Friday, July 6, 2012

Breaking Down: Breaking Bad - Season Four, Episodes Nine through Twelve

In the homestretch run of Season Four of Breaking Bad Walt suspects he is losing grip on Jesse, plants a bug on his car, tosses the evidence to Jesse, and Jesse tosses it back. Skyler enlists the services of Saul Goodman to handle a sticky situation with Beneke, and Ted takes the high road. Meanwhile, the cartel is not cutting Gus any slack, so Gus seemingly caves and takes a trip south with Mike and Jesse as his wingmen. After Jesse demonstrates his mad cooking skills, Gus orchestrates his maneuver involving poisonous tequila, effectively removing the last inheritors of the Salamanca clan. Upon his glorious return, Gus tries his best to intimidate a disgruntled Walt, but Walt ignores the ploy. As Hank and family remain cuddled up at home with the DEA, Walt plots his way out of imminent danger. 

Tune in next week for the recap of the final episode along with predictions and commentary on the upcoming Season Five.
These guys clearly haven't seen Tremors, find a giant rock, stat!

Stan Earnest: These last few episodes of Season Four pack a heavy punch. The only complaint I have is the opening to "Bug", a wink at Season Three's episode titled "Fly" that has a much different flight pattern (see Craig, these episode titles are great). We already know Walt is going to get curb-stomped by Jesse when he shows up at his house, but again, it's not so much about if or when, but how with Breaking Bad. Professor Plum, in the living room, with a monitoring device to the face, that's how.

Craig Scholes: Speaking of the opening to the episode “Bug”, what do you think Old Man Duggan's stance is on dudes wearing moccasins? Did you find it odd that Beneke's Geo Metro had keyless entry?

SE: We definitely have to get a ruling from the Old Man, because there might be an exclusion for the suede, dressy look. I think you were right about Walt's fighting style; it's one part Tyson ear bite and two parts Rowdy Roddy Piper, and after getting thrown into his own household fixtures by Walter White, Pinkman might want reconfigure his fighting stance also. They looked like the Bushwhackers turning on each other.

CS: If Walt and Jesse are the Bushwackers, which one licks the other one's armpit? You want to know what has bugged me more than anything? The fact that Gus is this worldly guy who clearly dabbles in all the finer things--it is apparent he is fond of cooking and enjoys gourmet food--yet the guy can't use a knife properly at all.

SE: I don't care how poorly he uses a knife, I still want some of that Chilean soup that he cooks, sans ricin. What did you think of him walking into the sniper spray Terminator-style? Jesse just standing there is definitely a real thing, dangerous situations tax the hell out of cognitive functions. A plethora of accounts of disasters involve victims that had plenty of time to escape but froze and failed to make it out alive. We see this unfold on television daily it seems. I understand Jesse turning into a fainting goat, but something about humans I have never understood is the want to be close to disaster. There was a giant building fire in my town recently. I was trying to take all the back roads and alleys I could to escape any traffic that would force me into the fumes of the fire. I saw it from a ways away, so I was able to take a route downwind and witnessed people literally walking out their front doors and heading directly to the site to witness the carnage. It was as if the fire was a giant spectator magnet, sucking people into its field. Hell, I'm surprised they weren't doing the snake crawl from the Season Three opener. As I got blocked in traffic, I saw hundreds of people just sitting on the town square, gladly ingesting the massive balls of brownish smog released by the blaze.

I guess in a way it parallels what has happened to Walt; he has been sucked into becoming a monster. Disaster is imminent, but his course remains the same. Nothing says "screw lung cancer" like sharing a cigarette with Jesse (not really). I can't decide if he was just trying to manipulate Jesse, or if he was really just having a to-hell-with-life moment.

CS: On one hand it's pretty bad ass that Gus challenged him like that, on the other he knew they couldn't shoot him; not that I have the cojones to test a sniper like that. There was a building in my hometown that recently went ablaze, and I remember wondering how many man hours they were wasting just to trying to keep the peace so people could do their job.

Gilligan and crew sure love themselves some shitty cars. If my parents bought me a PT Cruiser, I can't say that I would have been happy. On a trip to San Francisco once, I reserved a rental car only to find out that it wasn't available upon my arrival. I had the option to drive a PT Cruiser but chose instead to pay a little extra for a Mustang.

"Yo Avon, I found the phone booth, but I don't see Bill & Ted anywhere."
SE: I laughed like a little school girl when I saw the PT Cruiser. Not only is the average age of PT drivers upwards of 60, but it is sky blue. Talk about having a pulse on the younger generation. At least she could have found a black or red one, but hey, it comes with a CD player Junior! So much for Mom understanding technology; I doubt she knew that the Challenger had an iPod port. Speaking of technology in a television series, are we ever going to see a smart phone? How many times are Gus and Saul going to snap flip phones in half and toss them in the trash? It reminds me of watching The Wire when the cops undercover team was so intrigued that the criminals were now using high-tech cellphones to receive newfangled messages that didn't require conversation. Nowadays when I see someone using a Tracfone, deductive reasoning takes hold. There are only three things a Tracfone is used for: 1) the person cannot pass the faintest credit check to get a regular cell, 2) the person is cheating on a partner, 3) or the person is engaging in clandestine activities. I am pretty sure Hank uses the same basic sleuthing technique.

