Breaking Bad: Box Cutter

Walt: "You kill me, you have nothing. You kill Jesse, you don't have me."

The first time I saw this episode (back when I wasn't reviewing it), I had to cover my eyes. I just couldn't bear to watch Gus with that box cutter killing the only person in the room completely and unquestioningly loyal to him.

I talk a lot about the use of color in Breaking Bad, and it was appropriate that there was so much freaking red in this episode. Gus arrived at the lab wearing a red shirt and shiny red tie, looking sharper and more like a traditional wiseguy than he ever has. He methodically changed into red coveralls before he killed Victor. And then I suddenly became aware of how red the floor of the lab was, too; so red that the blood in the water seemed to blend into the floor, as if the purpose of that red floor was to hide blood.

Gus was so calm in such a creepy way. How much of what Gus did was an outlet for his anger, and how much was intended to strike fear into his two murderous employees? Gus even held Victor's head back so that he would bleed out faster, which, now that I think about it, could mean more than one thing. Did Gus want Victor to die more quickly and suffer less? Or did he want to make sure Walt and Jesse were looking directly at Victor's face as he died? Did Gus kill Victor because Victor was seen at Gale's apartment? I also wonder if maybe Gus was furious because he actually liked Gale. The opening flashback with Gale having such a good time opening packages with that very box cutter made it seem that way. Or maybe it was that Gus knew that Gale would never have given him a moment's trouble.

Walt was afraid. Who wouldn't be? He actually started chattering, and while Victor was starting to cook, Walt launched into chemical technobabble. I thought it was fascinating that Walt said the unspeakable core fact to Gus: "Did you think I'd just let you murder me?" Even Mike looked freaked, and Mike is always so calm, even when he's killing a whole building full of people.

Jesse wasn't afraid or freaked out; he was furious. It's fascinating how Jesse seems to have no fear when he's enraged. When he first walked into the lab (wearing a bright red tee with a skull in a bulls-eye over his heart), Walt looked at Jesse with such an odd expression on his face. Surprise? Respect? Maybe a little pride, like a father whose not-so-smart son has unexpectedly gotten an A on a test? I'm sure Walt wasn't certain that Jesse would go through with it. And Jesse seemed almost euphoric at the Denny's; he was eating a grand slam breakfast and acting like he felt fine, while Walt just sat there looking stunned. Jesse said that they all understood each other now, so maybe that was why he was feeling so good. Or maybe it was all that adrenalin.

The body disposal scene was so sad, and not because Victor ended up as gelatinous red goo in a big, plastic barrel labeled "corrosive". It was watching Walt and Jesse matter-of-factly dissolve yet another body the way they did at the start of season one. They even told Mike, trust us, we know what we're doing. It felt just a bit at the end of that scene as if Mike was starting to identify more with Walt and Jesse, because he was definitely shaken by what Gus did to Victor. Hey, Gus could have chosen to kill Mike, after all.

Back on the home front, loved the scene where Skyler deceived the locksmith in order to get into Walt's apartment. Did she really move Walt's car for Junior's sake, or because she didn't want anyone to think she and Walt had reconciled? And Hank, confined pretty much to his bed, has become a rock hound. I do love that bedroom with the surreal painting with the flower vase, and Marie putting flowers in a similar vase on her side of the bed. How humiliating that Marie has to bring Hank a bedpan. Hank certainly isn't taking this situation well. His rage, like Jesse's, is obvious.

Bits:

-- The opening flashback scene was staged to emphasize the box cutter. Sad that Gale admired Walt from a distance and envied his 99% pure product, and Walt was the death of him.

-- The emphasis on the color red included a puddle of red ketchup at Denny's. Walt and Jesse had to go out and buy some quick, cheap clothes because they were covered with Victor's blood. In the Denny's scene, Walt and Jesse were wearing brown Kenny Rogers tee shirts, which I assume was a reference to their monstrous gamble. And Walt wore red sneakers.

-- The box cutter was a bright money green. Skyler was wearing an olive green tank with blue jeans and a black jacket.

-- Skyler found the glass eyeball from the plane crash in a drawer in Walt's kitchen.

-- Walt called Victor a "short order cook". Very short.

-- Gale's lab notes had a wonderfully appropriate lightning bolt on the cover.

And pieces:

-- Paranoid Saul was checking his office for bugs, and talking on pay phones. Is he thinking of leaving town?

-- Anna Gunn was noticeably heavier than she was in the season three finale. When you're marathoning episodes and it's supposed to be the same day but they filmed months later, this sort of thing pops out of you.

Quotes:

Mike: (re: Walt's body disposal technique) "I've never used this stuff. You sure it'll do the job?"
Jesse: "Trust us."

Jesse: "We're all on the same page."
Walt: "What page is that?"
Jesse: "The one that says, if I can't kill you, you'll sure as shit wish you were dead."

Skyler: "You okay?"
Walt: "Right as rain."

Tense, heavy episode. The first time I saw it, my stomach was in knots throughout the entire sequence in the lab. Four out of four... you know, I think I have to go with the obvious box cutters,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

4 comments:

Mark Greig said...

Wow.

They should just give Giancarlo Esposito his Emmy now. From the moment Gus entered the lab, to the moment he left, I was on the edge of my seat. Even after he was gone I felt unsettled. I'm not going to forget that scene any time soon.

Alexandros Plakidas said...

What. An. Episode!!! I had my hand on my mouth during the entire murder scene. Also, the raging W.Michigan storm outside helped set the atmosphere even more.

I think Jesse's appetite came from being overjoyed that he's no longer in either 1) Standing at Gale's apartment or 2) Witnessing a bloody murder at the lab.

Speaking of the lab, how are they going to stay focused in cooking when they know a murder took place there? I know I wouldn't want to stay there for more than a minute.

I wonder what other experiences our two characters will endure/go through for the rest of the season. So glad this is just the beginning of season 4!

lau rel said...

The sticker on the Tshirt- so funny!

Steve Schramm said...

Seems like Gus had to kill someone to make his point, and he chose to kill Victor for not keeping Gale safe as well as for being seen by people. Perhaps he picked the boxcutters Gale used joyfully to make a point, or perhaps it was ironically serendipitous.

I'm sure he also wanted to make the point to Walt and Jesse that things are not going to end well for them no matter what they do be they can delay the inevitable by getting back to work. His technique is how you might kill a chicken, which is another possible perspective.

In any event, that was terrifying. I'm just watching this for the first time, and it's late and I need to go to sleep. But I can't.