Breaking Bad

By: Kristin A. Baryn
Murder, revenge, money laundering, violence, and betrayal outline the themes in the fourth season of AMC’s original series Breaking Bad. The season opens with a flashback to the creation of a crystal meth “super lab” as an enthusiastic Gale Boetticher opens crates unveiling the new high tech equipment the he will use for future “cooks.” Gale discloses that he could not reproduce the level of purity from the sample of Meth given to him by drug kingpin Gus Fring; therefore, Gus knows he would have no choice but to hire the unorthodox Walter White: the Heisenberg of the 21st century.
Fast forwarding to present day finds Gale opening the door to his apartment only to meet a gun in his face held by White`s partner Jessie Pinkman, who shoots him and flees. The first domino has fallen in a series of events that will create monumental changes for the show’s characters. The premiere continues with mild mannered Gus shocking viewers in a tense scene with a box cutter, a nerve-wracked Skylar White`s desperate, unsuccessful attempts to locate her husband. The season opener ends with Walt and Jesse realizing that what’s done is done, and they now have to deal with the repercussions.
Fearing for his own imminent death, Walt purchases an unlicensed gun for protection with the intent to dispose of Gus. He carries the gun with him at all times and plans to use it the first chance he gets. He thinks he gets that chance at the lab, but Gus never shows. Instead his enforcer, Mike, introduces Walter to a new man named Tyrus, that will act as his immediate supervisor/jailor. Later when Walter asks to see Gus in an attempt to shoot him, Mike informs him that he will never see him again. Walt then resorts to going to Gus’ home to do the deed, but quickly leaves when Mike calls him and lets him know that he is watching his every move. Walt later meets with Mike in an effort to obtain his assistance with getting close to Gus, but Mike puts him in his place by punching him in the face and kicking him while he’s down proving his loyalty.
Walt’s “professional” problems are not the only thing he struggles with this season, for Skylar increasingly involves herself in this dangerous affair. Her unwavering insistence to buy the carwash to launder Walt’s income places added, unwanted stress on him. Skylar’s desire to stand by Walt and help him is noble, for she risks her own safety and freedom in an effort to protect her family. Day after day, she researches the carwashes business intake in order to build a proposal in which to present to the current owner. A savvy, intuitive, and persistent Skylar eventually gets what she wants, and she and Walt become the proud owners of the carwash. She even orchestrates a clever tale portraying Walt as a gambling addict to explain the out of work chemistry teacher’s financial ability to afford the business. The two consummate their union in the business by uniting in the bedroom further complicating their already fragile relationship; however, Skylar appears to have a strong handle on everything pertaining to the welfare of her family. That is until her former boss and lover, Ted, drops a bombshell on her; the IRS is auditing him. Being that she “cooked” his books, Skylar fears that the IRS will investigate her, so she shows up at Ted’s meeting and feigns ignorance. Ted gets off with a fine that he assures Skylar he can’t pay. She is left with no choice, and she enlists the help of Saul to set up a fake inheritance in the same sum of money that Ted owes the IRS. Her plan backfires, for Ted has no intention on paying the IRS, leaving Skylar with no choice but to tell him that she supplied the money with Walt’s unreported “gambling winnings.” Ted still refuses, stating that it’s unethical to pay the IRS with “dirty” monBreaduring dinner with his family, Hank strikes Walt’s nerves, for Walt is unable to allow Gale to take credit for his skills. Walt, drunkenly, points out that Gale’s notes are mere forgery, leaving the real Heisenberg still at large. This realization leads Hank to examine the Boetticher murder closer; thus, the real trouble begins. Hank finds a napkin for Los Pollos Hermanos in one of the pictures in the case file, which plants the seed that Gustavo Fring is a drug overlord.  Unable to drive himself around, Hank first persuades Walt Jr. to take him on an outing to Los Pollos Hermanos, where he ingeniously attains Gus’ fingerprints. He then sets up a meeting with the DEA to divulge his idea about Gus’ involvement with the mass distribution of Meth, which the DEA swiftly dismisses until Hank discloses his ace in the hole. Why are Gustavo Fring’s fingerprints in Boetticher’s apartment? This new development in the case prompts the DEA to order a sit down with Gus, who quickly tells a story that places him in the apartment but for nothing more then a dinner with an old friend. Satisfied, the DEA concludes that Gus has nothing to do with the murder, but his story does not easily appease Hank, who decides to dig further into Fring’s background. Hank tricks Walt into chauffeuring him around to investigate Fring and his businesses, and even gets Walt to place a tracking device on Gus’ car, which Gus insists he do. Little does Hank know, his determination to bring down Fring puts his whole family in danger and forces Walt to reap the consequences. Now Walt has the weight of his certain death, his family’s safety, his involvement with Hanks’s escapades, and Jesse’s newly formed bond with Gus and Mike, crushing him.
