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Breaking Bad – Bullet Points

With “Bullet Points” the fourth
season of Breaking Bad finally saw the plot progression it has
been lacking. A lengthy scene of dialogue managed not to feel
drawn-out thanks to some humorous lines of back-and-forth, it also
led to a shocking discovery for Walt. In addition, Jesse’s emotional
breakdown finally sees advancement when it draws some unwanted
attention. This episode had the action, drama, and black humor that
are trademarks of the series, and showcased why they are.

One of the best things about Breaking
Bad
is its cold opens, and it proved that again this week. Mike
almost loses a few tail feathers of his own when a Los Pollos
Hermanos truck is shot up by a couple of interlopers looking to rip
off the shipment of meth hidden in the buckets of batter. The scene
was certainly over-the-top(particularly when both guys came flying
out of the back of the truck as a result of Mike’s pistol), but it
was nonetheless an impressively shot piece of stylized violence.
Particularly so in the choice to stick with the interior of the truck
for the first few moments as Mike listens to the muffled voices
outside and the gunshot that tells him he is about to have a very bad
day. In addition to getting batter on that nice parka, Mike gives up
a chunk of his ear, but comes through relatively unscathed; which is
more than can be said of the two cartel thugs. Likely trying to send
a message to Gus that he can still be hurt regardless of his efforts
to cut them out of the business, Mike simply stamps the cartel’s
message “return to sender.” Killing those two won’t be where it
ends though, and the scene is really meant to establish early on that
Gus is facing problems in addition to his two little lab rats, and
why even more so than normally, he cannot accept the risk of working
with a junkie; especially one who is on such a downward spiral.

Coming off the credits the episode
immediately cooled down the adrenaline levels its opening elevated.
Skyler and Walt’s long scene together didn’t actually feel that way
despite it not serving much purpose. After attending a gamblers
anonymous meeting to pad their story’s facade, the ex-spouses sit
down to rehearse the script Skyler has come up with for when they try
to sell Hank on the lie. The scene didn’t have much to say beyond
reiterating what we already know. Skyler is still trying to assert
control over how Walt’s ill-gotten gains are dealt with, and her
morality has definitely fallen into a gray area, but these are
sentiments that were made well known in the previous episodes. In
spite of that, the scene was light, floating by rather than dragging
its feet. The resentment Walt feels for Skyler talking down to him,
as well as her ridiculous script, fueled his contempt for the whole
charade. The chemist scored laughs while he was expressing his
derision with biting sarcasm; “Where is the ‘I slept with my
boss’ bullet point? I can’t seem to find that anywhere.”
Walt
didn’t fall short in expressing indifference physically either,
letting his slouched posture scream, “I don’t care about this.”
Skyler’s own claws were out and she showed she can give as good she
gets when it comes to a cutting remark.

It was looking like the episode was
going to be nothing but the setup to a dinner party and then the
dinner party itself, but the plot soon saw some advancement. Not
even with her obsessive thoroughness could Skyler have foreseen the
event that would break the episode out of its lull. After Walt
cannot stop himself from waxing on about the chemical properties of
manganese, he is left speechless by a video of the man he had killed
performing karaoke. On its own, the image of Gale “Major Tom”
Boetticher(as Hank dubs him) was hilarious, watching him sing his
heart out to Peter Schilling’s Bowie-inspired tale of a doomed
astronaut. Walt is in no mood for laughing though, as unlike the
audience he was unaware of the video’s portent beforehand. Always
keen on self-preservation, Walt quickly insinuates himself into
Hank’s investigation to find out what he knows. As expected, Hank
believes Gale is the “Heisenberg” he was chasing, and regrets not
being able to solve the case himself. Walt is only concerned with
what the police have on Gale’s killer though, and the news of
fingerprints and a eyewitness send him running to question Jesse.

If Walt was callous in how he dealt
with Hank, than the only word to describe him when he was with Jesse
is one I don’t use in polite company. No matter what you call it,
Walt definitely lost some points for forcing Jesse to relive the
moment that scarred him so severely, with no concern for the
emotional toll that doing so would have on him. It is clear in his
meeting with Saul that Walt is worried about Jesse, but it would be
nice if it went as far as showing some compassion. The news that a
shell casing was left behind, has Walt in such a state that he is
raving to Saul about Jesse, Gus, Mike, and anything else that comes
to mind. Saul breaks the tension with his assessment of Walt and
Jesse’s situation in a comment that only Bob Odenkirk could deliver,
“Yeah, you two have a little shit creek action happening.”
And there is reason to be concerned, as Jesse’s backslide into
addiction has not gone unnoticed. Of course it isn’t hard to spot
when his house resembles the Port Authority bus terminal. To keep
out the emotions he doesn’t want to feel, Jesse is pushing them all
away, but his grief-driven apathy has reached dangerous levels. With
him tossing out meth and cash like candy, it was only a matter of
time before someone decided to go after his stash.

After
retrieving the duffel bag of money that Jesse didn’t even react to
losing, let alone to having back, Mike tries his hand at
intimidation. The scene in which Jesse calls his bluff about killing
the thief was another powerhouse performance from Aaron Paul,
rivaling his one with Walt in the last episode. His methods falling
short, Mike voices his concern about the liability of Jesse’s current
lifestyle to Gus during a scene in the latter’s office. The shot of
Mike eying the X-Acto knife on Gus’s desk was a nice touch, implying
he still hasn’t forgotten what happened with the box cutter a few
weeks back. Mike obviously gets the go ahead from Gus as we are left
with the image of him and Jesse driving out into the desert. Jesse
is without the noise he craves to distract him from his torment, but
he is more content than ever believing his pain is about to end. Of
course we know there is little chance of Jesse dying, and it is much
more likely he’ll end up in some kind of backwoods rehab, and not a
hole in the ground. For the character though, his indifference to
life is being put to the test, and its clearly genuine.

“Bullet Points”
took its time progressing the story, but it still saw more
development than the episodes that came before it. The slow buildup
itself was not unappreciated either for providing an equal number of
funny lines and stirring dramatic moments. It still felt like the
relative calm before the storm however, and in many ways was another
setup episode building to something down the line.

Rating
9.0

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