Breaking Bad's Season 4 Premiere: A Special Message from Gus


For best results, hit play on the YouTube video at the bottom of this page and listen to the audio while you're reading. Also: This story contains spoilers for Breaking Bad's Season 4 premiere, "Box Cutter"—consider yourself alerted.


I'll never look at a box cutter in the same way again.

It's only fitting that Breaking Bad kicked off its fourth season with Gale in awe of a sample of Walter's 99-percent pure blue meth. It's only fitting that Gale's idolization of a bag of filthy narcotics is the reason Walter was hired by Gus. And it's only fitting that, in this tale of morality and consequences, it was Gale's own admiration of Walter that would eventually lead to his death.

Gale was an innocent casualty of Walter's path of indirect destruction. Just like Jane. Just like Combo. Just like all those passengers of the plane that exploded over Walt's house. But as the bodies continue to pile up (and there will be many more), they get closer and closer to Walt. So far, these deaths have resulted from Walter's self-preservation or his protection of his business. Those thugs on the corner would have murdered Jesse if Walt hadn't intervened. If Gale hadn't been killed, Walt would have been, so Walt saw to it that Gale died instead. With each drop of blood spilled, Walter takes one step closer to becoming a ruthless drug kingpin. How long until Walter pulls the trigger not to save his business or his partner, but just for the thrill of it? That's the direction in which Breaking Bad appears to be headed, and it's all the more interesting for it.

The murders don't seem to be fazing Walter one bit. In fact, I think he's gained confidence from them and is feeding off that energy, making him more dangerous than ever. Think of a rabid wolverine trapped in the corner—but this wolverine seems happy to be there. There wasn't a glint of remorse in Walt's eye as he waited in his meth lab to be judged by Gus. He looked more like a man waiting impatiently in a dentist's office than a man whose life hung in the balance.

That wasn't the case for Jesse, who didn't even utter a word for the first three-quarters of "Box Cutter"—though his face said plenty as he busted a cap in Gale's eye and proceeded to completely detach himself from the present. Jesse has always served as Walt's conscience, but Walt's drive has forcefully submerged that sense of right and wrong in water and held it there 'til it stopped kicking. Jesse's never really had the stones to go as far as Walt, but does he even have a choice now? Here's a kid who was a small-time dealer and big-time user, handcuffed into a life of crime by his former chemistry teacher. How far will he be forced to go?

Skyler, meanwhile, might be the person who's best-suited for criminal undertakings. She's always been one to judge others while behaving in whatever manner benefits her. Her transformation almost seems too natural, like she was cut out to do this from the start. But everything's easy for Skyler right now—all she has to do is swim through piles of money, figure out how to make the cash seem legit, and dupe the occasional locksmith into letting her into somebody else's apartment. But when bloodshed reaches her, how far will she be able to go?

Listening to Walter essentially recite his resume to Gus as a reminder of how valuable he is, there was more confidence than fear in his voice. Even though he was at the mercy of some pretty badass criminals, Walt's intricate knowledge of the situation and the players made him confident that he was safe. Walt knew he hadn't landed in another Tuco scenario, where the slightest flinch or a shiny object could set someone off on a senseless murder spree; he was facing Gus, a business man before anything else.

At least, that's what Walter thought. Gus sure had one last move up his sleeve, didn't he? Sensing that the power was shifting to Chef Meth-ardee, Gus illustrated just how serious he is about this whole game by almost tearing Victor's head off in what has to be the most graphic scene in the history of basic cable. Holy sh*t. When it comes to violence, Breaking Bad sure knows how to make an impression. The writers don't kill off characters just to provide a cool twist; these deaths leave marks. Gus' message was clear: "Regardless of what you think, Walter, I'm still in control here." Message received. And it appears to have just scratched the surface of how far Gus will go.

But this is The Walter White Show, and while it's fun to see what extremes the people around him will go to, Season 4's main question is, "How far will Walt go?" I can imagine limits for Skyler, Jesse, and maybe even Gus, but there's something about Walter—something behind those eyes and that chemistry speak—that makes me think limits are a thing of the past for him. This is going to be a very fun season.

