S04E02: The episode opens with Walt purchasing a gun from a black market arms dealer ripped straight out of a Tarantino movie: he cites the “law of the West” to support a man’s right to defend himself by any means necessary. The scene plays heavily on the show’s central idea: the motivation (and justification thereof) of Walt’s actions. Is he still acting from a place of defense, self-preservation, or interest in his family’s well-being?
Walt’s storyline in this episode followed his attempts to eliminate Gus. Following the theme of last week’s episode, Walt is rapidly figuring out how little control he has.
“You won, Walter. You got the job. Learn to take ‘yes’ for an answer.” – Mike
From his first appearance in the episode, Mike is shown, scraping blood (presumably Victor’s) off his shirtsleeve, to be uneasy with the events of the recent past. Most notably, Mike is newly hesitant to trust his boss, Gus.
Walt, feeling the same way, tries to use Mike’s intelligence to his own advantage. Walt approaches him in a bar that Mike does not leave throughout the episode (which—and I’m no filmmaker, but I feel that this needs to be said—was the most beautifully shot setting I’ve seen in TV lately) and tries to invoke a kinship. A thick “we’re not so different, you and I” motif is lain behind Walt’s rambling, unconvincing speech. As he goes on and on to a primarily silent Mike, it is clear just how far Walt has slipped from his pedestal. Furthermore, Mike immediately notices, without so much as a direct glance, the gun Walt put so much effort into keeping inconspicuous. When Walt does come right out and ask Mike to help him kill Gus, Mike reacts violently, leaving the bar for the first time with Walt injured on the floor. It’s curious as to exactly why he did react this way: as Walt cited loyalty to Jesse as the reason for some of his actions, perhaps Mike is feeling the same kind of loyalty to Gus. More likely, it’s a sense of denial overtaking him: the ever-stoic Mike doesn’t want to realize that his life and consistencies are in danger. And maybe there’s something to the fact that it was Mike’s unforgettable “no more half measures” speech to Walt last season that is exactly what made the man go off commit that insane series of actions that led directly to this very situation.
Meanwhile, Jesse throws a three-day rager (featuring the extremely welcomed return of Badger and Skinny Pete), fueled by cocaine, a superfluously loud sound system, and unsliced pizzas. From his first appearance, glaring lifelessly at the glowing hi-fi, Jesse is obviously not in a good place. He obsessively demands the party (represented by an MTV like montage which admittedly went on a little long for my tastes) persist long past the point of his guests’ stamina; he even pushes his rehabilitating friends back on the wagon—although, this isn’t the first time the otherwise moralistic (relatively, at least—for this show, anyway) Jesse has taken advantage of recovering drug abusers. Eventually, Jesse is paid a visit by Andrea, who solidifies his uneasiness with the events in “Half Measures” and “Full Measure:” the murder of Tomas’ killers and, especially, of Gale. The end of the episode, after all of party guests have gone, depicts an almost audible reverberation of Jesse’s thoughts: “I killed someone.” Aaron Paul, you had better win an Emmy immediately. A terrific callback was incited by a shot of a mountain of cigarettes on Jesse’s counter. If you recall, Jesse adopted a heavy smoking habit to remind him of the scent of deceased girlfriend Jane, who used to smoke in his car. Interestingly, both incidents of tragedy (Jesse’s murder of Gale and Jane’s drug-induced death) were largely, if not entirely, Walt’s fault.
A surprisingly interesting story comes out of Hank and Marie this week. When it comes to his wife, Hank is incurably irate ever since being shot. He refuses to show her the appreciation that he does his physical therapist, actually demands she “get out” while she’s trying to show support, and commands her to inspect all of his minerals for damage.
Finally, Skylar, now thick into the game, makes an offer to Walt’s old boss at the car wash as a money laundering front, who, out of spite over Walt’s hostile quitting, demands no less than twenty million dollars. The show seems to be using Walt and Skylar’s baby daughter as sort of a reminder of just how corrupt everything these people are doing really is: Skylar brings the infant along while she’s doing research to purchase the car wash that she will use to hide the fact that her estranged husband is a prominent Albuquerque meth distributor. This device is hardly unique: the first example to mind is from Dexter’s fifth season, but it works well as Skylar is new to the crime game and therefore the one most freshly “corrupted.” Meanwhile, Walt Jr. makes another two-second appearance this season, just to remind us that this once incredibly prominent character still exists. Let’s hope he’s launched back to the front of the action, as his role was incredibly important to the development of Walt’s character.
Things to consider: what awesome storyline is being built up between Hank and Marie? And when, and in what way, will Mike finally take action?