‘Breaking Bad’ Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

Published 4 years ago by , Updated July 19th, 2011 at 8:44 am,

Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Box Cutters Review Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

Breaking Bad is one TV series that has steadily upped its game in subsequent seasons. This includes season 3, in which we saw former high school chemistry teacher-turned-drug-manufacturer Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his recovering addict “partner” Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) learn all about the perils that go with making it big in the drug game.

Breaking Bad season 4 arrives with the added burden of having to keep up the frantic momentum of last season’s nail-biting cliffhanger, and the premiere episode, “Box Cutter”, not only did that – it kicked things up to a whole new level of tension and darkness. The premiere also gave us one particular scene that is likely to go down in the pantheon of nightmare-inducing TV moments.


“Box Cutter” opened right where the season 3 finale left off: with Jesse and Walt facing all-but-certain death at the hands of their former employer, mild-mannered drug kingpin, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). In a last-ditch effort to save their lives, Walt dispatched Jesse to eliminate their competition, Gale (David Costabile), a geeky chemist who was able to replicate Walt’s formula for pure crystal meth. We left Jesse standing on Gale’s doorstep with a gun pointed at the unfortunate geek’s face, and in the first moments of the season 4 premiere we learn that Jesse indeed splatters the brain behind that face all over Gale’s apartment floor.

Walt’s desperate gambit pays off: with Gale out of the picture, Gus’ henchmen Mike (Jonathan Banks) and Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui) have to put their kill order on pause, since Walt and Jesse are now the only ones who can make the coveted meth. Mike, Victor, Jesse and Walt all wait in the lab to see what Gus will decide to do with his two rogue employees, until Victor reveals a troubling fact: in his time watching Walt work, he has memorized the steps to making the meth himself, seemingly rendering the need for Walt and Jesse obsolete.

Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Bryan Cranston Aaron Paul Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

Walt and Jesse await their fate.

Meanwhile, Walt’s (wife? ex-wife?) Skyler (Anna Gunn) finds Walt’s car in her driveway (Walt was on his way in the house when Gus’ goons snatched him). She immediately senses that something is wrong, but wants to protect her children from any panic, so she craftily moves Walt’s car a few blocks away. Never one to ignore an issue, Skyler then sets out to find Walt herself, further tarnishing her once-spotless moral code by lying and manipulating to get what she wants.

The third plotline of the season 4 premiere found Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) still attempting to rehabilitate her injured husband, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Marie is trying to stay positive (to the point of near-mania, in my opinion), while Hank is more (realistic? Pessimistic?) about the fact that he can barely walk, barely control his own bowels, or function as the strong man he is so used to being.

In the end, Gus arrived at the lab and made a very calm, calculated, and horrifying demonstration to Walt and Jesse, letting them know where things stand. While he spared the two upstarts, and re-employed them to manufacture the purified meth, Walt still feels the Sword of Damocles dangling overhead; Jesse, on the other hand, is resigned to the fact that there has been a mutual understanding established about the terrible capacity for evil possessed by all involved in this unholy business arrangement.



Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Box Cutters Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

Holy moly, will this show ever lose its edge? Most of “Box Cutter” had me on the edge of my seat (which isn’t at all unusual for Breaking Bad), but I was later amazed by the fact that it achieved so much tension almost exclusively through static moments. The characters spent this episode pretty much waiting around for things to happen, or trying to learn patience for the pace at which things weren’t happening (the Hank, Marie and Skyler plotlines) – and yet, the waiting was so engrossing and fascinating that I couldn’t tear my eyes off the screen.

Sure, those secondary plotlines sort of detracted from the epic tension of waiting to see what Walt and Jesse’s fate would be, but even the tangental threads contained seeds  that could bear some pretty juicy fruit over the course of the season. Skyler started out as somewhat of an annoyingly sanctimonious character, but after seeing her use her own infant as a tool by which to manipulate a locksmith into breaking and entering for her, one has to begin to wonder: What isn’t she capable of, given the proper motivation? It was that same question that made Walter such an intriguing character at the show’s start, and it’s nice to see Skyler coming over to that same page.

Hank and Marie have often been my least favorite characters (Marie in particular) – but again, this season 4 premiere has dropped interesting little foreshadows about who they might become as individuals, and what might happen to their marriage. Marie has always lived in a “gray” area as far as morals are concerned (her little shoplifting problem) and now that she too has been benefitting from Walt’s ill-gotten gains, it’ll be interesting to see her reaction, should she ever learn the truth about how and why Sky and Walt are aiding her.

