeds recklessly (understatement) through traffic toward Gus’ Pollos Hermanos HQ to confront his boss over the absence of Jesse. Walt grabs the “Thirty-Eight Snub” gun from under his car seat (Chekov is busting for this third act to finally come) and makes two phone calls: one to Saul, commanding him, just in case, to make sure all of Walt’s money goes to Skyler. The second is to Skyler’s voicemail. He tells her he is “thinking about her and the kids” and, in a moment of panic, says that he loves her.
Once at the Pollos Hermanos (it cracks me up to keep writing that when I’m recapping the most tense, adrenaline-heavy scene in recent television), Walt commands the cashier to get Gus. She says that he is not in the office, but Walt insists on seeing him and eventually barges in, to find that he is in fact not in the office. After a phone call from Mike, Walt goes back to work dejectedly—and briefly.
“If we’re gunna do this, I mean really gunna do this, then we have to promise each other: no more secrets. There can’t be any mistakes like before. There has to be complete honesty.” – Skyler
“I’m all for that.” – Walt
He soon meets Skyler at her home to finalize the carwash purchase. Skyler proposes that she and Walt need to start being honest with each other if they intend to follow through with this partnership. It’s clear that she’s not just talking about the carwash… While discussing celebration, Skyler notices a message on her machine and plays it—she hears Walt proclaim his love, and for the first time since the pre-“I.F.T.” days, Walt and Skyler become intimate. It’s a really powerful scene for all the darkest reasons. This is amplified by the fact that Skyler, despite Walt’s aversion to the question, seems to have informed Walt Jr. that Walt will be moving back into the house. But we’ll come back to that.
Meanwhile, Jesse and Mike are involved in the storyline that was the primary inspiration for my confused reaction: apparently, Mike did not pick up Jesse to kill/maim/scare him, but, under Gus’ orders (and against his own judgment), Mike is using Jesse as a lookout for when he picks up cash left by drug buyers. Jesse exposits, so that we can all understand: in order to leave no trace between buyer and seller, the buyers leave money in explicit and inconvenient locations for Mike to retrieve. Jesse’s boredom with the ordeal is illustrated by a montage of his fidgeting played under “1977” by Anita Toujix (the song is reprised later to highlight Walt’s own fragmenting calm). At the final stop, while Jesse is waiting in the car for Mike to retrieve some cash from inside a building, a pair of armed men approach the car menacingly. Jesse attacks them with the automobile and flees the scene, but comes back later to pick up Mike. Apparently, this was a test set up by Gus and Mike, and Jesse has “passed.” Mike rewards Jesse with a cigarette, which he disallowed him earlier. My confusion came from the sincerity of the storyline: it bounced from Planes, Trains and Automobiles to Natural Born Killers, landing somewhere in between, at around 48 Hours. But, as I came to accept, none of this was ‘accidental.’ And, to finally snap Jesse into a state where he is capable of speech, it worked.
Finally, the Whites pay another visit to the Schraders. Walt is still ensconced with desperation over the thought of moving back in with Skyler. A flash of a Beneke mug in the scene where he talks to Walt Jr. shows that he has clearly not entirely forgiven his wife for her affair. His hurrying to work shows that he is attached and accustomed to his new lifestyle. But it is all brought home when Hank goes off about the genius of Gale “Heisenberg” Boetticher. Walt, a few glasses of wine deep, begins to surmise that the files on Beotticher indicate that he was intelligent, but not a genius. His work just seems “copied.” Thus, Walt, in the Waltest moment we’ve seen in a long, long time, proposes, “Maybe Heisenberg is still out there.” Skyler looks livid.
Walt reunites with Jesse in the lab, who shows his partner some hostility. It seems he has taken to this “new position” working with Mike. Finally, he’s back to tolerating his existence.
In the tag, Hank takes another crack at the Boetticher file. Early in the episode, Hank fumbles over the lie that he had closure over the death of his nemesis (he also expresses doubt that Jesse, connected to the blue meth, would have been the shooter). Hank also acts somewhat decent toward Marie in this moment. Finally, Hank finds a clue: why does Gale Boetticher, staunch vegan and exclusive consumer of organic product, have a Pollos Hermanos menu in his apartment?