Breaking Bad: Gus Fring, This Is Your Life

Let's just put this out there right now: Giancarlo Esposito owned last night's episode of Breaking Bad. When we talk about Breaking Bad, we chisel out a two-man Mt. Rushmore of acting with the faces of Emmy winners Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul peering down over an excellent supporting cast. But it's time to carve out some space for Esposito, who–in limited appearances–has added so many layers to the character of Gus that come Emmy time next year (remember, Breaking Bad isn't eligible for statues this year), Esposito's name might creep onto the Supporting Actor ballot next to Paul's.

And should Esposito take the stroll to the podium, he had better thank Breaking Bad's writers, because the material he's getting is the stuff actors sell their souls for. After last week's fantastic "Problem Dog," in which we glimpsed the first signs of Gus' empire unraveling as everyone and their mother had it out for the stoic chicken pusher, "Hermanos" pulled the loose thread a bit more and now we're seeing the once unflappable Gus crack.

Gus' strength–In addition to Princeton MBA-grade business acumen–has always been his ability to will his sense of control on others. No matter what's going on around him, he's the proverbial cucumber or other side of the pillow–cooler than the Fonz in an igloo. And that Gus is on full display in my favorite scene of the episode: when he's called in for questioning by Hank and his drug-busting crew. Taking heat from all directions, Gus deflects nagging questions of his connection to Gale's murder with gentlemanly poise and convincing alibis. Even though I knew better, Esposito was so good he had me believing these new lies as fact.

But we can tell he's on the brink of something we've never seen before: weakness. That scene was masterfully edited and directed. It's cat and mouse all up in here, with Hank and the other agents slowly building a case and Gus toppling down everything with each calm response. The quick cuts to the agents and back to Gus create an atmosphere of gears grinding in everyone's head, particularly in Hank (who was also amazing in this scene) and Gus, making the tension wonderfully uncomfortable. It may have just been a bunch of guys sitting around a table on the surface, but it was so much more than that inside their heads.

And then Gus is in an elevator and we see it: the finger twitch as Gus' world crumbles around him. Is he worried? Is he angry? Is he pooping his pants? We hear the bells as the elevator passes floors but all we can really think of is the bell that Uncle Hector taps, some foreshadowing of the history between the two that unfolded years before, the last time that Gus lost control. Chills, man. I got 'em.

Later we see exactly why Gus visited Hector in the old folks' home and enjoyed his one-way conversations so much. Back in the day, Gus approached the cartel about this new awesome drug called "meth," and all he got was a lousy T-shirt that said, "The Mexican Drug Cartel shot my Homie." I have no idea how they managed to go back in time and get that footage because Gus and Hector looked great. Kudos to the makeup department or time-traveling team for setting that up.

Even though we learn all this about Gus, something big still remains a mystery. There are lots of allusions to Gus' past in Chile, but no real clear answer as to who he was in South America. All I know is it sounds important. If anyone has any idea, leave your guesses in the comments section below. It's also unclear why he visits Hector in the home other than to be a jerk to the guy who shot Max. In the case of his final visit, it could be to regain some sense of control after the pressure mounting from Hank and the DEA. Maybe there's something comforting about watching Hector drool as Gus tells him how things are going with him and the cartel. It's almost like going to the therapist and opening up with a one-way conversation.

Walter is also losing his grip on things as he's stuck in the personal hell of not being in control of his own destiny. He's waiting for Jesse to poison Gus. He's waiting for the doctor to tell him if he has cancer. He's stuck playing cops-and-drug-dealers with Hank. He's being told what to do by Gus, and feeling as though he needs to explain to him that it's not his fault. Walter is a slave to external forces at the moment, and that makes him uncomfortable. And when he's uncomfortable, he's unpredictable. Translation: crazy/stupid actions lie ahead.

Jesse is of sounder mind than he was earlier, but he's still every bit the wild card in this game. If you ask me, he's stalling in hopes something else solves his problems rather than deliver the killing blow to Gus himself. Also, this is the first time in a while that we haven't seen Jesse do something self destructive. In fact, reminding us that he's still giving money to Andrea is a good way of showing us that he's on his way to recovery. We hope.

"Hermanos" was just as good as any other episode of this season of Breaking Bad; another strong effort in a season that's shaping up to be one of the series' best.