Additional notes:

... After seeing Walter's face as he hiked up his pants and set off to retrieve his car from a cul-de-sac, it's incredible to think that this is the same character we saw working in a car wash just a few seasons ago. Bryan Cranston's commitment to the physical transformation is staggering.

... Jesse's reaction to Gus slitting Victor's throat was much different from Walt's. Whereas Walt flinched as if Gallagher was smashing a watermelon right in front him, Jesse used the opportunity to stare Gus down, unfazed by the violence in front of him. Jesse no longer has any qualms about dissolving a guy in acid, like he did in Season 1. Later in the episode, when Walt and Jesse were at Denny's, it was Jesse who was able to eat. Is his ease with the situation a liability, or is he simply growing into the business?

... Amazing cut to fries swirling around in ketchup after the guys finished mopping up blood.

... It was a great decision to spend only a few minutes each on Hank, Saul, and Skyler. The most important thing to relaunch the series was to spend a lot of time with Walter and Jesse. So many shows try and do too much with a premiere and end up making a mess (*cough* True Blood), "Box Cutter" focused on the important things.

... Dave Porter is absolutely killing it with the show's score. His minimalist use of eerie sounds adds so much to its tone.

... The episode continued the show's great use of color. The greens, blues, yellows, and reds popped to remind us how primal everything is. Is red the color of violence? Jesse was wearing red when he shot Gale, Gus was wearing red when he slit Victor's throat. And of course, red is the color of both blood and the floor of the lab, the foundation of the drug that's killing kids all over Albuquerque. Is blue the color of intelligence? Walter's wardrobe is full of it. Is green the color of power? The box cutter was green, as was some of the lab equipment out of the box. And don't forget about cold, hard cash. Is yellow the show's neutral color? Gus wore yellow for much of last season, before he became such a danger to Walter. I'm just throwing things out here.


Questions:

... Why do YOU think Gus killed Victor?

... Why do you think Jesse stayed in the car after killing Gale?



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

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Chef Meth-ardee, love it.
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Excellent article, as usual Tim. I appreciate you mentioning the colors, I did notice last season that Gus wore tons of yellow and was wondering if it had any implication. Now adding that into the mix of prominent colors we saw in this premiere, I am definitely going to keep my eye out for any possible significance.
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Almost perfect. The thing with the color was a bit too much.
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Hmmm. I agree with the colors. It's not unusual for shows, particularly people involved in such artistically wonderful creations like Breaking Bad, to use colors to emphasize consistent themes. It's certainly not a unique concept. Even The Sixth Sense used the color red to convey objects interacted with by the dead. Unbreakable CERTAINLY expanded on the concept. This is where cinematographers get there stripes, as well as having the BRILLIANT Michael Slovis heading the DP position.
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He killed Victor for 2 reasons: 1 Victor failed to protect Gail, thus failing at his job so he had to pay for that mistake. 2 Gus wanted to let everyone else still involved in his business to know what happens when you fail to do your job.

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Gus could have killed Victor to make a blood pact. Also to send a message saying I own you, your lives are mine and I can take that away effortlessly. Did Gus even know Victor was seen at the crime scene? Don't think he knew.

Jesse stayed in the car cause he was in shock, was written all over his face.



This episode was quite awesome and the box cutter scene made my heart race, hope they can keep this suspense going throughout the season.

I have to disagree with this part of the article "Gale was an innocent casualty", "Just like...", they are hardly innocent, you play the game long enough eventually your time will come.

Also "Filthy narcotics"? Its 99+% pure!!! lol.
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Great comments on the color of the show. I saw entering the meth lab as descending down the red stairs into a representation of hell.
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Lol, great article Tim. I agree Gus killed Victor because he was seen at the crime scene but he also did it in front of them in a very graphic manner, sending a crystal clear message to both Walt and Jesse. Jesse stayed in the car....because he just killed a man...for the first time.
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he killed Victor because less people would notice than if he killed Walter, and he couldn't kill Jessy because then Walter wouldn't cook for him and he's the only cook he's got on hand at the moment.
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I love this show. I'm kind of surprised nobody has mentioned the following rationale for Gus' actions yet though. We know that Gus was plotting to replace Walt and Jesse. Victors actions were no surprise here, certainly not to W&J. Gus killed Victor as a show of capitulation to Walt (i.e. "You are my only cooks from now on"). Gus did this to restore trust with Walt. He needs Walt. That he has a staring match with Jesse during the murder is more open to interpretation I think. I'm dead curious how Jesse is going to play out this season. As for the cinematography...what can I say (kisses fingers).
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I read this before seeing the episode...

