31
Jul
2011
Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 3
Open House
Jordan
Whew. This was a tough hour of television to watch. With Jesse's psychological free-fall getting even worse and Marie's emotional breakdowns outside the open house and in the police station, a lot of terrible things were happening to the characters I care about. Oh, and Walter White was there too. This was not even nearly as intense as most episodes of the show, but the current predicaments of Jesse and Marie were displayed so excellently that it felt as harrowing as any episode full of violence and tension.

Jesse is still distracting himself from his perceived imminent doom with drugs, adrenaline rushes, and filling his home with an increasing scary and pathetic roster of meth addicts who trash his home, fuck on his floor, steal and pawn his stuff, and scramble for the money he surreptitiously scatters around when he's bored. The scene of Jesse Go-Karting alone, and screaming in anguish, is so powerful (and so expertly shot) that it lingers throughout the rest of the episode, and his shaking in the lab, and in his home are signs of how far back into addiction he has lapsed (Aaron Paul should definitely be looking for another Emmy next year). Jesse tries manipulating the addicts that now populate his home, but the toys he has filled his house with do not amuse him. He isn't happy in the world he's created for himself, and he certainly isn't happy in the increasingly surveilled lab he works in (though he responds to the camera with ambivalence, having assumed the place was bugged all along based on Walt's paranoia.

Marie is dealing with the stress of her deteriorating relationship with Hank by frequenting open houses and pretending to be wildly different people, and by swiping things from the houses she visits. Marie's kleptomaniac issues are probably the only plot-line in the history of the show that irks me, so I wasn't too excited to see them return, but the scene outside of the house where Marie is confronted is such an emotional tour de force by Betsy Brandt (who should submit this episode for Emmy consideration) that I actually found myself caring about the return of her kleptomania and the humiliation she was willing to feel to avoid dealing with her home life.

If Marie and Hank were on the same page, they might be able to get through the situation together. The strategy is certainly working for Walt and Skyler, who seem closer than ever (And more flirtatious than we've ever seen them) as they work together on their money laundering scheme. Walt is still keeping things from Skyler (who thinks a black eye is reason enough to go to the police), but she is proving herself more capable than he possibly imagined (and based on the way she reacts to his praise and the way she worries over the unringing phone, more capable than even she imagined), and also more resourceful. She refuses to use violence to get the car wash from Bogdan, but she is willing to fake a drainage problem to get him to sell at a reduced price. Skyler's own moral descent is excelling very quickly, and I expect that her change will become even more marked as the season goes on.

For now, Skyler's usefulness is limited to how much Walter will let her in, but the more capable she proves herself, the more likely Walt is to give her a shot at some of his actual problems (though his pride will probably get in the way of that for some time). Walt was not doing much this week, but that was part of the point. He still feels impotent against Gus (giving a furious, but useless finger to the new camera) and hasn't yet wised up to a way out of his current situation. In time, he will surely figure out a move to get one up on Gus, but for now he remains helpless, controlled rather than controlling. And as Jesse and Marie showed us all too well this week, losing control can be very dangerous to health, as well as to sanity.

Grade: B+

Notes:

-I enjoyed the way Walter tried to spin his beating by Mike as a "business disagreement" and claimed he didn't retaliate because Mike is an older man. Sure, that was partly to shield Skyler, but it also felt like standard Walt, spinning a situation to make it seem like it was to his benefit. Also, Mike could kill Walter in a second, just so we're clear.

-"You were in a bar fight?"

-"I don't like it. Violation of the workplace."

-"What are you talking about? Violence?" "Attitude Adjustment."

-"All we have to do is think of a nonviolent, unsuspicious way to buy the car wash that protects the innocent and doesn't cost us $20 million. Let's not all speak at once."

-"You want my help on a case? What am I, Ironside?"

-"What are you doing?" "I'm negotiating." "Why?" "Because I want to pay less."

-"What, I'm Nixon now?"
Tags: Breaking Bad
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