Notes:
... Jesse. Dude. That shirt has GOT to go unless you're planning on a career in figure skating. You're embarrassing all of us.

... "It wasn't until the fifth grade that I found out that she liked me too. But by then her family had moved to Scottsdale, so... carpe diem, okay?" And that's man advice, Saul Goodman style.

... How about Mike pulling up into the parking lot of Pollos Hermanos while Walt was in the car with Hank ready to plant a bug on Gus' car. Awwwwwwkward.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

Comments (51)
Submit
Sort: Latest | Popular
Sep 28, 2013
He dominated that role...amazing job.
Reply
Flag
Jun 29, 2012
Here's a link that explains how I feel about the season 4 finale:



http://brannonbenge.blogspot.com
Reply
Flag
Oct 04, 2011
He doesnt look like chilean at all!its funny, I have been living in Chile for 5 years and I can tell that I have never seen any black or dark skin guy! a bit funny!
1
Reply
Flag
Sep 14, 2011
The best episodes of the season 4 so far. Esposito is amazing, great actor.
Reply
Flag
Sep 11, 2011
fantastic episode, one of the best this season. Walter gets CRAZY when he loses control of his life. Jesse just wants to be respected which makes him susceptible to manipulation. if only Walter would come out and say "I couldn't do this without you" I think Jesse would never doubt his loyalties.
Reply
Flag
Sep 09, 2011
@KevinBooker2 ...REALLY that's all you had to say aww i was enjoying your complete utter drivel i couldn't help my self oh btw no one could care less!
Reply
Flag
Sep 09, 2011
"he's on his way to recovery. We hope. " Not recovery, penance. I think Jesse's come to an acceptance of his life being directed by others. His "rubberband" is stretched very close to the snapping!!

"Giancarlo Esposito owned last night's episode..." Agreed, poolside scene was amazing!! I'm beginning to wonder if Gus is doomed. The Chilean connection and Gus' chilling visit to Hector showed a cool relaxed reflection back on past indignations. Not bitterness, cold sweat or fear. Gus has a plan!



Reply
Flag
Sep 08, 2011
It was amazing. So amazing in fact I may or may not have nearly burnt my kitchen to the ground because I refused to move away from the tv. And I wish Jesse would stop dressing like those crazy kids from Jersey Shore
Reply
Flag
Sep 08, 2011
One of the best episodes of the season hands down!!! BTW did anyone else recognize Don Eladio? It's Manny Ribera from Scarface!!! I wasn't sure but I just confirmed it on the Steven Bauer (the dude's name) on his IMDB page and also he has another episode where he'll appear so we'll definitely get another flashback scene and I'm thinkin' Gus will take revenge on his partner Max's death.
1
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
good background episode, i still want to know wht gus is so special...
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
for once i don't completely disagree with the author
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
hey, you didn't list any music... here's a good one that relates to your title Tim: Edward Maya - This is My Life
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
Watching Esposito on Breaking Bad really shows up how tremendously they wasted his talents on Homicide.
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
About Gus' history in Chile, I think he's somehow connected to drugs from there.

Don Eladio said to him that the only reason he's not dead because "he knows him" that means there's some history between them before Mexico.
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
No, he said the only reason you're not dead is because I 'know who you were in Chile'. Gus and Don Eladio were clearly meeting for the first time - its just that Eladio has done his research and found out that Gus is connected in a big way. I'm thinking a similarly big Chilean cartel or perhaps even Pinochet's government??
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
I just hope people will remember Breaking Bad come Emmys 2012.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
I believe Gus was part of the military and or black ops suppporting Pinochet`s coup dtat.He was probably into torturing dissidents, hence the respect from the cartel, and as we know the Us fully supported the regime, hence not a problem for him to get a visa to become a resident
1
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
Best guess so far.

Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
Gus and Pinochet together just doesn't sit right for me. I'd find it more likely for him to have been a revolutionary or something, which would have caused him to run off to mexico.
Reply
Flag
Sep 08, 2011
yeah id agree, and the flashback made me feel that Gus wasnt yet used to the violence and brutality of either military or drug cartels
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Every episode, every single time, I come away look at all other television as weak by comparison. I'm just bored by ALL other TV and film right now, because nothing lives up to it.



