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Breaking Bad, Ep. 4.03: “Open House” is One of the Least Eventful Episodes in the Series

Is Breaking Bad‘s fourth season a transitional one? Over the last couple of weeks, Vince Gilligan has all but confirmed that Season 5 will be the show’s last, making this one the last before Walt completes his transformation from “Mr. Chips to Scarface.” The first episode to be directed by David Slade (Hard Candy, 30 Days of Night, Twilight: Eclipse), who seems to be segueing into TV direction for the first time this year, “Open House” continues is maybe one of the least eventful episodes in Breaking Bad history, at least in terms of the show’s master plot. Principally, it’s about hitting a few important character beats as we approach the show’s next batch of crisis points – which are no doubt forthcoming.

Of those beats, Jesse’s are the most emotionally potent. As his friendly neighborhood meth party devolves into a never-ending carnival of depravity, Jesse reaches out to his last remaining friend, Walt, the only way he knows how: he invited him to come go-kart with him. That might read like a funny moment, but the sight of Jesse karting alone is an apt encapsulation of his lot in life as the kid with everything and nothing. Elsewhere, Hank is still struggling with his bed-ridden status, but is about to find a new drive thanks to the Gale Folder of Doom. Walt actually doesn’t get much to do this week beyond the revelation that he still uses Gale’s Perfect Coffee Contraption, another neat little way the show keeps him alive The bulk of the screentime this week goes to characters that have typically been on the sidelines: the wives.

In the subplot that gives the episode its title, Marie has taken up going to open houses and using elaborate cover stories to distract guests as she indulges a habit not seen from her in several seasons: stealing. It’s doubtful that Klepto Marie was a storyline many fans were clamoring to see more of, but at least Gilligan has consistently demonstrated that he won’t simply retcon away previous character tics. Her lapse into illegal behavior actually suits the character, since the bedrock of her existence – her home life and relationship with Hank – are rocky at best, she retreats to her last enjoyable activity – and hey, it winds up with Hank getting a surprise visit from a peer, and the glorious bounty that he brings.

Skyler, meanwhile, gets downright ruthless this week in ways we’ve never seen from her before. In a meeting with Hank and Saul that exposes just how conniving she can be, she pressures Saul to find a strategy for the Bogdan situation that involves “attitude adjustment,” before coming up with a scheme of her own involving a convincing fake official and a script of her own devising. This resulted in a number of scenes that were played a little too broadly by Breaking Bad standards, especially the scene in which Walt and Skyler wait by the phone for Bogdan’s desperate calls. It’s a cute enough idea, but it’s possibly the first time ever that Walt could just as easily be Hal from Malcolm In the Middle.

So where is this all going? The sight of a new, sinister-looking figure waiting silently in his vehicle portends a new foe (or set of foes), and Hank’s imminent discovery of the Gale information payload suggests major new calamities in the immediate future. But we’re not there just yet. As with the early stretch of Season 3, patience will be a virtue here – let’s hope the payoff is just as sweet.

Simon Howell

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Simon is a sometimes writer and podcaster living in Toronto.

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