Entertainment Magazine

Review #2363: Breaking Bad 4.5: “Shotgun”

Posted on the 16 August 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Thomas Schnauz
Directed by Michelle MacLaren

Two scenes stand out to me in this terrific episode of “Breaking Bad”. They both involve a look into the normalcy of the White household and family. They both speak to the incredible contrast between what is happening within them and what is happening on the outside. There is a calm and insular feeling to the scenes in the White household after Skyler and Walt sign the paperwork for ownership of the car wash as well as the dinner at the Schraeders. The chaos that occurs around those two scenes make it stand out. It’s been the calling card of the show since its beginning: scenes that operate in almost a serene manner, even as it looks like the entire world is metaphorically burning around them.

Review #2363: Breaking Bad 4.5: “Shotgun”

Walt has to feel like he’s been put through the wringer after the events of this episode. It starts out with him in a rush to get to a meeting with Gus. There were any number of moments where I thought he could’ve seriously been hurt then. Making his frantic phone calls to Saul and Skyler, reaching blindly for the revolver underneath his seat, weaving in and out of traffic like a madman. When he gets to the Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant, he’s treated like a non-relevant entity. Gus is busy with other things (and indeed, it seems the thugs that walk into the restaurant after Walt figure prominently later in the episode) and can’t deal with Walt right now.

So Walt goes back to work, and all seems fine for the moment. Walt’s rant to Saul in the previous episode about how it no longer is a business now sounds imprecise. Walt treats it much like a regular job now, finishing a part of the cooking process, then taking a “nooner” to sign the car wash paperwork. The scene in the White household couldn’t be more perfect in its tone. Skyler’s warning to Walt about full honesty from now on drips with irony to me. All Walt and Skyler have been doing has been lying to each other. Perhaps lying to themselves! For new business partners celebrating a big transaction, they couldn’t be more apart at the moment. Then Skyler hears Walt’s tender message left on the answering machine. All is forgiven in a moment of passion that felt like the ultimate tension reliever.

That’s not even the end of it either. Junior comes home to find his parents oddly together and so that inadvertently forces Skyler to ask Walt to move back into the house under false pretenses to make the lie that much easier to swallow. At the beginning of the season, Skyler didn’t even want Walt in the house! Now, this could mark the start of a change for Skyler. I saw a bit of hesitation mixed with pride from Skyler at the prospect that she might have her man and her life back to normal. It’s not really normal, but again, I think that’s why the entire sequence in the house stood out. There’s no real threat there, yet it could come crashing down at any moment. Skyler is being protected from the uglier side of the drug business by Walt. Does she truly want Walt back in the house or she just continuing to lie to herself? How long do you think that will last?

I must admit to being a bit blindsided by the plot with Jesse and Mike. My hasty assumption was that Jesse was meeting his premature end whenever Mike decided to stop the car in his drive to nowhere. The episode certainly played on that notion in the first act when Mike stopped the car and took out a shovel from the trunk. Being that the show has always been about subverting expectations, any number of things could’ve happened next. Turns out, Mike is just picking up sacks of money from random spots around the state. The sacks are dead drops from the dealers in Gus’ network. We don’t find out about the whole picture until the end of the episode, but the writers and director have fun in the meantime with the notion that Jesse and/or Mike are in danger.

That was never the case since it’s all a setup to, in effect, wake Jesse from his nihilistic slumber since Gale’s murder. He now has a purpose. I doubt very much that Mike or Gus will give him a gun, but at least he’s capable of running someone down with a car and thinking quickly under duress. I didn’t see the ruse coming. How long this new development will last is a legitimate question because I feel that Jesse has no real sense of where he is in the hierarchy of the Fring drug business. He was a big problem for them as recently as the previous episode so this feels like a temporary measure until he screws up again and Gus has no choice but to rub him out. But he may not side with Walt next time so that adds another interesting wrinkle to the equation.

The dinner at the Schraeders surprised me by kick-starting a plot point that looked discarded earlier. Other than the fact that it confirmed Marie’s obsession with the color purple, the dinner put the audience in the head space of all the characters who figure into the whole fabric of the story. Skyler and Walt are still incredibly uncomfortable about the gambling addiction lie despite the elaborate story for Hank told in the previous episode. Hank, at this point, seemed resigned that Heisenberg was out of his reach, murdered by rival gangs in a petty dispute. It’s as plausible an explanation as any. He has no idea how close he really is, though. Walt, for the most part, has gotten away scott-free. However, knowing the size of Walt’s ego and how unwilling he is to let go of something, he drunkenly slurs his way through an equally plausible explanation that Gale might’ve copied everything in his notebook from someone else. That gets Hank sniffing back onto Walt’s trail. And that gets him to the sheet with the Los Pollos Hermanos logo on it. This case isn’t closed yet.

Some might be really upset at the way Walt inadvertently put a target on his (and Gus and Mike’s) back(s). If you’ve seen the show before and you know that Walt has a stubborn streak, then you would understand that it’s natural for Walt to get himself into such a sticky situation. He’s done it before when, under the influence of surgery meds, it got him in trouble with Skyler. He can’t ever let anyone take credit for his work, even if that person is a dead one. Even as Walt is settling into a normal rhythm in his life, there are outside forces threatening to end that normalcy. They are closing in around him and one wonders if he’ll be able to see them coming soon enough. The biggest irony is that Walt may have brought on his own destruction by keeping Hank on the case. So we’ll have to see how this plot shakes out in the coming episodes. It is altogether very fascinating to watch.

Grade: 9/10

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