BREAKING BAD “Box Cutter” Review

BREAKING BAD Season 4 Premiere Box Cutter

BREAKING BAD “Box Cutter”, Season 4 Episode 1 – Wow, has it really been a year? Waiting over a year between TV seasons is almost completely unheard of, especially for shows in the states. Well after a year of speculation, theorizing, and anticipation, the wait is finally over. Does the Breaking Bad season 4 premiere, “Box Cutter”, live up to the year of expectations? Or does it crumble under the weight of its own overgrown hype? As it turns out, the episode falls somewhere in the middle.

I really didn’t like the flashback at the beginning of the episode. Now don’t get me wrong, I like Gale. I think David Costabile has a very natural charm, and the quirkiness of the character does add some much needed levity to this otherwise dark show, but I’m not sure why we needed to see that scene. My only theory is that they were doing it as some kind of farewell to Gus’ character, but I feel like we already had that with the scene from last year’s finale that showed him singing and dancing in his apartment. We know Gus was hiring Gale to compete with and one day usurp Walt, so I don’t think that scene was necessary, especially considering it was the first scene of Breaking Bad that we’ve seen in over a year.

After the somewhat perplexing first scene, we get to the real meat of the episode. Finally putting to rest all of the naysayers who thought that perhaps Jesse altered his aim in the final scene of last years finale, we see that he actually did go through with shooting Gale. I loved the shots of Gale’s eccentric decorations in his apartment as we hear his neighbor dialing in the 911 call, and bravo to AMC for actually letting us see the bullet hole right underneath Gale’s left eye. It was a sufficiently creepy visual that did a lot to reinforce the brutality of Jesse’s first kill, and made you understand why he was so incredibly shaken up that he couldn’t even flee the scene properly.

With things moving slowly at first with the main storyline, we got to see a couple great character moments in the first half of the episode. Marie handing Skyler Hank’s medical bills was sufficiently awkward, Skyler faking a panic attack so she could get into Walt’s apartment was a great piece of acting by Anna Gunn, and showing how Marie and Hank’s relationship has dramatically changed was great to see. Hank has always been the optimistic and charming one, with Marie being a bit unstable and and pessimistic, so seeing their roles reversed is a clever way to show us different sides of their characters. Although we can’t help rooting for Hank to recover quickly so we can get the foul-mouthed, cheery fella back again!

But let’s be honest, the first half hour of this episode was really just an intro to the one fateful scene in the lab. In a moment which will surely go down in Breaking Bad‘s storied history of “Holy crap!” moments, we see Gus finally return to the lab to pass his verdict on what he is doing about the Walt and Jesse situation. After slowly and deliberately making his way down into the lab, methodically dressing up in his lab coat, we see him search for and deliberately take the same box cutter that Gale was using in the very first shot of this season, and proceed to brutally and repeatedly slit Victor’s throat with it. There’s only one word I can use to describe Giancarlo Esposito’s performance in this scene: Gravitas. Some people have it, some don’t, but Esposito has the ability to command the screen whenever he wants to, and that’s saying something when you’re on a show with as much talent as this one. Here’s hoping we see his name on some Emmy ballots next year. AMC should again be commended for their willingness to make this scene so violent.

My biggest complaint with this episode, until the last scene, at least, was that I wasn’t sure what direction we were heading in for the season. It’s obvious that Gus is going to keep Walt and Jesse cooking, but to what end? We don’t seem to have any conflict any more, and it’s clear that Gus has somewhat forgiven them for killing Gale, so what do our heroes have to be afraid of? The answer, it seems, is Gale’s dreaded book of lab notes. I guess the writers want us to believe that the police will now be on the trail of Walt and Jesse’s lab, although I find it hard to believe that Gale would be dumb enough to leave incriminating evidence about his day job just lying around in his apartment. Here’s hoping we get more of an answer in next episode as to what path this season will take, but one thing is for sure: I’ll be here every step of the way! Man, does it feel good to have this show back!

Random Thoughts:

– Did anybody else see the “sneak peek” for The Walking Dead? Wow…what a letdown. I know that they haven’t filmed very much from season 2 yet, but if all you have to show is one scene of Andrew Lincoln hitting a zombie with a rock, maybe don’t make such a big deal about including the scene in the Breaking Bad premiere.

– Jonathan Banks, who plays Mike, appeared in an episode of Modern Family last season. After seeing him in this show, I was surprised that he was showing a more comedic side, but the scene where he was so bemusedly watching Walter and Jesse stuff Victor’s body in the barrel was hilarious.

– Was anybody surprised that Denny’s agreed to have their restaurant so prominently featured on a show like this? I can just see their next ad campaign now “Denny’s! Where the meth cookers and murderers eat!”