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Breaking Bad - Episode 4.01 - Box Cutter - Recap and Thoughts

I expected the episode to be really gritty it was gritty, and then some. Step aside Dexter, Breaking Bad now has the most cold-blooded killing and body-disposal I have ever seen. This episode left me, much like Jesse through most parts of the episode, speechless. The episode spans the hours that follow the killing of Gale.

The episode takes us first to a flashback scene where Gale is setting up the lab and opening new and expensive equipment with a box-cutter. He explains to Gus that that Walter’s Meth (unbeknownst to Gale at that point that it was Walter’s product) is 99% pure whereas what Gale can achieve, even with all the equipment he has, is just 96% purity. The scene then cuts back to the moment when Jesse shoots point blank at Gale (and that will not the last cold-blooded murder you will have seen when the episode ends). Anyway, Jesse shoots Gale and leaves and the gunshot alerts the neighbours who then call the police.

Victor arrives at the scene only to find out that he is too late; Gale is dead. He cannot do anything else as there are a lot of witnesses around. He runs out to see if he can catch Jesse and as luck would have it, Jesse is still in his car, still reeling from what he had done. Victor makes him drive back to the lab at gunpoint. He is brought back to the lab where Victor informs to Mike and in extension to Walter that Gale is gone. They proceed to convey this development to Gus.

Meanwhile, Marie visits Skyler and apologetically gives her the bills of Hank’s rehab, which is being paid for by Skyler and Walter. She assumes that Skler and Walter are back together observing that Walt’s car is still in their driveway. But Skyler has no knowledge of it and parks the car a few blocks away and then attempts to locate Walter. During this, we get a short glimpse of what Saul is upto, which is freaking out and being paranoid. He asks his bodyguard if he has a passport which may indicate he is planning on running.

Walter reminds Mike and Victor that they now don’t have anyone to manufacture meth and asks them to allow him and Jesse to start cooking so that they may meet the next deadline. Victor responds to this by turning on all the equipment and starting the process himself. We also catch a glimpse of where Hank and Marie are. Hank is still in a bad condition and his helplessness has made him more irritable (and he spends his time bidding for stupid rocks on the internet). Marie is upset but makes sure she keeps a straight face with Hank.

Walter thinks that Victor will get things wrong while cooking meth but to his surprise Victor does everything properly. Gus finally arrives and it is hard to make out how he is feeling because he goes about doing things without speaking a word and shows no emotion. But his actions as a whole, speaks volumes. He methodically, removes his suit and puts on an orange lab suit. He picks up a box-cutter, the same one that Gale used in the flash back to open the packaging of the new lab equipment. It is very interesting to see Walter speak to Gus during this time. Walter, while carefully observing Gus’ moves, tries to desperately reason with Gus thinking that perhaps Gus was about to kill him. He tells Gus that he and Jesse are willing to work for him again. But Gus, seemingly paying no heed to Walter’s pleas, takes the box-cutter and cuts open Victor’s jugular, killing him. This is the aforementioned killing scene; it is shot brilliantly and is absolutely cold blooded. Gus doesn’t flinch even for a second while he kills Victor. This suddenly spreads a wave of silence through the room. Mike, Walter and Jesse are shell shocked at what they witness. Gus then puts back his suit and proceeds to go but before he leaves, he says “Well... get back to work.” This sort of sums up what he had feeling. He is helpless too and he cannot kill Walter and Jesse even if he wants to as he has no other chemist at the moment. Walter and Gus are stuck together for now even though both parties are unhappy about it.

Walter, Jesse and (reluctantly) Mike, put Victor’s body and the box cutter in a plastic container and fill it with Hydrofluoric Acid. They clean the outside of the container for any evidence it that may be on it (the HF they poured will take care of whatever is inside the container) and label it corrosive before sending it out.

Later, Walter and Jesse have breakfast and Jesse explains to Walter that it will not be easy for Gus to find another chemist that he can trust and that they are safe for now. Jesse seems oblivious to what he has done and even when Walter presses him, he doesn’t speak about it. Jesse then points out that at least now they are all on the same page. “The one that says, if I can’t kill you, you’ll sure shit wish you were dead” he says.

The episode ends with a scene of police investigating the scene of Gale’s murder as the song “truth” by Alex Ebert plays. Finally, the camera pans to a book in Gale’s apartment that says “Lab Notes”. It is very much possible that there are some things written in there about meth production or worse, information that may incriminate Walter or Gus.

Bryan Cranston’s performance was brilliant as usual, but the performance that I really liked was that of Aaron Paul. He does not get a lot of lines, I think he speaks only twice in the whole episode. But the way he reacts to the events that unfold around him was just brilliant; especially his reaction to Gus murdering Victor is sublime. Other than that, Giancarlo Esposito also was great. This was an amazing continuation of the season three finale. They had written Walter into a very tough corner and I was worried about how they might write his way out of this colossal mess and the episode did not disappoint.