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Breaking Bad, Ep. 4.06: “Cornered”

Everybody knows Walter White is an asshole. But is Skyler White an idiot?

One of the hardest things to accept in fiction can be a character who doesn’t perceive everything they so clearly should. Skyler has continued to be married to Walter, the lying, crooked, unstable meth manufacturer, since knowing him to be as much since the beginning of last season. It can be difficult to forgive a character of their ignorance of what’s plainly visible to any viewer. This week, Skyler finally lifted the proverbial wool from here eyes – just a little. Following the deliberately repetitive cold open – viewers might well think they’re seeing a rerun of “Bullet Points” for the first few seconds – Walt and Skyler argue over the fate of Gale Boetticher (whose name has been uttered or his visage invoked in one way or another in possibly every episode of the season), with Skyler finally coming to realize that her family may not be as safe as Walt’s always posited – and, worse, he may not even have that at the top of his priority list. “I am the danger,” he gravely intones. It’s not a grand reveal for viewers, but it’s a game-changing moment for Skyler.

Having seen Walt for what he truly is – not some pawn of the drug trade, not a steadfast provider, and absolutely not one iota the man she thought she married and had two children with – she does what any sane person with a helpless baby would do: she takes off. In one of the season’s most powerful scenes, Skyler flips a coin to seemingly plot her escape. Colorado, the coin insists. Twice. Nevertheless, she must return home to keep up the story that is currently keeping her family safe, only to find Walt potentially endangering them all again by buying Walt Jr. a shiny new car. “Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family,” she says. And with that, finally (and possibly far too late), Skyler White Gets It. Now it’s just a matter of seeing if she can climb out from Walt’s profitable mess with her family intact. Oh, and there’s another one of those pesky double-meaning episode titles: it’s Skyler’s mounting sense of feeling trapped that leads her to the Four Corners to ponder the future, and maybe even make it out.

Elsewhere, the plot twist I had so much trouble with last week gets some character justification, and even a little Gus/Jesse interaction. To his credit, Walter (who, whatever his flaws, does possess a certain reserve of deductive logic when the moment strikes) quickly identifies Gus’s plan, though of course, Jesse will hear none of it, eager to prove he’s not merely a pawn in a game to keep Walt around. (A canny cut: going straight from Walt Jr. enjoying his new red Challenger, to Walt’s surrogate son, Jesse, glumly leaning on his own crap vehicle, cigarette in hand. Jesse always seems to get the short straw.) To his credit, Jesse does finally serve a legitimate purpose this week, employing Methhead Logic at a crucial juncture in order to retrieve some of Gus’s product. That this tense, uneasy sequence also features an appearance from Damon Herriman (Dewey Crowe on Justified) is just gravy. It remains to be seen, of course, whether the Walt/Jesse rift will heal or widen over the course of the season, but the latter case seems more likely unless Walt starts spreading out that fatherly love a little more evenly.

Do this week’s plot contortions entirely fix the dodgy proceedings from last week? It remains to be seen, but it’s a step in the right direction. When Jesse briefly meets Gus outside the diner where he and Mike have their regular meetings, Gus tells him he “sees something” in the boy – that’s a far cry from his judgmental tone in the recent past. (Unless what he sees is “a paycheck.”) But then, can his words be taken at face value? Gus is not a man whose moves should be predicted. So perhaps there’s some reason for renewed faith in Breaking Bad‘s long game this week.

Simon Howell

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Simon is a sometimes writer and podcaster living in Toronto.

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