Episode Title: "Thirty-Eight Snub"
Writer: George Mastras
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his and partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) were on the outs with their boss, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) after Walt killed two of Gus' drug dealers to protect Jesse. To save themselves from Gus' wraith, Walt ordered Jesse to find and kill, Gale (David Costabile); the one man who could possibly replace them on short notice as Gus' new methamphetamine cooks. When Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) caught Walt, he ordered Jesse to go through with the hit and Gale was dead shortly thereafter.
After Vincent collected Jesse and confirmed that Gale had been killed, Gus showed up at the factory and expressed his displeasure through intensely silent anger. He also calmly killed Victor as an example to Walt and Jesse before ordering them back to work. Later, Walt assumed that their safety was only a temporary measure until Gus can find a new lab chief. But Jesse viewed Gus' message as "I may not be able to kill you, but I can make you wish you were dead."
In a seedy hotel room, Walt meets with a man named Lawson (Jim Beaver) who is in the process of selling him an easily concealed handgun. Walt eventually settles upon the .38 snub nose revolver, but his draw motion is clumsy at best. Walt also notices that the serial number has been filed off the weapon, making it a crime just to possess it. Lawson suggests that if Walt needs the gun for legitimate protection than he should probably just buy it legally. But Walt insists that the weapon is for defense only and he doesn't take the warning. Elsewhere, Mike sits in a bar trying to process Victor's murder. He even notices some of Victor's blood on his shirt.
In his apartment, Jesse is awake but barely functioning as a human being. Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt L. Jones) show up and admire Jesse's new sound system. They also try to relay that Jesse's ex-girlfriend, Andrea (Emily Rios) has been asking about him. Despite their initial protests that they are clean now, Jesse tempts Skinny Pete and Badger to forgo their sobriety with lines of meth and they throw a massive party. On the other side of town, Walt constantly practices his draw with the new gun, hoping to get his shot at Gus.
At the same time, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) studies his latest minerals late into the night, much to his wife, Marie's (Betsy Brandt) worry and annoyance. The next morning, Walt's estranged wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) calls and mentions the car wash that she wants to buy on Walt's answering machine. Walt picks up the phone and angrily berates her for mentioning it out of fear of wire taps. He tells Skyler that he will handle the car wash. At Jesse's home, the party is dead and everyone is sleeping on the floor as he rises for work. But he gives Pete and Badger enough money to keep the party going until he gets back.
Walt and Jesse arrive separately at the lab for the latest cook. When Walt believes that Gus is about to arrive, he gets his weapon. But instead of Gus, it's Tyrus Kitt (Ray Campbell), Victor's replacement. When Walt asks Mike when Gus is coming, Mike tells him that he will never see Gus again. During the day, Skler stakes out the car wash with her baby daughter in tow. At Hank's home, Marie notes that his physical therapist is able to raise his spirits but she is not. That night, Jesse returns home to the party, but Andrea shows up with her son soon after.
Andrea asks Jesse about the two dealers that Walt killed and the money that Jesse apparently left for them. Jesse doesn't confirm anything beyond saying that the money is meant for her to get herself and her son a new start in life. Later, Walt arrives just a few blocks away from Gus' house and prepares to confront his adversary. Before he can get far, Gus calls him and tells him to go home, stunning Walt. The next day, Skyler asks to speak with the owner of the car wash and she makes an offer for it using her surveillance to get the actual worth of the business. But because the owner has a grudge against Walt, he refuses to sell for less than $20 million.
Later in the day, Walt finds Mike in a bar and buys him a drink. He makes a pitch to Mike that they are both in danger from Gus. Mike takes note of Walt's .38 and tells him that it won't do him any good when push comes to shove. Walt makes an impassioned plea for Mike to get him in the same room as Gus so he can kill him. When he's done, Mike knocks Walt down with a punch and begins kicking him before leaving. At Jesse's place, the partiers finally pile out against Jesse's wishes, leaving him alone to face his thoughts as his giant sound system blasts music into his face.
After the incredibly tense season premiere, this episode ratchets things back considerably. From his actions, Walt clearly believes that he only has a short time to eliminate Gus before he himself is killed. The fact that Walt can still feel that kind of terror shows that he's not completely off the deep end, but he's still on the edge of becoming even more ruthless and dangerous. Who wants to make a bet that the Walt of this episode will seem kind and gentle compared to what he becomes by the end of the season?
Despite Mike's violent rejection of Walt's plan, he may still end up being Walt's best ally against Gus. Mike was clearly taken aback when Gus murdered Victor in the last episode and there was a moment in that scene where it seemed like Mike was ready to point his gun at Gus. Here, Mike puts on a brave face when dealing with Walt, but his reaction to finding Victor's blood was pretty telling. Mike should be well aware that it could have been his blood on Victor's shirt if Gus had made an example of him.
Walt's near assassination run against Gus was the highlight of the episode. That Walt even considered that a viable option speaks of his desperation in this situation. It also seems like Gus is several steps ahead of Walt's intentions by limiting his exposure to Walt. That level of planning makes Gus an effective villain even when he's not onscreen.
Jesse's story was less compelling this week, largely because it felt extremely repetitive until Andrea showed up. Skinny Pete and Badger wore out their welcome pretty quickly with a Resident Evil 4 and Left 4 Dead debate that went on far too long. This is "Breaking Bad," not a Tarantino movie. Jesse's inability to deal with his role in Gale's murder can be interesting, but this was a dull way to illustrate it.
Skyler's commitment to researching the car wash's worth showed a more intelligent side of her that was impressive. But she did botch any potential deal with the owner by approaching him before Walt was ready to deal with it. The Whites may still end up with the car wash, but Walt will probably have to intimidate the owner or pay a boatload of money to make it happen.
The Hank and Marie storyline is beginning to get on my nerves for two reasons: Hank's not sympathetic at all and their scenes feel like they are entirely removed from the larger storyline. That may change if Hank recovers and uses his research to crack Walt's secrets, but I'd rather watch an hour of Jesse's face in a stereo than keep jumping back to see Hank treat his wife like dirt and moan about his recovery.
Crave Online Rating: 8 out of 10.