Need a quick brain erase
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That Graphic warning came on twice during the episode, once at the beginning, and the other before the actual death scene.
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On the colors, Gus was pretty much engulfed in red the entire time he was on screen (lab stairs, lab floor, changed into red coveralls etc). Gus had a poker face and moved slowly and purposefully but we know he was furious so perhaps red is anger... but Jessie did have that red tshirt on. Also, Jessie and Walt were lit with blue up until the final scenes when they were in (hilarious!) matching browns, including the final scene with Walt outside Skylar's house where the garage door was brown. Loved the "large" sticker on Walt's tshirt, were they trying to say he and Jessie are in it together but that Walt's the big man?
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Maybe your station is different. I didn't see a "WARNING: VIOLENT SCENE" message on mine. I think there are dozens of reasons for everything on this show, and I love the colour assessment above. I think there's a good chance that all your assumptions (Tim) are correct or at least on the right track. This is a well written show start to finish (so far), and with such things, even if something wasn't completely intentional it ends up working with the path because the intuition behind the writing is so spot on. Let's face it, details can mess something up quickly, and, while all details are never 100% decided, intuition helps to make sure that anything important gets a notice and things that might feel off get fixed.
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If you've ever seen the movie Cache, you referenced it during last night's gruesome scene.
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Was I the only one annoyed that AMC preceeded Victor's death with that "WARNING: VIOLENT SCENE" message? Loved the premiere nonetheless, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't lessen the impact.
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Victor failed to protect Gale, therefor he needed to die.
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I think there are a variety of reasons why Gus killed Victor, all rational though.

1. Victor showed his face at a crime scene with witnesses everywhere. Mike asked him about it, and later on, Mike was the one to call Gus, not Victor. However, the show cut to commercials when the phone call started, but it's reasonable to assume Mike told him about it.

2. Victor was out of place trying to cook meth by himself. I was unsure after Walt seemed frustrated when Victor didn't miss a single step in the preparation. However, as noted later, Victor's only experienced enough to follow steps. His knowledge of chemistry didn't even come close to that of Walt or Gale's knowledge. Thus Victor trying to reduce the idea of cooking meth down to following steps was an indirect insult to Gus for going through all this trouble to secure himself a chemist to cook. 3. He was unable to lock down the situation with Gale in the end of season 3. He didn't protect Gale from being tailed by Jesse, etc. So it could have been a message from Gus that failure is not tolerated. And unlike Walt, Victor is expendable, he's just a handyman, he's not even as specialized as Jesse, much less the likes of Mike or Walt.



