Monday, September 19, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 10 Salud

There is the normal tension on television--when the bad guys have their guns drawn, when a big secret might get revealed, when someone is yelling at someone else--and then there is Breaking Bad tension. Everyone knows something will go down at Don Eladio's place. It's the site of Gus's great trauma, and all the tell-tale signs are there. Gus swallows something before gifting wine to Eladio and Mike tells Jesse all three are leaving together or not at all. So we get a good sense that terrible things will happen, but of course we don't learn instantly.

What differentiates Breaking Bad from the rest of the crop is its way drawing out these scenes, never tipping its full hand until absolutely necessary. The last scene plays brilliantly, as Gus, stonefaced, drinks the poisoned wine alongside Eladio, gives a logical reason why Jesse shouldn't drink the wine (because he is an addict), and even waits a while to throw-up--after the chicas have come out. This takes place in the span of 10 minutes--forever in a television episode--and the scene slowly plays out, drawing the audience closer and closer and closer before releasing. Then, as slowly as it built, the tension is let go in a blitz of action, Gus slumping over as Mike and Jesse drag him out, a gunman shooting Mike before Jesse kills him. Amazing.

Assuming Gus lives, he basically wins on all fronts. He gets his revenge on Eladio and takes care of the cartel in one bold move, careful planned and perfectly executed. I'm not even sure this will affect Walt at all immediately. After all, Walt didn't seem to care about the cartel, only caring about the short-term conflict with Gus. What it allows, however, is more time for Gus to deal with Hank, who was absent in the episode. After walking out into the fire last week, Gus is becoming more and more awesome, beyond his usual passive exterior, so I hope he survives.

Jesse and Walt took big turns in the episode, almost flipping their characters entirely. At the Mexican manufacturing place, Jesse channels his inner Walt, berating the head chemist for sucking, with the Jesse vocabulary we've come to love. Meanwhile, Walt finally (finally!!) comes to his senses after two seasons of blinding himself to reality. He's horrified at what he's done, especially to Jesse, and apologizes to Walt Jr. as a surrogate for Jesse. After sleeping for a while, he tells Walt Jr. a poignant, moving story about his own father's death, which came when he was only 6. He remembers his only memory of his father and how he wasn't sure his father even knew who he was, which gives us some reason why he became so willful and obtuse after his cancer diagnosis, doing the exact opposite of what his father did.

Back at home, Skyler buys Walt Jr. a PT Cruiser for his birthday. A fucking PT Cruiser. PT Cruiser--not cool. Charger--cool. But Skyler doesn't know the difference and Walt Jr. can only express muted thanks. Of course, Walt should have been helping her, so we can't completely blame Skyler. At the very least, Walt Jr. got a car, albeit one worse than the one he had a few episodes ago.

I liked how Skyler confronted Ted at the end, revealing it was her money he is using, but there was something unrealistic, too hokey about it. We're supposed to believe that Skyler gives Ted $600k to pay the IRS via a fake relative, complicated the plot further. This is more of a personal preference , but I would prefer the plot end soon, because I could hardly care about Skyler and Ted when far more interesting and exciting things are happening at the same time. But I probably shouldn't count out what Vince Gilligan has in store for the plot.

I'm curious to see how the writers begin next week's episode. This would appear to be a cliffhanger, and a big one at that, but I can't imagine a time in any previous Breaking Bad episodes when there was a situation quite like this. Tough spots, yes, but not two people potentially dying. Will the episode pick up right where this one left off or show us the aftermath?

Score: 9.5/10
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