Monday, September 5, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 8 Hermanos

Midway through "Hermanos," Walt realizes, after seeing a text message, that Jesse has left him. It's a damning moment for Walt, to see how little he has left and how much control Gus has over him. Since Walt can't do anything immediately, the episode pivots to a question that has been lingering in the air since the first time Walt and Gus spoke at Los Pollos Hermanos: Who, exactly, is Walt dealing with?

The question is as complex as any, but we get good headway once we see part of his past. In true Breaking Bad fashion, the flashback is a glorious scene, slow, riveting, and endlessly tense--all while spoken in Spanish and subtitled in English. There Gus is, looking like an enterprising young man, with a partner, trying to convince Don Eladio that he should sell their methamphetamine. To bridge past and the present, there is Tio, who is surprisingly off-kilter almost like he is in the present, and Don Eladio, who has many of the same tendencies as his son, Tuco.

As the events play out, we see a different Gus. He's not in the driver's seat and he's not entirely sure what will happen. But we can instantly recognize the Gus that wants to earn money and has a solid plan in place. And then Tio shoots his partner Max in the head--blood pouring out, Gus's face pushed into the ground, whimpering--and it becomes clear. Gus explains to Tio that the Cousins dying was the result of blood for blood. Indeed, Gus has been biding his time for revenge, allowing for people to be killed in order to get back at Tio. Tio is the one who turned Gus into the cold, ruthless killer and now he's getting what is due.

However, this revenge indicates that Gus does not make every decision purely for business. Simply trading Max's blood for the Cousins would be one thing, but Gus finds it necessary to push it into Tio's face. Now, Gus has both Hank and the cartel on his tail. Gus has made it this far (much, much further than Hank), but will he keep his cool as he proceeds?

The funny thing about the episode is that the flashback was icing on the cake, albeit icing studded with 5 carat diamonds. The interrogation scene alone had me speechless and I was ready to use the entire review to lavish praise on it before being even more stunned by the flashback. Here, Gus is alone with three law enforcement officials and they are clearly poking towards his biggest secret. While he manages to dodge their questions with the usual Gus deception, they have him rattled, especially when it comes to his past. As he leaves, we see, for the first time, a Gus who isn't quite himself, and he gives familiar look we see later in the flashback. Needless to say, Giancarlo Esposito owned the episode.

Although "Hermanos" is a Gus episode, it still has some about Walt's hermanos--Hank, his brother-in-law, and Jesse, his once-trusted partner. Hank has dug himself in and is gunning straight for Gus. Walt wants to keep Hank safe, but is that possible with his close ties to Gus? Killing Gus seem like the only option, and a very, very risky one at that. Jesse, meanwhile, is still in flux. He gives plenty of money to Andrea and Brock, but is conflicted about meeting them.

In contrast to Gus, Walt is a failure. Sure he has money, but he has no control over his life. Walt lives under Gus's thumb, under constant surveillance and in fear. Previously, Walt could skate by by convincing others of their mutual interests, but it's looking less and less likely it will work again. Can Walt take his life in his own hands?

Score: 9.6/10
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