CS: You forgot the fourth option: there are some Tracphones that cost $40 a month for unlimited calls, texts and data. Having said that, I've made that Wire connection too, probably easier to destroy a phone if you aren't having to shell out a couple Benjamins every time.

I love the way Jesse shows up the Mexican chemists by the way.

SE: The best part of that was the look on Gus's and Mike's faces. I can't even image the look that would have come across Walt's face if he would have seen that scumtacular lab, talk about bitter-beer face. Walt would be shark bait in under a week with Don Eladio running the gig.

I was happy to see a plot line that put Skyler in Walt's shoes. We know she hasn't been squeaky clean and consequences are inevitable. If Walt's alter-ego is Heisenberg, the developer of the uncertainty principle, then what could possibly be the name of Skyler's act as a busty bimbo that dabbles in The Quicken?

CS: More than likely Walt would have been given a little more benefit of the doubt. It is very possible that part of the reason that Walt's meth is so "pure" is because of how meticulous they are at keeping their lab free of contaminants (see what I did there).

It didn't take Skyler much prodding to get her to go full-on sketchy, did it?

SE: Never underestimate the power of the postnatal hormonal flux. I like how all the pieces fit together for madness to happen. Walt is in hiding, drowning himself in pain pills and whatever beer he drinks (Molson? Amstel Light?). I am surprised he wasn't having a White Russian after wearing that Southwestern robe straight out of The Dude's closet. Or maybe it's a stiff cocktail, because he is totally Don Draper-ing Skyler with his disappearing acts. It inadvertently gives him power of control over her, but it also leaves her brain churning to keep up with Walt's style of taking care of problems, turning to Saul and his "A" team.

CS: Speaking of "A" team, BILL FUCKING BURR! He's had a pretty small part so far, but he has absolutely NAILED it. I’m not as big a fan of the rather large black fellow that accompanies him, but he plays the part okay.

SE: Fun fact: when the writing crew had some down time or was feeling uninspired during Season Four, they would fire up the ole YouTube and watch Bill Burr clip after Bill Burr clip. He is quite the enigma. Judging from the stand-up clips, I would have never imagined he could just sledgehammer that role so well. I didn't even recognize him the first time he showed up giving the business to Eyebrows McGee. Huell is also a comedian, the lesser known Lavell Crawford. Another fun fact: the name Huell was inspired by television personality Huell Howser. At first, I wasn't a big Huell fan, but in the scene with Beneke he really comes through. I like that he fits really well with Saul. I just don't see Saul employing a serious bodyguard, as he is deathly afraid of Mike. Something really weird I've noticed on second viewing is that Huell and Kuby are both wearing purple in Saul's office, Gus is also wearing purple in the last few episodes, and Marie has her house just plastered in purple, but maybe it's just Hank's favorite color.

CS: Marie was also wearing purple when she got busted being a klepto at the open houses.

It pisses me off how slimey Beneke is. How could you justify buying a new Benz when you owed the government $617K and change. And then for him to say he has to get his business going. Buying a new Mercedes isn't exactly overhead. What a fucking clown.

SE: Teddy knows exactly what he is doing. Skyler, like Walt, was too naive and prideful to not let Ted know where the money came from. If Saul thinks it's a bad idea, chances are it is a pretty bad idea. She wised up all quick like because Ted was definitely trying to blackmail her, or at least push her in a direction back into his slimy, scaled hands.

I got a question for you: do you think that Gus ever thought at any point that Walt was tipping Hank off, or was he merely using the Hank snooping plot to convince Jesse that Walt was a problem? I thought it was a nice touch that the viewer doesn't know if Gus can hear Walt through the camera.

CS: I actually don't think Ted was blackmailing Skyler. I think he instead was just trying to justify being a selfish moron.

No, I don't think Gus was of the impression that he was tipping off Hank. Mainly because of how terrified he was when Hank wanted Walt to lo-jack his car. And yeah, since Gus is such a master schemer he clearly took advantage of the hand he was dealt.

SE: Another question: is it winter like year around in Albuquerque? Because Jesse sure likes his hoodies and Walt sure likes jackets. Seems like the heat is really played up in the day shots and cold is really played up in the night shots. I've never gotten down in the ABQ, but by the series, it seems I need to pack heavy.

I wonder what kind of a plan Gus had in place if he didn't make it out of Mexico alive. I am sure he has some ten page under-the-table will worked out where his operation gets handed down to somebody, or at least covered up and the money split up. The guy sure had a plan for Don Eladio and crew, the riskiest move he'll ever make. After surviving that madness, he knows he is on borrowed time. I loved that he was sly enough to avoid Pinkman getting got by the specially hand-crafted anejo, and telling the remaining folks to raid the mansion and leave was a classy move.