Hank is the biggest X-factor in the sordid Breaking Bad web. He started out as a kind of one-note character (the machismo cop), but his evolution has been almost as great as Jesse and Walt’s. Hank was at his most vulnerable point – both physically and emotionally – in season 3, and is facing an uphill battle in season 4. Should he ever discover the truth about Walt, Hank’s pain and rage will make him the most dangerous thing that Walt has ever had to contend with – a potential loose thread that finally unravels this web of corruption. I certainly hope the showrunners take things there.

Breaking Bad Season 4 Gus Kills Victor Breaking Bad Season 4 Premiere Review & Discussion

What happens next will haunt you.

Last but not least: what to say about the ending of “Box Cutter”? We’ve known for a long time that Gus is a smart and ruthless drug lord, but this was the first time we’ve ever seen him really get his hands dirty. The pre-credits flashback to he and Gale first putting the lab together gave a small but important kernel of knowledge about how Gus’ mind works; that flashback put things into perspective when Gus ultimately slashes Victor’s throat (his most trusted and loyal henchman) with a box cutter, and then held the wound open while Victor died in a flash of blood and betrayal.

Gus is all about the larger picture of success and perfection, and Victor – having been sloppy about protecting Gale, and not qualified enough to cook meth on his own – no longer fit that picture. The brutal slaying reinforced that Gus is a man committed to his own twisted ideals, and won’t let paltry things like emotion get in the way. However, at the same time, the instant that Walt and/or Jesse step out of frame of Gus’ designs, there is no uncertainty about what awaits them. After all, Gus liked Victor, and look what happened to him…

Well kids, strap yourselves in because it looks like Breaking Bad season 4 is going to be the most thrilling roller-coaster-ride-through-hell yet. Aside from the Gus-Walter-Jesse triangle (and all the tensions therein), there is still the small matter of that folder sitting in Gale’s apartment – the one with all his lab notes for cooking pure meth. No matter where that folder ends up it’s going to be a bombshell, and the ripples will likely make life even more hellish for our beloved anti-heroes.

Breaking Bad airs at 10pm Sundays on AMC

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  1. This was an awesome way to kick off the season. I’m dying to see how all of this plays out.

  2. I think the biggest factor in killing Victor was whether he had been seen at the crime scene or not. Mike didn’t seem to happy to hear that Victor had been seen by witnesses, and really, Gus wants absolutely no evidence or anything leading back to him, so he’s going to take out the one who was seen.

    I’m really excited to see what’s to come of this show, it’s getting even more intense then the past few seasons, and we’re only one episode in.

    Also, I believe that the Lab Notes were probably just that, notes, no names or anything involved, if that’s the case…looks like the DEA found enough evidence to think that Gale was Heisenburg.

    • Exactly. Victor, while loyal, proved that he was sloppy and that doesn’t mesh well with Gus’ plans. Killing Victor wiped up a loose end and also demonstrated Gus’ level of commitment to his vision, in a rather brutal but admittedly highly effective manner.

    • Those lab notes will be huge this season.Walt and Jessie’s lives will depend on who has possesion of them.

      Those notes will show Walt’s formula and his method.If Gus gets his hands on them,all he has to do is find another chemist to reproduce Walts 99% percent pure meth.

      Also,did anyone else see the homage to Pulp Fiction at the end?

      This show is the best TV of all time,hands down.

  3. MAN this show does not disappoint – I would not have thought they would have shown Gus do that but it was a AWESOME portrait of what he is all about – good review!!! Also out of text – Walking Dead preview!! What did you think?

  4. My Lord this show is something else. My favorite thing is how everything matters, everything. Never is a scene or moment wasted. The moment Gus started to put on the Haz-Mat suit I knew Victor was done but I was stil shocked by how brutal Gus was. As far as the folder is concerned I think that will lead the DEA into thinking Gale was Heisenberg but Hank will not buy it and keep looking. How will he do it in his current condition? I don’t know but that’s my theory.

  5. The show wasn’t snubbed from the 2011 Emmys: it wasn’t eligible because of the one year hiatus that the show took between June 2010 and July 2011. The third season was nominated for the 2010 Emmys and the fourth season will definitely be nominated for the 2012 Emmys.

  6. Hey Kofi, just a quick note here:
    Breaking Bad did not get snubbed from this years Emmy. The hiatus between season 3 and 4 was just too long for them to be nominated for anything this year. The 3 previous seasons have all been nominated and gotten the credit they deserved. So there is no reason to be disappointed, Breaking Bad is back to win it all in 2012!

    As for the episode: Holy crap what an opening. Amazing how much can be said with so little dialogue. Unlike most series, Breaking Bad always start strong. Many seasons start slow before building up the season finale, but Breaking Bad manages to keep the tension in every minute of every episode. Remarkable stuff!

    • Thanks for the update! I’ve taken that line out of the post!

  7. I am so excited, I did spend the last year and half catching up from the beginning, and now that episode with it’s little tidbits of gold and eye candy Wowzers!!

