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Where the season premier's greatness lied in just two scenes, this episode's enjoyment was spread throughout. “Thirty-Eight Snub” was a study in the reactions people experience after a traumatic event, and though its subject was not lighthearted, the writing found some moments of mirth. The subplots failed to entertain, but this episode's core focus – the effect last week's events have had on some of the characters – deserved the screen time it got.
The episode again wasted no time in explaining how it received its title. Besides revealing Walt's current mindset, the act of him buying a gun in the cold open could have felt drawn out, if not for some clever dialogue to keep the viewer entertained. Jim Beaver (Supernatural) also assisted the scene and his witty repartee with Walt was giving me flashbacks to his character in Deadwood. Walt's own reaction to seeing Gus kill Victor is a knee-jerk defense mode. Walt may have once tried to avoid murder and look for another solution, but those days are behind him. Now he readily accepts it as the only way out of his problem.
Despite perfecting his draw, Walt is still clearly no “shootist,” as his inexperience leads to him almost pulling on the new guy in the lab. After being informed Gus won't be returning, Walt takes the fight right to his doorstep – or tries to anyway. We know Walt isn't going to see Gus just minutes after Mike told him he wouldn't be doing anything of the sort. Even knowing that, there was still some suspense in wondering what would stop him. It only makes sense that it's Mike calling him, the man who is so often like a guardian angel, always peering over Walt's shoulder even when he's not wanted. Walt's desperation to deal with Gus before Gus has the opportunity to deal with him, leads to several bad decisions, the worst of which comes when he overplays his hand with the very man who had just saved his life, only a week after he was ready to take it.
Besides the run to pick up the shipment, it seems Mike has spent his week drowning his sorrows in a bar. Still cleaning blood off his sleeve from the grisly ordeal in the lab, it's obvious that seeing his fellow employee's throat cut – by their own employer no less – made a lasting impression on him. An impression that likely cut as deep as the box cutter itself would, for Mike having thought he had seen it all and was now well past being shocked or shaken. Mike drinking away the pain of his latest emotional scarring is unbeknownst to Walt who picks the most inopportune time to approach him with a proposition.
The last thing Mike wants to do right now is witness more death; but if he did, it would just as soon be Walt himself. Mike has cut Walt a lot of slack – both in the past and in this very episode – but in return Walt has caused him nothing but trouble. In addition to the always brilliant acting the series delivers, their scene featured a great shot of the two of them sitting at the bar, silhouetted in the dark surroundings. Walt could have improved his chances if he put a little more heart into his apology, instead of practically rushing over it in his hurry to enlist Mike to his cause. Or by not playing on what he thought Mike must be thinking when it comes to his own life expectancy under Gustavo's reign. Though it still came as a shock, Mike laying Walt out felt like the most natural thing in the world, given the two weeks he's been through. Walt is so blinded by his determination to take Gus out that he never realizes that Mike might actually place some blame on him for recent events.
Jesse's own inner turmoil lies less with the body that was left in a barrel and more with the one he left in an apartment. Killing Gale has left Jesse racked with guilt, which he is trying his best not to admit he feels. Unable to cope with his own thoughts, Jesse is desperate for distraction. He spends almost every second of the episode surrounded by noise in some form, quite literally trying to “hear no evil.” Music is his primary refuge, whether with a new sound system at home, or headphones when at the lab. Badger and Skinny Pete add to the distraction. With no remorse, Jesse prods them into doing what they do best: getting high and never shutting their mouths – not that Jesse had to do much arm-twisting to get them to partake in his stash. The first thought upon seeing the pair is how much Jesse has outgrown them. A fact that Jesse himself realizes as he sits there with nothing to add to their conversation, but he is appreciative of their endless banter on all things inane keeping him out of his own head. They readily provided a debate over the best zombie video game; their back and forth creating a humorous scene to break the tension.
Soon that is not even enough, and as Jesse is in the middle of a three-day drug and music-fueled house party he is visited by the woman who, in essence, is responsible for his current situation. By no means actually her fault, Andrea and the death of her brother did trigger the actions that led to Jesse killing Gale, a thought that is running through his mind as he encourages her to use the money he left her to move. In his most painful and endearing scene yet, Jesse is left alone after Badger, Pete, and the rest of the party goers have worn themselves out. The final shot shows Jesse's cacophony of sound is failing to shield out the guilt that is always trying to slip in. It leaves the audience wondering how long until that guilt finally overtakes him.
After the dramatic highs Hank saw last season, it's inevitable that his scenes will dip down this time around. And as so often is the problem with a Breaking Bad episode, the side characters' plots throughout this episode just weren't very enthralling. Hank and Marie's storyline seemed like a drawn out reiteration of their scene in “Box Cutter.” Hank not wanting to be pitied or patronized by Marie is destroying the love he felt for her, or at the very least causing him to try and make her leave. Despite that Skyler was up to something new, her scenes still failed to generate interest. Watching her scout out and then make an offer on Walt's old place of employment turned out as boring as what it must feel like to actually sit and watch vehicles coming and going at a car wash. It was a nice piece of irony to have Skyler spend all that time and effort trying to show Walt she's cut out for this, only to have her ex-hubby storm out being the thing that causes her proposal to Bogdan fail.
Creating a better blend of humor and drama than the season four premier, “Thirty-Eight Snub” wound up very close to it in terms of quality – if for very different reasons. Though there was no one scene to be burned into the memories of all the show's fans, the episode served as an excellent way to showcase the aftermath of the traumatic events the characters have been through.