Breaking Bad is just genius. Film makers, TV writers, hell even novelists and video game developers need to study this show so they can extract what makes it so captivating, tense and thought provoking.



I don't say this lightly, guys, so don't shoot me; but by the end of the series I predict that people will start calling it -- not just the best show on TV right now -- but the best TV show of ALL time. The ending will be masterful, just wait and see.
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
totally agree.... nothing makes me think/analyze like a good ep of BB.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
First, we will know who Gus is by the end of the season or it'll play big into next season, either way, the knowledge will drop, they've given too many hints to the contrary. Jesse is in Stallsville, and he's the mayor (though I love that he's providing for Andrea). Granted, I might be in the same place if I were him. Killing Gail messed him up bad, and Gail was a fiddly scientist guy. Gus is no Gail. I agree that Walt is going to crack. I just hope that when he does, he falls back on his brains and plans it out well rather than just winging it like he's been doing of late. I think the Gus/Hector relationship might even be completely different. Gus knows that the Cartel is power. And even if Hector is old, it was clear from the twins' treatment of him (way back last season) that this guy still commands respect. I think Gus may be just going to him asking for permission to live another couple days. As of now we know Gus has a massive Meth empire, and the cartel must be involved in some way or completely PISSED that he's stealing their drug money. And they're not the type to be all "we know we turned you down earlier, but now let's partner nicely" and they're more likely to be "we see what you're doing, so let's kill you and do it ourselves" and maybe some prior agreement between Hector and Gus is what's putting the hold on it. I don't know, just some thoughts.
More+
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Whenever BB does flashbacks, you just know its going to be one of "those" episodes. We truly understand Gustavo's motivations more clearly than we ever have, and I daresay after the revelation of Gus's past, there might be a modicum of sympathy for him. I'm glad this show is on after True Blood, it's nice to watch brilliantly constructed storylines, after watching the ridiculous BS camp of True Blood.
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
"A modicum of sympathy"? I love Gus!

But yeah, True Blood was really bad.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Nicely written Tom, but did you missed the part where Gus is gay and seek revenge to avenge its lover killed before its eyes by the Cartel ?
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
Glad you mentioned it....I thought maybe I had misinterpreted. No wonder Gus seems to take such pleasure in delivering bad news to the old guy about his nephews and stuff. I wonder if he has a thing for Jesse?
Reply
Flag
Sep 08, 2011
I don't think Jesse is the kind of guy Gus is looking for, no matter how hot he is.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Giancarlo Esposito is a brilliant actor. Excellent episode, like every episode this season.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
The flashback was awesome. I have never been so excited reading subtitles.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
I think the power that Gus has over Hector is the other way around: Will I relieve you from your suffering (and kill you) or let you sit here drooling for the rest of your life. I don't think Gus will kill Hector, that would be too risky in this nursing home situation. And Gus loves the control he has over Hector, where he is losing control in lots of other ways.



Gus being a General in a former life is a good idea, but it seems that he only got so cold-hearted after his 'Hermano' was shot before his eyes. There must be some truth in it though ('I know who you are').



LOL @ '...and all he got was a lousy T-shirt that said, "The Mexican Drug Cartel shot my Homie."' :-)

Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
what a show bravo bravo
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
It's like LIZ TAYLOR CRAPPED a MARIACHI BAND! It's like those HATS in the THREE AMIGOS! And we don't even KNOW THOSE REFERENCES, MAAANNN!
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
YOUR SHIRT IS IN MY HEAD, MAANNN! That's like glass-grade sh!t, man. It's FIREFLIES ALIVE EATING my BRAAAAINS!
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
best episode of the season.
Reply
Flag
Staff
Sep 06, 2011
How crazy is it that Walt's smallest problem is his Cancer? Great writing. Excellent episode. This season is already BB's best.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
I love Gus. I can't wait for next year's Emmys.



