Episode Title: "Shotgun"
Writer: Thomas Schnauz
Director: Michelle MacLaren
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) reluctantly went along with the efforts of his estranged wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) to go over pages of notes to make sure that their cover story about Walt's gambling addiction could withstand the scrutiny of his brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Instead of being a source of shame, the story inadvertently impressed both Hank and Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte). Hank even showed Walt the notebook taken from Gale's (David Costabile) apartment after his death and he shared his belief that Gale was the infamous Heisenberg, a persona that Walt created years before.
Paranoid that his partner, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) may have left evidence behind at Gale's murder scene, Walt tried to interrogate him about the details. However, Jesse couldn't stand to relive the ordeal and he had Walt forcibly removed from his house. Jesse became increasingly unstable, leading Mike (Jonathan Banks) to tell his boss, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) that something had to be done about him. The next day, Walt was alarmed by Jesse's absence from work and his home. Elsewhere, Mike drove off with Jesse riding shotgun. And the younger man openly didn't care where he was going or if Mike would kill him when they got there.
Walt recklessly drives down the road while screaming orders to Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) over the phone to get the money to his family and run. As he weaves in and out of traffic, Walt ducks under his seat and retrieves his .38 snub. He also calls Skyler and leaves a message to say how much he loves her and their children. Walt then pulls into the Pollos Hermanos restaurant and he demands to see Gus. He also refuses to believe that Gus isn't there after seeing his car outside. After some tense moments, Mike calls Walt and asks him what he's doing. Walt demands to know where Jesse is and to his astonishment, Jesse tells him that he is fine.
Walt is told that he will have to do without his assistant for the day. Before Walt leaves, he bursts into Gus' office and finds that he really isn't there. Back with Jesse, he slowly seems to worry that Mike is planning to kill him and he threatens to older man to "shoot straight" when he tries it. But Mike practically ignores the threat and leaves the car to retrieve cash from a drop off spot. He curtly tells Jesse that they have six more stops and he wants to finish before dark. At Hank's home, he tells his detective friend that he appreciates being kept in on Gale's investigation, but with Heisenberg — his white whale of crime — seemingly dead, Hank doesn't want to continue any longer.
In the car, Jesse is frustrated by Mike's continued silence and he puts together that these cash runs are for Gus' various criminal interests. Jesse seems to believe that he is there as Mike's back up, but Mike angrily explains that he is only there because Mike was told to bring him. He simply wants Jesse to sit there and shut up. At the drug lab, Walt finds it increasingly difficult to manage without Jesse. He takes a break to meet with Skyler and sign the car wash papers. She then checks her messages and hears his declaration of love from earlier.
But rather than question the worried tone of Walt's voice on the message, Skyler brings him to bed for a passionate tryst. Walt Jr. comes home and rolls his eyes when his parents try to hide what they're doing. Sklyer suggests that Walt move back in with them, but he goes back to the lab before agreeing with her. At the lab, Walt drops one of the containers while using the forklift. He angrily shouts at the security camera that he needs his partner, but what he gets is Tyrus Kitt (Ray Campbell), Gus' other main enforcer. At the final drop location, Mike goes into a building after dark as Jesse zones out. However, Jesse eventually notices a car blocking the ally and a shotgun wielding man heading his way.
Jesse throws the car into the reverse and narrowly misses the man before striking the other car. He drives off with the other car in pursuit, leaving Mike alone with the money. Later, Mike calls in for a ride when Jesse suddenly shows up and explains what happened. Mike says he saw it and he even seems more tolerant of Jesse by allowing him to smoke in his car. In the morning, Walt Jr. tells his dad that he's glad he's moving in next Tuesday, which Skyler told him earlier. At the lab, Walt is surprised again to find Jesse back to work. Jesse explains that he has another job now helping Mike after working at the lab.
Outside of the Pollos Hermanos, Gus meets with Mike, who admits that he doesn't know why Gus ordered the fake robbery attempt, but it worked. Jesse thinks that he's a hero. At dinner with Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt), Walt gets a little too drunk and he slams Gale as an obvious imitator of the genius behind the blue meth. Intrigued, Hank redoubles his efforts to investigate Gale's death. And Hank notices that Gale was an avid vegan… and yet he had a Pollos Hermanos bag in his home.
I think that Walt is going to live to regret his words to Hank, but that was a beautifully crafted way to make Walt's hubris the potential starting point of his own downfall. Being drunk obviously kept Walt from holding his tongue, but he couldn't stand to hear Hank heap praise on Gale's intellect when the real praise should have been for Walt, or Walt's Heisenberg persona.
Walt may love Skyler, but when she's around he doesn't seem to be in the driver's seat of his own life. He was somewhat incredulous that Skyler simply decided that he was moving back in within a few days, but he didn't challenge her about it. Walt is also clearly less than enthusiastic about buying the car wash and yet he's going along with that as well. Maybe that's why Walt is so enamored with Heisenberg. When he's filling that role, Walt has some measure of control.
The opening sequence was once again intense and well shot. Walt's paranoia within the restaurant was effectively conveyed by his seemingly enhanced perception of everything around him. I can almost believe that Gus really did duck out the back rather than risk Walt shooting him there.
The Jesse and Mike storyline essentially resurrected Jesse's spirit and gave him a reason to live again. If it ends up driving a wedge between Walt and Jesse, then it was an extremely smart decision by Gus. It wasn't a surprise when the robbery attempt turned out to have been staged, but it made so much sense that it's hard to argue with that dramatic choice. Mike and Jesse also had some interesting back-and-forth chemistry, which will likely be developed more as the season progresses. And this was much more entertaining to watch than Jesse's self-destructive actions of the last few episodes.
Aaron Paul also deserves a lot of credit for the way that Jesse slowly came around during the episode. It was that gradual change in his eyes and demeanor that really sold Jesse's new lease on life. It'll be interesting to see if Jesse now has some loyalty to Mike and Gus for giving him a second chance to prove himself.
When it focuses on Walt and Jesse, "Breaking Bad" doesn't seem to be capable of making a bad episode. Even Hank is starting to be tolerable again now that he's not constantly mistreating Marie. Now that Hank is seemingly back in the game, how sweet would it be for him to finally make a real break on his Heisenberg case despite his crippling injury? At some point, the truth about Walt has to come out. The only question is this: how many people will go down with him?
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.