CS: Well sand doesn't really hold any heat, so there are massive temperature fluctuations when the sun goes down. Fun story, I have a cousin from the same southeastern region of Kansas I'm from who moved to Los Angeles to go to UCLA. After a couple years, he decided to come home for Christmas. He flew into Kansas City wearing shorts, sandals, and a tank top because he forgot it got cold in the Midwest.

I dunno, but it was pretty ballsy to spike tequila with Iocane powder without properly immunizing himself against it.

Gus has been watching The Princess Bride
SE: You know what poison Gus used? Remind me to never piss you off. Whatever he spiked it with, he did take some pill for it beforehand while reminiscing about his boy Max next to the pool.

I just want to go on record as saying that the end to Episode Eleven, "Crawl Space", is the most ominous ending of a television show I can remember, and nothing else is even close. It's weird to think that four years of Breaking Bad is only like ten months in Walt time. It's easy to forget that Walt hasn't made that much money yet, so plucking out some change for a car wash and Teddy Beneke's mistakes put a dent in the meth fortune. The writer's strike deep, dark oil once again with Walt maniacally laughing Syd Barrett style as the camera pans out to some wicked Reznoresque backing track while Maria flips out on the answering machine. I can't get that menacing camera shot out of my head. Walt has done the most awful of things to set his family up for a future, and Teddy's got his money now while he is up a creek, sans paddle. Now that is a Swayze-sized Road House karate chop the ole beanbag.

CS: Not only has Walt not earned a totally obscene amount of money yet, but Skyler and him haven't exactly been really careful with the money, giving tons of it to Hank and Marie, buying a car wash, burning it in a grill, torching a Dodge Challenger, oh and then there is still the massive cancer treatment debt they started in.

SE: And then we find Walter next to the pool spinning his .38 of fate, contemplating a way out. There is no way you don't like the Apollo Sunshine song during that scene, aptly titled "We Are Born When We Die", hearkening to a Season One, Episode One Walt beginning his new double life.

CS: I meh that song. I wouldn't ever actively listen to it on my own, but on the other hand I wouldn't turn it off when it came on.

I could have sworn Jesse was present when Gus drug Walt out into the desert to threaten him, but clearly he wasn't.

SE: Yeah, there is no way that Gus would have let Jesse hear him threaten Walt's baby daughter; he knows Jesse is a big softy.

Do I even need to mention how awesome it was that the Aztek took on even more brutality? If you're ever going to dress up as Heisenberg for Halloween, I won't get it unless you're driving an Aztek with body damage. Now that would be a scary look. Do you think Walt saved money by avoiding the high fees of an incognito repairman or will his insurance premiums negate that?

CS: Of course not, the Aztek taking on copious amounts of damage is one of my favorite things about the show. I think the Aztek is finally dead, because he is driving some sort of white station wagon mini van hybrid thing, something like a Pontiac Vibe or some sort of Honda.

You don't want to wear moccasins in this lab.
SE: I am really hoping that it is a rental, because I am rooting for a glorious return by the Aztek, but judging by the new poster for Season Five, Walt is going to be driving a new Mercedes S Class.

So we end these episodes with yet another Jesse and Walt confrontation ending in Walt building, of all things, a car bomb. Full-on criminal Heisenberg is pretty much everyday Walt at this point. What did you make of Gus's spidey sense to avoid Walt's trap?

CS: Yeah, there is no way that Aztek is going to be brought back. Maybe when it was totaled out Walt bought back a salvaged title or something, and we'll get a chance to just see it sitting in the street from time to time.

I think Gus's sixth sense was a little ridiculous to be honest, but I guess its not too far-fetched for someone as meticulous as Gus to take all precautions. Makes you wonder though, how many times he has changed course for no reason. Do you think his muscle just thinks he is crazy?

SE: His muscle probably never gets anything in direct message from him, so I guarantee they think he is a quack. You know, there was a monstrous fuss on the net about Gus avoiding his car, but I think it is warranted. He knows Walt is after him. He thinks he has turned Jesse, but he isn't positive. The talk he had with Jesse was very strange. Gus was likely just thinking about how weird it was that Jesse said that someone poisoned Brock but didn't mention anything other than that really. Jesse really didn't play his hand very well at all. He looked very afraid of Gus. So either Jesse thinks Gus did it and wouldn't say anything or he thinks Walter did it and would then give the go ahead for Gus to off Walt. Gus just figured something was up with that conversation so he avoided his car.

CS: I don't think Jesse gets enough credit for how sharp he is at times though. He may not be the most book smart, but he has plenty of the streets know-how.

So there you have it. The first twelve episodes of Season Four of Breaking Bad. Walt sure has managed to get himself into quite the pickle, and it'll be fun to see how the craziness is resolved. Tune in next week when we break down the finale of Season Four in preparation of the Season Five premiere.

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