Thursday, 15 September 2011

Breaking Bad: Shotgun - A Lot of Miles In Between

Two for the road.

- There's been a lot of grumblings about the pace of season 4 thus far, about the lack of forward momentum and the lack of focus on Walt being a badass. I think this is sort of complaint is particularly telling to how a lot viewers watch the show, because I'm pretty sure if you put yourself into the psychology of Walt, he'd be saying something similar. He's frustrated that he's stuck in an endless, uneasy status quo with Gus, and everything he tries to get himself out of it doesn't seem to work. The old Heisenberg solution of spectacular nerve and balls doesn't cut it with Gus, he's simply too clever.

- And it's not like Walt hasn't tried. He showed up to Gus' house, gun in hand in episode 2. He drove like a mad man to Los Pollos Hermanos at the beginning of this week's 'Shotgun', fully prepared to go out guns blazing. Walt at this point is the embodiment of those fans who watch this show for and through him, he wants desperately to move on up to the next stage. He feels he has earned it, and is tired of waiting for it. So much so it has blinded him to everything else. His increasing sense of paranoia and impotence as he is stuck being Gus' worker bee makes him seek conflict with even more ferocity than usual. And I think the more than sizable section of fans who watch this show solely for Walt and Walt's journey, well they're likely to be annoyed about a season entirely about his inability to solve his problems.

- Having said that, 'Shotgun' is the kind of Breaking Bad that I have the least time for. The kind of episode that is entirely and obviously about moving the plot along, and plot to me should be a means to service character, and not the reverse, but I understand many viewers see things the opposing way. But it can often feel jarring, to see the wheels being turned more fervently and openly than before. Breaking Bad has done these kind of episodes in the past, Season 2's 'Breakage' or last year's 'Abiqiui', and I think my official policy is that I don't mind these hours from time to time, they often enable incredible stuff down the line and it's not like they're bad. This is still better than the average episode of almost any other TV show and it might just be a necessary evil for a show as densely plotted as Breaking Bad. Every now and again you'll need an hour to just lay your shit out and say this how it's going to be.

- After last week's cliffhanger, it is revealed that Mike is not in fact taking Jesse to bury him in some hole somewhere, but rather take him riding shotgun (See what I did there) on his collection of deaddrops. That is to say, collect the money accumulated by those dealing the blue magic, put in various deep dark holes in various ass-end of nowhere's. I liked this twist a lot, because I think it was about the right time to bring the self-destructive Jesse arc to an end, as dramatically rewarding as it was. And because taking his mind of his pain was essentially what Jesse wanted to do, and here Gus has found away to do that for him -by throwing him into work - in a less possibly catastrophic manor.

- Plus he and Mike made an amusing buddy cop duo, in part because Mike's exasperation is never not funny. His reactions to various Jesse ravings about being bored always were the stuff of Gold. I think Jesse's dialogue was a little too on point this episode. He asked for a gun one too many times that one began to think it was inevitable he would need one, so when the Gus orchestrated fake-attempted stash-jack happened, it was a little telegraphed. But as a solution to the Jesse problem it worked fine for me.

- Skin-head Aaron Paul is quite considerably more badass then before. Boy to man type shit.

- It's also a shame we didn't get to see that hypothetical keys vs. shovel smackdown between Jesse and Mike, for that would have been legendary.

- I kind of liked how the episode began with a sequence of great intensity, Walt racing to Los Pollos Hermanos thinking he was about to die, telling his family he loved them, to dilute that with comedy, Walt having to sit in a cubicle and get a call from Mike telling him not to be so hysterical. That dissolution of his bravado is the calling card of season 4.

- Also, the show has nicely been building to getting Walt and Skylar back together, and it appears that is about to happen. Interestingly, Walt's 'I'm about to die' phone message was the thing that got him and Skylar back into bed. I think not making Skylar Walt's adversary might be a good thing for the perception of the character, or at least reduce the irrational hatred for a while.

- One thing I always liked about the Walt-Skylar relationship is that no matter what position of strength or weakness Walt may be in otherwise, within that dynamic he is the recessive one, as Skylar deems when he should move back in, and the manner in which their life together should be lived. And that's just how it is. Granted season 4 Walt will fight back against that parameter with much more intent than season 1 Walt, but ultimately there is no Walt and Skylar if she isn't in control.

- The deeds to the car wash were signed, so finally that can happen. It perhaps wasn't the wisest idea to make the buying of a car wash an episode spanning arc. Its much more interesting once the laundering starts.

- Minimal Gus in this episode, although as always his presence is felt. Right now he's hanging back pulling the strings, I expect him to take a greater prominence later. A lot of Mike screen-time in this episode though, and as always Jonathan Banks is terrific in the role.

- The dinner scene at the end felt in character for Walt, certainly, but maybe a little too convenient? Gale seemed like such an easy out for Hank's pursuit of Heisenberg that it felt something maybe a little more artful than Walt getting drunk and telling him he wasn't to solve that problem. Regardless, Cranston played the scene fantastically and with the final scene putting Hank not only back on the trail but potentially back on the trail of Gus, you can feel the various pieces of the season come together.

- Walt Jr. Watch. He had more screentime than usual in this episode, appearing in up to three scenes!

- That though, is what episodes like 'Shotgun' exist for. To get everything and everyone in the right place so future episodes can reap the rewards. Season 4 is a very different kind of year to the previous, which played out in halves as opposed to a full thirteen episode arc. Here, Everything is building to one huge explosion, but that wont come for a while. Its a long game, this one. And I'm incredibly intrigued to see where it goes.

Rating: 7/10

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