This review contains spoilers.
4.4. Bullet Points
Wow. I’ve been hugely impressed with this season of Breaking Bad up until now, but this week’s episode was by some distance the best so far. It had the perfect mix of humour, tension, action, and drama, topped off with a doozy of a cliff-hanger.
Bullet Points (great title) began with a fantastic cold open. We’ve been treated to some good ones already this season, with Gail’s tragic flashback in the first episode and Walt’s Taxi Driver-esque meeting with the gun salesman in Thirty Eight Snub.
This week, though, we got one of the show’s best pure action sequences, reminiscent of Mike’s takedown of a Chinese drug gang late last season. This time, Mike only scored two kills, but he did so after surviving being machine gunned in the back of a truck for what seemed like an eternity, and with part of his ear blown off. It’s a clear reminder of Mike’s established level in badass, which could be timely considering the position Jesse finds himself in at the end of the episode.
Jesse’s taken the plunge from distanced hedonist into full-blown committed nihilism. It’s clear he’s currently dead inside – nothing gives him pleasure anymore. There’s a brilliant moment when Jesse returns from work, throws a bunch of meth up in the air for his strung-out companions to hungrily devour, then grabs a chic-looking meth girl by the hand and leads her up to his room without saying a word, like a gladiator returning from battle and grabbing the nearest slave girl.
When we cut to his room, however, they’re not in bed. Instead, Jesse casually shrugs off he development that $75,000 of his is missing, then they sit on the edge of the bed, dead-eyed and sadly playing each other at Sonic Racers. That’s how you know Jesse has hit rock bottom. I mean, Sonic Racers?! It’s not like the guy can’t afford Mario Kart.
Jesse is also now bald, making him look significantly more hard-bitten and adding to the show’s already impressive roster of tough, bald men. Like some kind of backwards Samson, the loss of hair seems to have made him stronger. When Mike comes to his house and attempts to scare him straight by threatening to kill someone who has been thieving from Jesse, Jesse cleverly calls his bluff, claiming that he knows there won’t be a murder because they ‘went to the trouble to blindfold him.’
Even if they had intended to kill the man there, you get the sense that Jesse wouldn’t have cared. He’s too far gone at this point. It’s this scary attitude and willingness to tolerate and even embrace the chaos surrounding him that leads to Mike taking him on what might prove to be a fateful trip to the desert. And guess what: Jesse isn’t wearing a blindfold. Eep.
Jesse’s future in Breaking Bad probably depends now entirely on Walt’s next move, and seeing as he’s appeared largely rudderless in this season up to this point – panicky, irritable and struggling to control his raging ego – right now Walt doesn’t seem to be the best choice as a knight in shining armour.
We got a glimpse of Walt’s hubris earlier in the episode, as he derided Skyler’s admittedly-hackneyed cover story (now we know why she failed as a short story writer) that she had painstakingly prepared to explain their suspiciously excellent fiduciary situation to any potential investigators and, of course, Hank and Marie. In a nice moment, we saw Walt bored, fidgeting and rolling his eyes at a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting he was attending as part of this elaborate cover, ignoring the speaker who confided “It’s amazing the stories you’ll tell yourself to justify it – one more hand, one more roll of the dice.” Nothing in that bit of musing that’s relevant to Walt’s life, obviously.
The story seemed to go off without a hitch for the captive audience of Hank, Marie and Junior, however, who seemed shocked and even a little impressed by Walt’s fictional card-counting ability. Hank seems particularly moved, and even lets Walt in on a little casework he’s been working: the supposed death of ‘Heisenberg’, or the man we’ve come to know as Gail.
In a scene that was atypically Breaking Bad – hilarious, scary, tense, and even a little moving – Hank gleefully showed a confiscated video of Gail performing a bizarre kind of Star Trek karaoke to Junior and a horrified Walter. This was then followed shortly by an even better scene, where Hank seemed dangerously close to putting two and two together, musing as to what the initials “W.W” might stand for in the dedication at the front of the book, even playfully suggesting, “Walter White”.
Walt’s move, then – to ad lib convincingly that it must refer to Walt Whitman, the poet – was much more reminiscent of the rapid, versatile cunning he exhibited in earlier seasons. This might bode well for Jesse. It seems Walt has maintained the ability to react accordingly when forced into a corner. When things heat up, or the pressure increases, he can change and adapt. It’s simple chemistry.
Bullet Points was another winning installment for Breaking Bad, with a string of brilliant scenes and superb dialogue (“He’s deader than a Texas salad bar”, “Yeah, you might have a little shit creek action going on…”), as well as some superbly engaging action (Mike’s opening stand-off).
It sets up next week with incredibly high stakes. Mike and Jesse are heading to the desert, and it looks impossible that both will be able to come back. But we’ve seen the writers out these characters in these seemingly inextricable situations before, and the solutions always manage to subvert expectation, while managing to be dramatically satisfying. So I guess that means they’ll probably both die.
Read our review of the last episode, Open House, here.