Monday, September 12, 2011

Review - Breaking Bad Season 4 Episode 9 Bug


Looking back to the beginning of Breaking Bad, the one constant has been Walt and Jesse. They've had their ups and downs, like another other couple, but they've always manages to renew and strengthen their partnership eventually. And now it's over--for real.

When "Bug" begins, we see Walt's glasses on the ground, drops of blood dripping down as a bloody hand reaching down to recover the glasses. It's a gripping image that usually indicates death, though of a human being. Indeed, while there are no human deaths, there is the death of Walt and Jesse's relationship, the cornerstone of the drug business we've seen through four seasons of the show. It ends in Jesse's house with the two pummeling each other. It's a ferocious, messy, frantic fight, ending with Jesse winning. Jesse relishes the last couple hits, as if to say, "I got you, bitch." There's no turning back.

To see how things reached this point, we need to look no further than Walt's behavior a few minutes earlier. Jesse pours his heart out, explaining how screwed he is in the situation, having to go down to Mexico to teach the formula. But does Walt listen? Of course not. When has he listened this season? All he cares about is Jesse meeting Gus but not killing him.

The last shred of control Walt has is over Jesse. The cartel is out of his hands, Hank is out of his hands, and dealing with Gus personally is out of his hands. But Jesse has been his loyal partner for three-plus seasons and Walt has always exerted power over him. When he realizes Jesse is slipping out of his hands, however, Walt acts to contain Jesse, going on a rant about Jesse and Gus. Of course, he completely misreads the situation and Jesse, as he has been for the entire season, and ends up losing dearly.

Last week's episode, with the interrogation scene and the flashback showed us another side of Gus, more vulnerable and more human, someone who wasn't the sociopathic killer. This week, we see the recognizable Gus who fearlessly confronts the shooter, stepping out between the shots, knowing the cartel won't kill him. There is actually something quite heroic about the way Gus strides out into the open and stretches his arms out in defiance (and I'm guessing director Terry McDonough wanted it to look that way). In reality, though, this is a calculated business decision, relenting and letting the cartel have what they want.

Although I understand why the writers gave Skyler a rather large subplot this week, she's just not a character I care about. The plot bridges the Ted Beneke plot from last season to Skyler's increased money and willingness to break the law, which is all nice, but it felt awfully drawn out for a plot with such a tenuous connection to the greater matters at hand. Unless Ted somehow gets roped into the cartel--which would seem awfully gimmicky--there seems to be little reason why this had to go on so long.

Now that Walt and Jesse appear to be done, what will happen? Will they continue to cook together? Will Jesse still be sent to Mexico? Will Walt be sent? Will Jesse be sent? In any case, Gus decided to let the cartel win (unless he has tricks up his sleeves), and Walt and Jesse are fragmented. This can only mean bad news.

Score: 9.3/10
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