  8. This was my first full Breaking Bad episode. nice.

  9. I was admittedly disappointed that they had Jesse kill Gale because, up until that point, Jesse had managed to avoid performing “the deed”. That was the one thing he had going for him. Now, sadly, he has blood on his hands like everyone else.

    That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the episode though. I also found it riveting and compelling. I thought initially that Gus was going to help Victor cook to prove how “unnecessary” Jesse and Walt were to him but when he picked up the box cutter my perspective changed a bit! Wow, they axed 2 secondary characters in one episode…..what’s next???!

    Any show that can make we wonder where the hell an hour went to so damn quick is good in my book. Last show that did that for me was LOST.

  10. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that Marie is embezzling from Walt and Sky. We all know she had the shoplifting problem. When Marie told Skylar the bills were thicker (my lame abridgment of the scene in Boxcutter) for Hank’s therapy, well, my guess is since Marie is in the medical field herself, she knows a few loopholes on how to “fake” some of these medical transactions. We will wait and see, but this is my guess.

  11. This show is in a masterclass when it comes to storytelling and suspense. It somehow has gotten better every season. When Gus comes into the lab and his action in there where such a amazing scene. You always got a sense Gus was capable of that, and that he had done it before, but to finally show the brutality of the man, and his black/white ideals on his business was such a great way to show the stakes of it all.

    The world around Walter White has gotten a whole lot more dangerous, and I can’t wait to see how Walt evolves to fit into it.

  12. Gus had to kill Victor to protect himself.

    Not only was Victor seen at the sceen of the crime, but he left his car there.

    It would only take the investigators a couple of hours to find out that there is an unknown car in the apartment parking lot.

    Even if the car was stolen or had false registration, it would have Victor’s prints and DNA.

    Even if Victor came back for it and there is a significant risk that he would be questioned and arrested.

    Gus may still be at risk even if the search for Victor leads to a dead end as his cover could now be exposed.

  13. I’m a die hard Breaking Bad fan/addict from the first hour. This season opener didn’t grab me in the same way as previous season openers. Remember Tuco and the guy in the wheelchair, ringing his little bell because he couldn’t talk, to kick off season 2? The suspense, unexpected twists, and ever changing nuances of that episode were missing here. Only the suspense was left. Where Breaking Bad has continuously set new standards of unpredictability, season 4 opened with an episode that was surprisingly predictable. I was reminded of the ‘other’ lab episode, where Walt almost tells Jesse he was responsible for Jane’s death, a very simple episode in setup that was nevertheless more engaging as well. Take away the brutal murder from this season opener and what do we have? Basically, a ‘remember us?’ type of reintroduction of characters after a much too long hiatus. I think the duration of the hiatus played into this season opener, and expect the unpredictability to return in the next episode. Clearly, it is the brilliance of Breaking Bad that has me expecting they keep raising the level to the near impossible. I hope the hiatus doesn’t work against the show, but did notice that I had forgotten little details about the past, which were always so important in understanding the characters thought processes and resulting actions. As a result it didn’t quite feel as intimate as before.

    • Tuco and guy in the wheelchair episode wasn’t the season 2 opener. That was the next episode. The Season 2 opener ended when Tuco got Jessie at gunpoint and told Walter to get in the car then they drove off.

    • I agree with Dark Horse. The opening episode was a letdown for me. I have followed the series from the begining and there were a few slow moving moments that could be tolerated but this was just a bore. A plot that left me with not much for my time spent waiting for the story to pick up. The worst episode so far in my opinion. Come on get those writers back that gave us a great plotline and some twists and turns in the mix. I hope in the future episodes they get it together or I am gone.

  14. Just watched episode 2 (season 4), and it is now starting to become obvious that the writers are pretty much out of room. The characters can’t really change anymore. There is no more tension in Walt about wrong and right. I haven’t seen a single funny thing in the first two hours of this season, where the previous seasons where loaded with dark humor. And I’m not interested in watching Skyler break bad. In other words, my ‘undying loyalty’ to this show is rapidly slipping away. I hope I’m wrong and that episode three will get things moving again, but for now Breaking Bad looks dead in the water.

    • I agree. Up until now I have been an undying fan, preaching to anyone who would listen about how this was the best show I had ever seen, forcing my friends (and even my parents) to watch an episode or two, just to get them hooked. Episode 1 of season 4 was the first time I have ever been disappointed with the show. O.k., Gus slits Victor’s throat, but like you said, there’s no humor, and it somehow just wasn’t very interesting. Same with this week’s episode (episode 2) – all of the characters as just kind of shuffling along on their downward spiral without anything really interesting going on. I’m definitely losing my obsession with the show.

  15. Today is 11/6/11. when does Breaking Bad season start.