EDITOR'S NOTE: This recap contains SPOILERS for Breaking Bad Season 4, Episode 7. Proceed at your own risk.
By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor
Jesse might not just have been shocked and depressed by his first killing; he might have become desensitized, too.
That's what I took away from the opening of last night's Breaking Bad, which showed Walt's former right-hand man blasting away at a video game and flashing back to the head shot that killed Gale Boetticher, Walt's would-be replacement as chief chemist, last season.
The end of the scene pointed the way toward Jesse and Walt's subplot during that episode; Jesse had a choice to end the game or restart, and he chose to keep playing. Walt pressured Jesse to kill Gus with poison, and Jesse said yes, hiding the substance inside a cigarette pack and then waiting for an opportune moment. History was repeating itself; this was the second time that Walt decided he needed somebody killed and leaned on Jesse to make it happen. Teasers from next week's episode showed Walt tightening the screws on Jesse to get the job done fast -- a natural outgrowth of the episode's final scene, which showed Hank dazzling his once-skeptical DEA colleagues with a convincing case that Heisenberg was still alive and that his boss was Gustavo Fring, who was using his chicken restaurants as a front for meth distribution and throwing authorities off the scent by posing as a friend of law enforcement. ("Keep your friends close and your enemies closer," Hank said -- the second time that Godfather line has been quoted in the past two weeks.)
I wasn't convinced that Jesse would have agreed to Walt's request so quickly, however. Yes, the dramatic architecture was in place; Jesse's arc on Breaking Bad has been more like a downward moral spiral, taking him from the fringes of the drug trade into its violent heart. Yes, he's a killer now, and seemingly much more tormented about it than Walt is by his own bloody track record. (To Jesse, murder is a physical act; to Walt, it's a tactic.) But the writing here felt too expedient -- too much like a belated attempt to tie up what I call the "aftermath" narrative of Season 4, and push the characters ahead to the next phase of their existence, whatever that turns out to be. I didn't buy that Jesse would have agreed so quickly to kill Gus. It seemed like a vestige of his relationship with Walt back in Season 2, when Jesse was still devastated by his girlfriend's death and had not yet been pushed to murder.
You can read the rest of Matt's recap here.
A critic, journalist and filmmaker, Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for Salon.com and the founder of Press Play.