Giancarlo Esposito has been Breaking Bad‘s secret weapon since Gus Fring became the closest thing the show has to a proper Big Bad back near the end of Season 2. This week, he gets his greatest showcase yet in an hour that delves far more deeply into Gus’s origins than any previous episode. It’s effectively a detour – which is a little frustrating given Season 4’s “leisurely” pacing, but there’s an undeniable pleasure in letting Esposito take a significant percentage of an episode’s screentime for a change.
Meanwhile, with all parties aware that Hank is pursuing Gus on his lonesome, it’s becoming increasingly clear that without some major plot contrivances, someone is going to have to be removed from the “equation” that Walt and Jesse briefly consider. (Two points about that: this episode subtly hints at the possibility that Jesse might decide to simplify things by just going after Hank, who he’s always had an understandable hate-on for. Also, I don’t quite buy that none of Hank’s colleagues are willing to play ball with him, all things considered, but that’s bound to change, anyway.)
The show plays considerably more broad and pulpy in the Gus flashback sequence than it has for the bulk of the season, but it’s actually a refreshing change from the completely grounded approach we’ve seen for much of the season. The most intriguing product of the sequence is not Gus’s dead “Hermanos,” but the tantalizing prospect of his concealed identity. I guess we may as well start calling him Keyser Soze. Here’s hoping the show can significantly advance its master plot next week while making optimal use of its new plot wrinkles.