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RECAP: BREAKING BAD, Season 4, Episode 3: "Open House"

by Matthew Seitz
August 2, 2011 5:08 AM
1 Comment
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By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor

The most important moment in last night's Breaking Bad wasn't a scene or a line. It was a shot -- that closeup of the soap suds clustered in the bottom of Skyler White's sink after she finishes washing her baby bottles, has her "eureka" moment and realizes how to manipulate a reluctant car wash owner into selling his business.

On one level, the shot is just functional, expository. She's washing the baby bottles. She sees the water and suds going down the drain.

She thinks about how liquids seep into the ground. And she hatches a complicated deception involving a phony EPA inspector who tells the car-wash owner that his property is contaminated, and that he has to close down for several weeks in order to fix the problem.

But like so many close-ups on Breaking Bad, this one has a metaphoric dimension, too. It marks the moment when the remaining traces of Skyler's personal moral code went down the drain.

Skyler had previously been carrying her husband Walt's water, so to speak -- going to the car wash owner and trying to get him to sell his business so that Walter could use it to launder drug money. When the car-wash owner said no -- treating Skyler dismissively and insulting Walt's manhood -- she became obsessed with owning not any business, but that particular car wash. All of a sudden, acquiring that car wash became more about retribution than simple business -- and she deliberately drew Walt into her obsession by revealing the slur against him.

To read the rest of the recap, click here.

PressPlay founder and publisher Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for Salon.com. His video essays about Terrence Malick, Oliver Stone, Budd Boetticher, Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann and other directors can be viewed at the at the online magazine Moving Image Source.

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1 Comment

  • Clarence Ewing | August 2, 2011 12:19 PMReply

    Great analysis, Matt. I stopped reading Salon.com a few months ago, but I went over there to read the rest of the piece. The comments reminded me why I stopped visiting that site. Sorry, TV timeshifters, some of us prefer not to wait two weeks for you to bittorrent an episode before we can read someone's opinion on it!

    Anyway, I'm really enjoying this season, but I noticed Walt's son has been almost completely MIA. It seemed to me in the first couple of seasons he provided a rationale for Walt to get closer to Jesse, i.e. not only did Jesse know more about the drug game than Walt, but since Jesse wasn't dealing with cerebral palsy he was also kind of the "son he never had." Now that the narrative focus is now squarely on the drugs, I wonder how they'll fit Walt Jr. into the story.

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