Monday, August 1, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 3 Open House

Three episodes into the season, and aside from Gus killing in the premiere, there has been almost no violence or even any threats of violence, as opposed to the previous three seasons which had plenty of violence or potential violence in the opening episodes. What this indicates to me is that Vince Gilligan is once again trying something new.

While the plots of the previous seasons were largely moved by external elements--introduction to the drug world, Tuco, Cousins, Gus--this season is about how the characters deal with what has been built up over time. How do these characters internalize what has happened them and move forward? Since the beginning of the show, there have been many dramatic changes and little breathing room for the characters. Now, in a time of relative inaction, how do the characters respond? These are the questions the episodes ask, rather than questions about whether someone will be killed, how to better distribute drugs, or who the cartel is going after next. Some people may not like this direction--and I certainly like those tense, pressure cooker episodes--but I think it's going well so far.

Following this general line of thought, "Open House," surprisingly, is an episode centered around Marie, a character one usually wouldn't strongly associate with the show. The writers take parts of the show we've already seen--her kleptomania and Hank's rudeness--to give us a fairly compelling look at how she is dealing with everything. There's nothing new to the episode except how Marie works with what she already has, nothing new added. After Hank throws another fit (over Marie buying Fritos instead of Cheetos...), we see her going to open houses, conjuring well thought out stories of her fantasy lives--and stealing a token from each house. It's awful to see what she has to go through and the lengths that she must go to in order to deal with Hank. She enters her fantasy worlds where everything fine, and once she is discovered, it all crumbles.

Jesse's downward spiral continues and he still isn't showing signs of climbing out. His feeble attempt to get Walt to go go-karting fails (the image of Walt on a go-kart brings back unpleasant memories of that House episode last season) , and he's left riding by himself, unleashing a scream of fury. Meanwhile, the eternal party at Jesse's house takes a big turn, as it has gotten completely out of control. The tone, the atmosphere, the people are distinctly different than the party last week, and still, Jesse does nothing. As he throws his money away, the message becomes clearer: Jesse doesn't give a fuck.

The plot moved along a bit for both Skyler and Hank's plots. Skyler closes the deal with Bogdan to buy the car wash, using underhanded tactics of getting a fake inspector, while making a few stipulations about not hurting innocent people and not using violence. Of course, Walt also began the show believing he could stay clean, and we know how that turned out. Skyler is falling deeper and deeper in the the criminal world and there's really nothing to stop her or slow her down. Her ambition is driving her, and Walt continues to lie about the dangers. And Hank is given Gale's notebook, which piques his interests, putting Walt in the distant crosshairs.

"Open House" is not an exciting episode, but it has plenty of emotional depth with Marie, who is often in the background, and allows us to see more of how the characters are dealing with what they've been through. It's been a tough time for everyone and it'll only get harder as time passes.

Score: 8.9/10

  • I'm pretty sure some were miffed by the return of Marie's kleptomania, which was quite random in the first season, and I admit I was a little bothered at first, but the writers did a nice job integrating that into the plot as coping mechanism.
  • Skyler worries about Walt buying a $300 bottle of champagne, but what about the $800K for the car wash? Did the writers explain how they would buy the car wash without cash? It makes a big difference in the way we view Skyler. Either she's being bitchy to Walt, or she's has rational concerns.
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