Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 10
Well, we've been headed here for a while. With only three episodes left in this season, the stakes are getting high, and they are doing so quickly. While Walter still languishes in self-pity on the sidelines, everyone around him is making bold moves and stepping up their game. Tonight we saw two of the major plot lines of this season at this point take large, dangerous steps forward. Combined with Walter's moving monologue about his memories of his father, this is exactly the type of Breaking Bad episode I've been waiting for all season. One of my favorite things about this show is how perfectly it balances explosive suspense and life or death stakes with the quiet moments of contemplation where all the dust settles and our characters are left to figure out just who they are and what they are willing to do. Most of this season has been about the dust from season three's explosive ending settling, but now everything is getting kicked up all over again.

Skyler's descent into criminal enterprise has mostly been about her increase in confidence. She has found out that she excels at deceit, and has used that to her advantage. While Walter has been making amateur mistakes, Skyler has been playing the game quite well for a beginner. Tonight, however, she went too far, and how much she overplayed her hand is something I'm sure we will discover in the next few weeks. She decides, through Saul, to give ted over $650,000 to pay off the IRS, telling him it is from his Great Aunt Birgid that he has never heard of. Ted being as fiscally irresponsible as ever, starts spending it on a new Mercedes and getting his business open again, and seems to have no intention to pay the IRS anytime soon. Skyler handing him that money was incredibly stupid (as Saul tries to tell her), but what she does next is where the real mistake is made. When she fails to convince him that it would be prudent to pay off his debt, she comes right out and tells him that she was the one that gave him the money. Which is going to leave an unethical, fiscally irresponsible man curious just how his former bookkeeper came into that much money.

Meanwhile, if any of you had any doubts that Brian Cranston deserves all the awards he gets for this show, tonight should have reminded you just why he runs the table every year. If his weepy breakdown in front of Walter Jr., where he says "I made a mistake. Its my own fault. I had it coming" didn't move you, and his mumbled "That's good Jesse" didn't break your heart, his monologue the next morning to Walter Jr. had to have some effect. That we can easily read his delirious, tearful apology as directed at Jesse is flat out brilliant, but his speech on the importance of perception, and on his only memory of his father...well, that was top notch. Most shows would probably give us a flashback or slowly let the revelations they aimed to let us in on peter out over the episode. And while we did get a flashback earlier this year, I love that Breaking Bad is confident enough to just let its characters talk. Most shows stay away from long monologues that give us deep insight into the characters; Breaking Bad revels in them. Whether its Mike's story of domestic abuse from last year's "Half Measures," Walter's exhausted breakdown at the end of "Fly" or Walter's speech about his father here, some of my very favorite scenes in the history of this show are just long monologues in which characters manage to make very important points by just telling stories. Its a difficult thing to pull off well, and this show nails it every time.

And then of course, there's the saga south of the border, as Gus, Mike, and Jesse travel to meet with the cartel. Jesse is asked to show them how to cook, though a condescending chemist (played by Morris from 24!) doubts his ability. Jesse quickly takes control of the lab, in a moment that is downright White-ian, using cold logic and more than a hint of menace to get Don Eladio's men to follow his orders. Jesse was more than a bit of a bad ass here, and his bath of 96% pure meth shows he's not a slouch either. It seems as if Jesse may have to stay in Mexico with the cartel, but of course Gus is playing a longer game, as always. "Either we're all going home or none of us are," Mike tells him. "Now settle down." What follows is a brilliantly played mass poisoning (which also leaves me wondering if Gus wouldn't have been wise to the ricin anyway) in which Gus imbibes the poison to convince the Don to drink, only to excuse himself to vomit it up while Mike takes out one of the unpoisoned guards.

As Gus reemerges to a poolside littered with the fallen bodies of his enemies, he yells a terrifying warnign to anyone who may not have fallen to fight and die or obey him and leave. But soon he is doubled over from his self-inflicted poisoning, and Mike has been shot by one of Eladio's men, who Jesse promptly takes out, shocked by how easily he kills this time around. If Jesse wasn't loyal to Gus and Mike before, he almost certainly is now. His main bond with Walter was how far he had gone for the man, that he had killed for him. He has now killed for Gus as well, and after Gus showed him enough loyalty to risk his own life alongside Jesse. The episode ends as Jesse's getaway car roars away, rocketing off to safety so that his new mentors can recover from their wounds. What will happen after that is anyone's guess, but I can't wait to find out.

"Salud" moved a ton of pieces around, delivered one of the most suspenseful set pieces of the season, and gave us the best Bryan Cranston performance of the year so far. Basically, it had everything you might want out of an episode of Breaking Bad. Everyone is acting this week, some foolishly and some brilliantly. Except for Walter, whose movement is entirely internal (we don't even see him leave his apartment this week). If Walter is now thinking about his legacy, about how he will be remembered, how will that inspire him to act in the coming weeks? Because something tells me that before the season is out, we will see Walter White back in action. And when that happens, I imagine it will be a sight to behold.

Grade: A


-The one downside to this episode was an overabundance of Walter Jr., which almost had me giving this an A- instead. But he did have one great line, "At least last night you were real, you know?" and we wouldn't have had that monologue without him.

-"Somewhere you should be?" Tyrus is a badass too.

-"Once every 20 years you forget your place...There's no place for emotion in all this. You of all people should understand that. Business is business." I am glad that son of a bitch is dead.
Tags: Breaking Bad
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