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Breaking Bad, Season Four, Episode Four

Another classic, classic opening.  Breaking Bad regularly just knocks it out of the park with the opening sequence (think last season with "(Everyone Knows It's) Windy" and the second season with the Negro y Azul video).  This is no different.  It's cool, much like Mike's shootout last season, he proves himself a bad ass.  It's a cool scene, right down to the nod to Fargo with Mike's outfit while waiting in the refrigerated truck.  How often does Mike get to wear his deer stalker hat and mittens? Just like the nihilist in Fargo.  Say what you want about chicken trucks, dude, but at least it's a method of poultry delivery.

But. I call bullshit.

Presumably, since we're shown the cartel guy being killed by Gus from last season, this is the cartel responding.  How or why their response is to shoot up a chicken truck really is beyond me:

Cartel #1: He's killed a top-ranking member of the cartel! We must respond...but how?!

Cartel #2: He must pay! We must make him suffer!

Cartel #1: Let's inconvenience his chicken batter delivery system!

Cartel #2: Perfect! I will send two agents immediately! Gus Fring will rue the day he crossed the Mexican cartel!

Okay, let's assume that shooting up one of Gus's many chicken trucks is legitimate payback, why on GOD'S GREEN EARTH is Mike hanging out in the back of it? Has there been a string of hits on their chicken trucks lately? I fail to see where this is in any way a reasonable, plausible scene.  Are they delivering a large amount of product via this truck? Would it be that hard to reference it?  They could straight up tell us, or perhaps even back reference it and offer explanation when Gus and Mike talk later in the episode. No.

So, we can assume that when Mike is not off killing and maiming and cleaning up messes for the Chicken Man, Gus has him riding in random chicken trucks on the off-chance some0ne might mess with them. Call me crazy, but that might not be using Mike in the most effective way possible.

All that said, visually, it is just a stunning scene, and I can't help think it's totally stolen/homaged from myriad sources.  Perhaps you can help me hereL

  • The cold breath in the beginning--Mike just in the dark, breathing out cold air. It's so familiar looking.
  • Also the transition from this cold, bleak interior to the outside--very sunny, desert--the contrast when the doors are finally open is abrasive.  Not abrasive--abrasive is wrong--it's a welcoming visual because it is so different than the cold interior of the truck. But it's also stunning.
  • The bullet holes through the truck from the inside is an old trick, but it's still beautiful and works for me.
  • And Mike's ear, Mike's floppy shot ear--that I've seen somewhere and I cannot place at all. Something just like that. But it was almost beautiful the way the ear was just hanging there, and Mike flops it back and you see what the ear looked like intact.

I also liked how they didn't show the prospective assassins getting shot, just flying out the car.  I know there are some who disagree with me, but as far as the heavy hitting shows (Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood), none are as visually stunning as Breaking Bad.  His passage of time trick gets me every time.  This is no exception, as he does it almost like an old-school 2D video game, using a static camera from behind a park bench, ninety-degrees from the ground.

I've never been to a GA meeting, but gambling addicts are grim.  It's just...wow. Those poor bastards destroy a lot in a hurry, not that alcoholics don't, but.  Ooof.  The selfishness of the main characters is further demonstrated, as they use the meeting for background reference and Skyler even uses the stories to further her Walt-as-gambler narrative.

"Don't chop-chop me."

Again like last week, while going over their story, no baby and no Walt Jr.  Walt loses all four hands, including a double down. He lost five bets. The story is not believable, though I really appreciated Skyler's thoroughness.  To a point.

The dialogue between Skyler and Walt suggests to me that they are close to reconciliation. They're both visually disturbed that the other is capable of lying.  Skyler buys into Walt saying he was sorry and Walt is upset that Skyler can cry on demand. Skyler looks as if she's about to accept an apology from Walt for dragging her through this, but as usual, he is only thinking of himself.  (note: I've since read another analysis that thought Skyler used this opportunity to torture/dole out karmic justice to Walt. I don't think I agree with this take, but did any of you think she was punitive toward Walt through the narrative?)

Two things, after the long speech about how he wouldn't say he was "terribly, terribly ashamed of his actions," he says this exact thing to his son.  Also, for all the intricate planning about their story, they failed to plan for the one question everyone would ask immediately: how much did you win?

"We want to tell you the whole story--it's a doozy. Hold onto your hats."

Then there's Gale and his vegan s'mores, indoor composting tips, top ten recumbent bicycles.

Here's the original video. I'm not sure Gale didn't make a better one.  He certainly sang it better.  And the closed captions there, which I originally thought was Russian--it's fucking Elvish, isn't it?! (note: I've read since that it was Thai. I like my idea better.)

Between the video and the notebook, I'm hard pressed to remember a postmortem character with a bigger part in a show, or at least a more memorable one. Am I alone in wanting to get a hold of Gale's notebook? I want a copy, too.  Regardless of Walt's guilt, it's clear the Earth is a lesser place without Gale in it.  He would fit in well here. How much fun must actor David Costabile had in playing Gale? (here's a short Q&A with him about the character, presumably before he got to make the video)

Jesse. Jesse has decided he likes the bald head look.  And has apparently decreed that everyone in his house should embrace the look as well.  Something inside of Jesse has snapped. He's not scared of death, actually seems to be seeking it.  Doesn't care about the money (going or coming back), doesn't care that Mike shows up, recognizes that Mike is not planning to kill the guy that ripped him off, doesn't care if he does or not. LOVE how the fat guy chooses the pizza over the meth--that's how Bloom has to think of pizza these days.

"What if he recognizes it and goes after Jesse?"

"Go after him how--on his Rascal Scooter?"

So. Saul is offering a way out for Walt. We're shown an end game for Walt that does not end with him on a slab or in a cell.  I do not believe Walt makes it out of this show alive, but...it is a tease to see that there my be an escape clause.

I'd like a short analysis by one of our resident lawyers...how realistic is the Saul character?

"You're on thin ice, you little shithead--you know that?"

So. My original thought was that they are taking Jesse off to rehab. We're clearly supposed to believe they're taking Jesse off to kill him, and that's what Walt thinks, but I'm not on board with that thought. What do you think?  They spend an inordinate amount of time and energy showing Jesse late, Walt breaking into his house, angrily knocking and calling, seeing his phone still there...we're obviously supposed to think that Jesse's in deep trouble, but I think it's a red herring cliffhanger that The Sopranos regularly did to us.

The ending is supposed to draw the parallel between the Jesse and Mike character.  The similar dead-eyed expression (that Walt references earlier), the shaved/bald head (this would explain in the grand scheme why Jesse has suddenly decided that shaved is the way to go), the indifference to life or death.  I think we're watching the making of Jesse the Cleaner.  Just a thought.

The title. Bullet Points. Obviously, Skyler's copious notes about the back story but also the bullets coming through the truck. Bullet points suggest that you're hitting the major details. It has to relate back to Gale's notebook as well. Also Mike's ear is tied in somehow as is the fact Hank's in the chair.

Man, the ear thing is driving me crazy. The SopranosTony is shot in the first season by the two black guys when they try to assassinate him.  I hope you appreciate that! I went through both Clint Eastwood westerns and Taxi Driver before I remembered it was Tony.

Homage, indeed. High praise and realizing why you get to do what you do, Gilligan.  I'm proud of you.