Last night Breaking Bad opened its fourth season with cutting action and dramatic silences. The season takes off at the exact same moment of last year’s cliffhanger season finale. Read no further, if you don’t want to hear the answers. Viewers see Gail, the replacement chemist hired by Gus, gleefully slicing open boxes with a box cutter that the camera focuses on when the cutter just rests on a box. Gail is excited about the lab, but doubts that the purity of his meth can get above 96%. Walt’s is 99% pure. Then the viewer sees Gail dead on his apartment’s floor as a pot of boiling water overfills on the stove. The scene pans across his apartment showing items like a Stephen King novel that construct Gail as a real person, not just the latest casualty of Walt and Jesse’s business.
The first episode is marked with long silences from Jesse and Gus. Jesse and Walt wait in the lab for Gus. Walt talks incessantly, but Jesse is still in shock from killing Gail. When Gus arrives he uses the box cutter decisively, but doesn’t speak until he’s almost ready to leave the lab. He tells Walt and Jesse to get back to work. Blood from Gus’s latest victim pools at Walt and Jesse’s feet. They try to pull their feet back, but it’s impossible. The scene holds larger implications for the blood pooling in their lives. The camera cuts from the blood to the ketchup on a plate at a Denny’s where Walt and Jesse go to have breakfast. Walt is wearing a Kenny Rogers shirt, the only thing he could scrounge up. Skylar comments on the shirt when she finally sees Walt. She doesn’t even want to ask exactly what’s happened. In the episode, Skylar displays a great ability to lie when she gets a locksmith to let her into Walt’s condo.
Breaking Bad continues to get a great advantage from actually filming in Albuquerque. The pueblo style home of Hank and Marie and the shots of surburban streets create a vivid and accurate setting for a western set in the contemporary, urban southwest. Walt and Gus will continue to escalate their confrontation.