That shirt needs to be crapped on and torched. If his meth-head friends were over, that shirt would terrify them for life.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Nothing really much to figure out about Gus visiting Hector. He is enjoying the power reversal and the torture he bestows on him. Slow undignified suffering can be a better alternative than a quick bullet through the head. That scene had two monsters, except one was created by another.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
I love Gus' character so much. And as much as his presence has been felt throughout this season, I've kind of missed him having a direct involvement in the show since the boxcutter scene. I knew after last week, Gus would end up playing a huge role in this episode, but I couldn't have guessed how great it would end up being. Not only did this episode have a few great moments that will be added to many fan lists of Gus' greatest moments ("Do it," and the whole flashback come to mind), it also did a fantastic job of filling us in on some of the reasoning behind some of the actions he's taken recently. I think everybody assumed that Gus giving Jesse his bodyguard job was simply part of his manipulation of Jesse and his relationship with Gus. And honestly, I wouldn't go as far as saying that's not not the case, but now we know that there's more to it: Gus saw part of himself in Jesse, and wants to test him to see if he has what it takes to become another Gus. It also filled in so many pieces in the Gus vs. the Cartel story. I have a whole new respect for his character after this episode.
More+
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
I totally thought that too... I really do think Gus sees something of himself in Jesse. And he has every reason to. It's no small feat that Jesse went to an innocent (cooking meth doesn't make Gale guilty for me) man's house and shot him in the head just to save Walter, who has been a total dickhead to him for a long time.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Since Gus is a businessman, I guest he might have been involved in something about the 80s chilean financial crisis. But I can't forget that cold blooded thing he did on season 4 episode 1 in the lab.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Favorite episode of the season. I loved the flashbacks involving Gus. Can't wait for the next episode next week.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
I was waiting for you to post all day! What an episode... and I can't believe how they pulled off that flashback either. Totally agree that next year's Emmy's is going to be dominated by BB cast and crew.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
what a show i live in dublin,ireland and came across this show kinda by accident but im glad i did best show on tv at the moment well done to AMC for having the cojones for doing this type of show,and what i think gus has over hector is he says to hector is this gonna be the day hector meaning his life will gus take it leaving hector believing any day he could be snuffed out thats the kinda thing gus gets off on remember BOXCUTTER....
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Kudos to AMC. Best network on TV. Although I regret to hear that next season's 16 episodes will be its last, I know it can't go on forever. Last night's episode was the best of the season so far. Something big is coming, but I have no idea what. Truly awesome.



Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Amazing. This whole season I've been rooting for Walt to get the upper hand on Gus. And after last nights episode I'm rooting for Gus to get the upper hand on the cartel. I guess I'm basically rooting for everyone on the show.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
My thoughts on who Gus is.

It was when they mentioned General Pinochet that got me thinking. Gus is not Gus because he is on the run from something big. He likely committed atrocious war crimes of some sort during the Chilean goverment Junta. It's possible he is wanted for murder and/or torture during the time after the coup. Afterwards, he disappeared and shed his identity. Somehow, the Cartel got their hands on his true identity but blackmailed him into working for them.

Either way, I think we will know who Gustavo Fring really is by the end of the season.
Reply
Flag
Sep 07, 2011
I think quite the opposite, that Gus actually did something good (in terms) that went against Pinochet and because of that he had to run to Mexico and because of that he had the respect of the Cartel. He didn't look like a killer at all on that flashback. And I think this totally goes with the spirit of the show, where good men are totally capable of doing terrible things. Walter was just a teacher with cancer and he's slowly becoming the greatest crime kingpin, just like Gus was probably just a good man living his life who got caught up in the middle of the horrific circumstances of Pinchet's regime and ended up where he is.
1
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
I agree. In one of the Hector flashbacks (might of been in season 2) Hector was saying he doesn't like/trust Gus - I think he referred to Gus as "The General" which would totally jive with your theory.
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Breaking Bad is almost too good. I do my best to watch it last of my weekly shows because everything else simply pales in comparison. Every moment is as tense or as lax as is intended and appropriate. I just want more. It is a beautiful symphony that harmonizes the bass with the tenor. Art in motion. Perfecto!



Also, another great review, Tim. I am glad you are as passionate as me and you grasp the essence of the show with an iron fist. Keep up the good work!
Reply
Flag
Sep 06, 2011
Hands down, "Breaking Bad" is THE BEST DRAMA on TV!!! No doubt!! You never know what's going to happen and I find myself constantly on edge...in preparation for what does finally happen!
Reply
Flag