Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"Breaking Bad" - "Box Cutter" (Season Premiere)

Spoilers for the "Breaking Bad" premiere after the jump:

Without question, this is the most highly anticipated season opener of the year by just about everyone who's a fan of television. And of course, high expectations means a high likelihood of disappointment.. But "Breaking Bad" is used to delivering on high expectations. And so it does, yet again.

Still, this is not quite the perfect premiere I was hoping for. Last season's "No Mas" was far superior: not in the way it dealt with the cataclysmic events of the previous season (that's done fine here), but in the fact that there really weren't any dull moments. "Box Cutter" has a few, though they thankfully come pretty early on.

I'm speaking mostly of the stuff involving Skyler, which was basically designed to help fill the time not spent with Walt, Jesse, and friends in the lab. That would have been all right, had that purpose not been so obvious. While its implications are important (for all her involvement in Walt's criminal life, she still doesn't know that much about it), that doesn't make the roughly 10-15 minutes spent on her fruitless search for Walt any less pointless. One or two scenes would have served just fine.

With that out of the way, let's talk about what worked here: namely, everything else. Following last season's ending (billed as a cliffhanger despite the fact that it was pretty obvious Gale was dead), the show picks up mere moments after the murder. Soon enough Jesse joins Walt as a prisoner awaiting the judgment of Gus. And they wait, mostly in silence.

Indeed, silence plays a big role in this episode. "Breaking Bad's" writers have always understood that quiet moments are often more intense than big confrontations, but here that's taken to a whole different level: particularly during a brutal sequence where Gus suits up and murders one of his underlings in front of Walt and Jesse. He doesn't say a word, and yet his fury is terrifying to behold.

Another thing to take note of during this scene is the reaction of Walt and Jesse. Last season saw them grow apart, only to bring them closer together than they've ever been during the season's brilliant concluding installments. And with Jesse's murder of Gale, their destinies have become linked: probably for good. So it was interesting to see Jesse's stone-faced reaction during Victor's murder, particularly when compared to Walt's (who looked like he was about to throw up). Walt passed the point of no return a long time ago. Did murdering Gale do the same for Jesse?

To me, the answer to that is going to be just as interesting as what Gus is going to do next. And it should make for one heck of a great season. Rejoice, TV fans: the best show currently airing is finally back, even if it's not quite up to the level of last season just yet. It'll get there, though. Of that I have no doubt.

Other Thoughts

- So, are those lab notes going to be important during the coming weeks? It's anybody's guess, but I think so.

- One scene each for Hank and Saul. I'm fine with that for now, since Hank's (admittedly understandable) moodiness isn't nearly as interesting as other aspects of the show. I do love Saul, though: "you have a passport, right?".

- Loved Jesse telling Mike to "trust us" as they prepared to pour acid on the body: a clever callback to season one.

- Reviews for this show are going to be a bit later than usual, since I don't get AMC and therefore don't see it until the next day. During the summer, my aim is to have them up by late Tuesday or early Wednesday. Once the school year starts, though, they may not be up until Thursday or Friday. Apologies in advance, but that's just the way it is.

Grade: A-

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