Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Review: Silent and Deadly
No show does silence like Breaking Bad.
Think about the main characters on "Box Cutter." Jesse said two words until the final scene; Gus uttered five; with the exception of one great, desperate, character-revealing speech, Walt remained relatively quiet.
The show has developed such confidence and such a unique style of direction and cinematography, that is scarcely needs its characters to speak. It's almost as if creator Vince Gilligan and company are holding their breath along with the audience - and the results are simply riveting.
On the fourth season premiere, we don't immediately learn that Gale is dead. We hear a 911 call. We see a bullet hole in a tea pot. And we're also treated to a quick scene that makes Jesse's actions that much more tragic:
Gale wrote his own death. This was a man so innocent, so un-Walt-like, that he essentially convinced Gus to hire the men who would eventually be responsible for his murder. Cut to his corpse and then to Jesse in the car, distraught, in shock, scarcely moving and Breaking Bad has taken just over a minute to raise the stakes on last season's pulsating cliffhanger.
From there, it was a waiting game. How would Gus react? Walt and Jesse waited anxiously. Viewers knew neither would be killed, but did anyone see Gus donning a protective suit, grabbing Gale's box cutter and slitting the throat of his most loyal associate coming? Not merely slitting it; but prying the neck open so the wound gushed blood and he simply stood there, staring at his captives.
Gross stuff. Shocking stuff. Menacing stuff. Well, get back to work. Point, Gus Fring.
Again, Walt was barely in the episode, but his plea for survival was pure Heisenberg. He focused solely on the job at hand, he didn't connect his entry into the drug world with Gale's death; heck, he blamed Gus for it. He said Jesse should be kept alive not because Jesse's life has value, but because Walt would not work without him. This is a man who never takes responsibility. He compartmentalizes all of his choices and his ego allows him to actually look down on everyone else for theirs.
And this is the main character of the series! Amazing.
Elsewhere, we got a glimpse of how Walt's decisions have affected those around him. Hank is bed-ridden, depressed. Skylar is lying (very well) to locksmiths. Saul is being hilariously scared for his life.
Breaking Bad mostly focuses on Walter White and his evolution into a hardened, soulless criminal, but it also takes the time to depict the world surrounding Walt, to show us how this metamorphosis affects everyone that comes into contact with the former chemistry teacher (and even those who don't, as the season two plane crash proved).
The fact that it can do so with an episode such as "Box Cutter" - where so few words are spoken and where anticipation often trumps action - just speaks to why this is the best show on television.