Guilt-ridden over Gale’s death, Jesse begins to use again, throw parties at his home with unsavory guests, and waste money at alarming rates. In fact, a partygoer steals a duffel bag containing a large sum of money, and Jesse doesn’t even blink twice about it. He spirals out of control until Mike and Gus intervene. With a sinister plot in mind, Gus recruits Jesse as Mike’s new right hand man, which makes Walt increasingly nervous until he comes up with the plan to use Jesse to murder Gus with the poison ricin. Fearing that Jesse has lied to him about not having the chance to slip Gus the poison, Walt tracks him with Hank’s tracking device and uncovers the fact that he not only came into close proximity to Gus, but also stayed at his home for over two hours. Walter rushes to Jesse’s house to find out if he has had the chance to poison Gus; however, Jesse has bigger problems and begs Walt for help. The purpose of Gus inviting Jesse to dinner is to inquire if Jesse knows how to cook Walt’s recipe, for he needs him to accompany him to Mexico, where the cartel waits for the American chemist who will show the Mexican chemists how to produce the formula. Without listening, Walt repeatedly asks if he has seen Gus, and Jesse lies and tells him that he hasn’t. Betrayed, Walt lets it slip that he tracked Jesse and knows he went to Gus’ home. Jesse, appalled by Walt’s distrust and betrayal, punches him in the face leading to a knockdown, drag-out fight between the two. It seems that Gus’ strategy to turn Jesse and Walt against each other has worked, and Walt has lost his closest ally.
For the first time the viewers get an inside look at Gustavo Fring’s background, for, up until this point, he has remained a mystery. It’s unclear just how intelligent, callous, and calculated Gus is until Season 4 commences. The root of his motives stem from his encounter with the Mexican cartel years before revealing his ongoing “relationship” with Hector. The cartel plays a huge role in the development of the plot. All throughout the season, the cartel’s threat escalates, and the body count rises. Confused viewers don’t understand exactly why the cartel has their sights set on Fring and his operation until a flashback shows his and his business partner’s meeting with them. During this meeting, Fring proposes a partnership in the distribution of Meth; he explains that rather than pay the Columbians for cocaine, his partner, Max, can teach the cartel’s chemists how to produce Meth, allowing them to keep all their profits. Feeling disrespected, Don Eladio, the cartel boss, tells Fring that he has tricked him into a meeting. Sensing Eladio’s anger, Max apologizes and explains how much he needs Gus. Hector shoots Max in the head and forces Gus to look at him while he dies. Years later, Fring exacts his revenge, for the cartel steals and kills in order to get him to agree to their terms angering him further. He takes Mike and Jesse and flies to Mexico, where Jesse will teach the Mexican chemists how to create the treasured blue Meth. After a successful “cook,” the cartel informs Jesse that he belongs to them. Panicked, Jesse looks to Mike for answers, and Mike assures him that either they all go home or none of them go home. And so the viewer gets an inside peek at Fring’s ruthlessness, for with one bottle of primo tequila, he takes down the entire cartel.
Season 4 continues with edge of your seat excitement, jaw dropping moments, and plenty of violence; the end of each episode leaves the viewer craving more and wishing an hour hadn’t passed. Another week must pass before the story continues, instilling an anticipation that most shows don’t compare to. Walter White’s character has progressed from an innocent chemistry teacher with cancer, to a devious, conniving Meth super cook, who intends to take down anyone who threatens him. His transformation thrills fans in a way no character can because they have a front row seat and get to witness it at every turn. Each decision Walt makes is crucial to the development of the plot. It’s also interesting to watch Skylar’s character take charge in a situation that not even Walt has control over. In an unusual way, both Walt and Skylar’s progression is admirable because they become heroes by challenging the “man” and taking care of and protecting their family at all costs. Jesse’s character disappoints through the majority of the season, but that’s not to say that he hasn’t done upstanding deeds, yet his murder of Gale, relapse into drugs, and his seemingly disloyal actions towards Walt, make the viewer, though possibly sympathetic in certain instances, lose respect for him. However, he regains his senses after his girlfriend’s son, Brock, winds up in the hospital, possibly poisoned. After blaming Walt and nearly killing him, Jesse realizes Gus’ sinister plan and vows to terminate him thus bringing the fans to the season finale. What will happen in the last episode is anyone’s guess; a prediction is futile, for the show throws 90 mph curve balls every week. Just when you think you know exactly what’s going on, something will happen that will alter your expectations. Only one thing is certain; the last 60 minutes will be epic!