Entertainment Magazine

Review #2902: Breaking Bad 4.1: “Box Cutter”

Posted on the 18 July 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written by Vince Gilligan
Directed by Adam Bernstein

I have caught up on the first three seasons of “Breaking Bad” within the past three months just to get to this point. If it isn’t clear enough in this or previous reviews, I now consider this show to be one of the best shows on television. The beauty is in how relentless the show is, how it can make your jaw drop one minute, then leave you breathless the next. Jesse’s murder of Gale has repercussions that will likely be explored as the season goes along. What this show does better than any other that I’ve seen is that it makes you wait to see exactly what those repercussions are. It has brilliantly mastered the art of building up copious amounts of tension from little things and then releasing it suddenly in a short burst. It makes you want to watch what’s happening, and then keep wondering what will happen next.

Review #2902: Breaking Bad 4.1: “Box Cutter”

The majority of this episode is spent in the meth lab, sitting with Walt, Jesse, Mike, and Victor, waiting. Mike and Victor first figure out what the current situation is: Victor finds Gale’s dead body in his apartment, in front of a bunch of witnesses, then took Jesse hostage afterwards. That’s a mess that Mike is likely to have to clean up in some way. Walt and Jesse, then ultimately Mike as well, have to wait for Gus to come down and sort out the mess. Most likely, Gus could kill either of them. Victor brazenly starts to cook in the lab. We all know Victor isn’t going to make the blue meth that’s Walt’s specialty, but he isn’t stupid. He’s learned from the weeks he spent watching Walt and Gale work in the lab.

The wait for Gus is contentious and surprisingly suspenseful. He walks into the room, doesn’t say a word to anyone, and goes to dress in one of the lab suits. As he’s doing this, Walt is pathetically begging for his life, and after some desperate speechifying, Jesse’s life as well. No reaction AT ALL from Gus. What is he going to do? At first, I presumed that Gus was going to help Victor cook. I mean, the guy may be a drug lord and not a part of the day-to-day business of making the product, but, like Victor, he’s not dumb. No, he grabs the box cutter that Gale used at the beginning of the episode, and goes to stand beside Victor.

It’s at this excruciatingly tense point that I thought he was going to kill Walt and/or Jesse. Anything was possible. Everyone was afraid of him. No, he swiftly slits Victor’s throat with the box cutter. The cold murder was so shocking that I reflexively turned away from the screen. He leaves the body, gets back into his suit, simply tells Jesse and Walt to get back to work, then walks out of the lab. Now, that’s wielding the power of fear. Gus, Jesse, and Mike say nothing in the scene, yet say everything with their mannerisms. An incredible scene.

Jesse and Walt are so scared out of their minds that when they retreat to a breakfast at Denny’s (a nice little callback to Jesse’s craving from season two’s “4 Days Out”), with Walt trying to rationalize what they just saw and making sure that Jesse isn’t suffering from any scars or trauma. But Jesse sees more clearly than Walt does. He knows that the next mistake either he or Walt makes, they’re dead. Gus will just continue to make them suffer, in more ways than either Walt or Jesse probably even know about, if that hasn’t already occurred. Jesse has committed a murder of an innocent man and witnessed another murder right in front of his eyes. That will mess someone up for a long time. The psychological scars from the murders promise to linger throughout the season.

As for the other plots around Walt and Jesse, they’re light in comparison. Skyler has to hide from Walter Jr. the fact that Walt isn’t home, yet his car is in the driveway. At first, I thought she might’ve done this out of spite for Walt, but she’s fully in it now. She hilariously manipulates the locksmith to get into Walt’s condo to search for him. It remains to be seen the extent of which Skyler will integrate herself into the dangerous meth business. It complicates matters for Walt in a big way. I mean, Saul is ready to leave the country out of fear for his own safety. Hank and Marie have their own domestic issues in the wake of his recovery from being shot. Hank is ready to explode from being immobile and totally dependent on Marie for basic needs. That doesn’t promise to end well either.

I have left out the ending, with the close-up of Gale’s lab notebook. The police is swarming the apartment and will likely study that notebook closely. That notebook contains information that incriminates everyone involved in the Albuquerque blue meth business. This is one heck of show, with creator Vince Gilligan once again hitting the ground running and firing on all cylinders. I look forward to watching how Walt keeps escaping the deadly and escalating situations that come at him. Right now, it really doesn’t look like his full escape from this life will occur any time soon.

Grade: 9/10

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