Entertainment Magazine

Review #2349: Breaking Bad 4.4: “Bullet Points”

Posted on the 09 August 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Moira Walley-Beckett
Directed by Colin Bucksey

We are a third of the way into the season and that means the setup for the course of the season has approached its end. Of course, “Breaking Bad” has been known to buck the normal conventions of pacing with a television season so even then, it’s difficult to judge where things are going. Needless to say, things continue to spiral out of control and the danger heightens for all parties involved. Walt may think that he has things under control, but that proves not to be the case in some instances. Skyler is fighting Walt to exert power over the details of both her and Walt’s life, which is arguably a complete sham. Jesse’s literally careless attitude pushes Gus to a last-ditch resort of elimination. There just seems to be no favorable outlook for anyone in Albuquerque these days.

Review #2349: Breaking Bad 4.4: “Bullet Points”

The episode is called “Bullet Points,” so named because of Skyler’s rather complicated list of notes that detail the gambling addiction lie she has forced on her family to explain their sudden, large monetary windfall. I found it amusing that Skyler would be so committed to every detail that she has to script and rehearse everything. Walt sits there and takes it, even though you can hear the resignation and contempt he holds for the entire thing in his voice and speech mannerisms when talking with Skyler. Walt is like myself when I watched that scene: Skyler wants everything to be just so, yet I knew it was not going to end up like that.

Life, human beings don’t follow scripts. Scenarios don’t work out the way you envision them to be. Sure enough, even though Walt and Skyler commit to parts of the lie, the dinner scene with Hank and Marie is cut short by a nervous Walt. It turns out he’s nervous not because Hank might catch him or Skyler in a lie, but because Hank is that much closer to finding out who Heisenberg is through Gale’s notebook. The episode also demonstrates that getting Jesse and Heisenberg will be Hank’s sole purpose in life. He’s into his rock (sorry, mineral) collection, but even with a cursory glance at it, Walt proves much better at geological analysis than Hank will ever be. They are all lying to themselves. Hank wants to be a rock collector, but isn’t an expert. Skyler wants to take control of the situation from Walt, but buys her husband’s contempt in the process. Walt wants to think of himself as a smart criminal businessman with decorum. He’s obviously not. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps getting fed at this point.

The episode’s title does have a double meaning, in that the characters are constantly assessing where they are right now, taking note and stock of everything that has occurred. Walt does this especially in the speech he has with Saul. Ironically, he is most comfortable around Saul because Saul presents no threat to Walt and is pretty much in the same boat with Gus that Walt is in. Mike is also assessing things and takes it to Gus that Jesse needs to be dealt with. This looked to me like a compensation measure, with Mike buying himself some time because after Jesse, he could be next in line for the chopping block. Gus is none too happy with his business right now and the mess needs cleaning up. Even Walt sees it the same way.

This is not a business. It’s a gang, and they are resorting to measures that would befit what a gang would do. I found it interesting that Saul would mention their equivalent of a witness protection program. I think it’s the writers of the show sneaking in a little wink at the audience as to where the end of the show is heading. I have some different ideas about the end of the show (much of it involving a lot of death), but it’s worth noting how early even in this season that was put out in the wind. It is, quite frankly, a more optimistic scenario from a show that is often light on optimism.

Surprisingly, I felt most for Jesse in this episode. He has completely hit rock bottom. There’s no life preserver left for this guy. He no longer cares about anything. He gives money to the babbling hobo for pizza (telling him to make sure to have enough for everyone in the house), yet when Jesse returns home after work, he doesn’t even care that the pizza has been consumed by whoever is in the house at the time. Jesse doesn’t even care that his money has been stolen! In previous seasons, money was all he cared about. Gale’s murder and his guilt and remorse over it has pushed Jesse into oblivion. It’s telling that when Walt tries to discuss the murder with Jesse (which should’ve happened last episode when Jesse did the go-karts instead), he gets Walt kicked out of the house. The murder leads to the stripping away of his emotions, which leads to the situation by which Jesse finds himself in the car with Mike, seemingly going off to his death. It’s bleak, although I wished there was a bit more action involved in the episode. There’s a lot more talking in this one more than the episodes this season has shown so far.

This episode was, frankly, a bit too ponderous for me. Assessing every situation on a show is good. A lot of shows on television don’t take the time to do that. But again, I like Breaking Bad better when it’s moving towards something, instead of holding itself back. Right now, a lot of the characters are sweating the small stuff and ignoring the big picture. The end certainly is moving towards a more action-oriented space, where Walt will have to save Jesse from danger and certain death once again. Spending three episodes talking about the fallout of Gale’s murder is just about enough for me.

It’s time for every character to start taking agency with their lives. Skyler needs to accelerate her learning curve about running a business. Hank has to deal with his self-loathing issues and get closer to finding Heisenberg, thus tightening the noose around Walt’s neck. Breaking Bad is a series where everything rarely sits still so I expect the rest of the season to play out this way. What is in store for everyone at the end is the question. There is enough time to get there, however, and the show continues to work its stellar way there.

Grade: 7/10

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