Breaking Bad season 4 episode 2 review: Thirty-Eight Snub

A slower episode of Breaking Bad, perhaps, but it's one that's still dripping with detail. Here's Paul's review...

Breaking Bad: season 4 episode 2

This review contains spoilers.

4.2 Thirty-Eight Snub

Thirty-Eight Snub was low on incident but high on drama, a step back from the explosive last few episodes, but still utterly engrossing.

This episode found our characters attempting to deal with the horrible situations they have found themselves in, and explored the vastly different coping mechanisms that they have developed in order to keep going.

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Jesse has invested in a monstrous sound system, a pile of cocaine, and loads of pizza, before launching into an epic three-day bender with old pals Skinny Mike and the welcome return of Badger (“Bodacious sub-woofers, yo!”).

For a while it seems that Jesse really has embraced his inner Scarface and is embracing his cold new gangster lifestyle. Soon, though, it’s clear that committing himself totally to party mode is an attempt to block out the horrifying reality of his crimes and his impossible situation. This is underlined by the haunting final shot of Jesse, sleep-drived and in tears, curled up in front of his huge speakers while bass-heavy music blares behind him, causing him to physically tremble. 

Before then, however, we saw Jesse is still a caring and sensitive boy, underneath all of the scar tissue. This is demonstrated when his ex-girlfriend, Andrea, visits to quiz him both about his involvement in the murder of her brother’s killers, and the packet of money she was anonymously gifted. He can’t help but offer some (relatively) tender words for her, and share a nice moment with her son (we’ve learned Jesse is really good with kids, after the second season’s Peek-A-Boo).

Before then, we got some funny moments between the three best mates (meths?), including an amusing non-sequitur about a local pizzeria (“their gimmick is they don’t cut your pizza”), and a fantastically geeky chat about who makes the best video game zombies, the fleet of foot Left 4 Dead infected, or the America-hating Nazi stumblers from Call of Duty. I’m not sure how I feel about the show’s writers equivocating video game chat with heavy drug use, however.

Elsewhere, Sylar was still struggling to do her bit to put a professional face on Walt’s business. She was attempting to purchase the car wash as a ‘front’ business, with an extremely well-planned and organized business proposal. She reckoned against Walt’s ability to complicate things, though, with the owner refusing to sell to anyone associated with him, still not forgiving him for his theatrical resignation from his part-time job many months ago, where he swore at him and grabbed his crotch on his way out.

Breaking Bad is extremely inventive and rewarding in the way it works seemingly incidental details in earlier episodes into key plot points much further down the line. This particular incident happened 20 minutes into the pilot. It’s either incredible planning (unlikely) or clever ret-conning, but either way it’s very satisfying for long time viewers.

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Hank and Marie’s scenes are becoming difficult to watch, as it’s almost like we are watching the couple’s marriage, previously so happy, unravel before our eyes. Despite positive progress in his rehab, Hank has settled into alternating between a deadpan snarker and a flat out dick, treating poor Marie like a doormat. It seems as if Hank is actively trying to push her away. He’s projecting his self-loathing onto her, attempting to get her incredibly supportive façade to crack, but she refuses to give in.

It’s ironic that Hank’s accident has been the making of Marie, so self-centered and unlikeable in the early seasons. She’s paying a huge price for her new-found humility, though. 

Then there’s Walt. Gus’s enforced piece of neck surgery certainly unsettled Walt, and the uncertainty hanging over his and Jesse’s futures is becoming too much for him. He can’t just sit back and wait. He needs to make a move.

In the fantastic opening scene, we see him buying the titular .38 snub-nosed revolver from a drawling gun-seller, who spoke with a lyricism reminiscent of a Tarantino or Coen brothers character. In a good example of the kind of all-encompassing denial Walt has buried himself in, the gun-seller points out that it would be cheaper and safer to buy one without a without a defaced serial number. The lax gun laws of New Mexico mean that the law will back him up on grounds of self-defense. Walt insists it is for defense, but  we and he know that the law won’t be backing him up anytime soon.

Walt needs closure. He asks Mike for audience with Gus, to ‘clear the air’, to which Gus chuckles knowingly, “You’re never going to see him again.” He then attempts to make a move on Gus’s house, donning the Heisenburg hat in the process, but Mike blocks him again, warning him away with a well timed phone call (similar to the one Hank received before being attacked by the twins) in a chilling reminder of Gus’s omniscience. 

Walt then changes tack once more. Perhaps noticing that Mike was disturbed by Gus’s cold-hearted murder of Victor, he attempts to appeal to Mike directly, warning him that he could be next and attempting to get him onside. Without directly saying it, Walt makes it clear that he intends to kill Gus, to which Mike responds by casually giving him a beating. Has Walt overplayed his hand, in his attempt to recruit Mike as an ally? We probably won’t have to wait long to find out.

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Special mention must go in ths episode to Michelle McManus, veteran director of The Shield and The Walking Dead, who frames the episode with a stylishness reminiscent of Brian De Palma, with a number of great inventive shots: the Roomba-cam, the dolly through Jesse’s party house that ends the episode, and the overhead shot of ‘Heisenberg’, stranded in the middle of the road outside Gus’s house.

Don’t worry, everyone. Even in its slower episodes, Breaking Bad is still the best show that not enough people are watching. If for some reasons you’ve read this far and don’t want to watch it because it’s too depressing, or too hard to get hold of, then that’s cool. I won’t be offended if you don’t. Honestly. But you should watch it.

Seriously. Watch it.

Read our review of the season opener, Box Cutter, here.

Follow Paul Martinovic on Twitter, or for more babble check out his blog.

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