As for why Jesse stayed in the car. I think he was in mental shock from the whole experience. At the end of the day, there was no point in running anyways.
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Breaking bad is AWESOME!!!!
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I noticed that Mike was a bit neutral during the whole episode. I think he may end up saving Walter at some point, or going to his side. Lets not underestimate this guy, that scene in Half Measures where Mike tells Walt the story of the guy who killed his own wife was one of the best in the entire season. Also the passing respect that Mike and Walt have for one another is one of the high points of the series for me.
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gus killed victor because he was seen at the crimescene
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loved it, this show is phenomena, seriously, best out there
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It was my impression that Gus killed Victor both as a warning to Walt and Jesse to assert control as well as because he was seen by witnesses at the crime scene. I thought the episode was great and was shocked by Gus killing Victor, didn't see that one coming. I'm so glad that it's back.
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@DarrylReese: is that why Gus choose to stare directly at Jesse? To send a message to Mike? Yeah, that makes sense. @Surette: "there was more confidence than fear in his voice." Wow did you misinterpret that scene.
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Mike jumped and raised his gun when Gus cut Victor. This was a HUGE screw up by Mike and Victor and Gus needed them (now just Mike) to fully understand his dismay. This was a message to Mike that Gus will not tolerate any more screw ups. Walt and Jesse already know where they stand with Gus. Those 2 are just biding their time and Walt knows it.
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Oh yeah and Jesse looked to be stunned. Plus, he also looked to be willing to accept the consequences of his actions, whatever they may be.// Great premiere. What an intense freakin' show!!
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1. Victor was seen entering Gail's apt (in front of neighbors) after the murder, and could thus be identified and later tied to Gus.
2. Gus was angry with Victor for (presuming and) making the batch without his permission. It's like Victor was proving a point to Walter without Gus's ok. He should have just waited.
3. He was sending Walter and Jesse a message. Now what that message is remains to be seen, and clearly is open to much interpretation. I think he was furious that he couldn't just kill them (as Walter pointed out) but he still had to show everyone who's in charge, which he did, leaving them with "well get back to work" ....and Gus killed his one of his two main guys, which in of itself sends the message, that he will kill anyone if it's beneficial for his purposes. It's rule by fear.
I think its a little of each, and maybe something else too
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I agree with MikeMuller1: it was obvious to me that Victor was going to be killed. As soon as Mike asked Victor whether he was seen at the scene and Victor admitted a few witnesses saw him (while trying to blow it off like it was nothing), I was like "Aha, Victor's going to die." I thought Gus was going to tell Mike to kill Victor when Mike called Gus on the phone, but when Victor started cooking and Mike hung back, I understood Gus was going to come and do it himself. It made more sense to do it that way, showing Walt and Jesse he's not just a business man and that he's more than willing to kill people who mess up. I really like the way they used and characterized Jesse in this episode -- from being almost catatonic while waiting for Gus to arrive, to confidently facing down Gus as he was killing Victor, to acting fairly cool with everything as he ate in the diner. I thought it was quite awesome that they're now showing Jesse actually "breaking bad" as well (he started out as a drug dealer, so he's on a different spectrum than Walt). I disagree with Tim, however, in that I saw Walt as extremely scared this episode, especially when Gus came and slowly and quietly started suiting up. He started rambling on and on, basically pleading with reasoning and logic as to why he and Jesse shouldn't be killed.
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And yes, there were plenty of better shots than the ketchup one, that's just the one that jumped out because it was funny, and I think that's an important aspect of the show. If I make mention of every moment of technical genius the show has, these articles would be about 50 pages long. And that would cut into the time I need for my Love in the WIld write ups!
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I've since read a few articles with Vince Gilligan, and he says that since Victor was seen at the crime scene, he had to go. Gus may also have been mad that Victor thought he could cook as good as Walt. But one thing Gilligan stresses is that's just what he thinks... it's really open to interpretation.
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Yes, it was awesome! Since it was the first episode of the season I took a big picture approach...
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I had never even heard of Breaking Bad before I read about the upcoming season for on this site. Why am I not surprised that it's AMC producing it? It's AMAZING! I'm now almost at season three after two days and I love it.
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As for the questions. I think Gus killed Victor because he was seen at the crime scene and also failed to protect Gail, but more importantly, as you said, Gus wanted to send Walt a message by way of a pool of blood at his feet. Notice Gus did not utter one word before he slit Victor's throat with Gale's box cutter(I thought it was brilliant how they zoomed in on the box cutter in the opening scene to further foreshadow the foreboding meaning behind the title). For the second question, I do think Jesse was in a state of shock, although I don't believe that was the reason he stayed in the car. He purposely chose to stay knowing that Gus's man would eventually show up to confirm the kill, knowing that he would be held at gunpoint and taken back to the lab to consequently face the possibility of death right beside Walter. The evolution and subsequent transformation of Jesse has been just as comprehensive as Walt, killing Gail was another step in this evolutionary process. Finally, I thought the cut to ketchup was genius in illustrating the symbolic transition of Jesse's character.
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First, two things:



1) Gale and Combo were in no way innocent. One was a meth producer and the other was a dealer. Sorry, as much as I liked Gale as a character he was not innocent.

2) How can you have watched Walt's reaction to Gus killing Victor and say that he's unfazed?



Second, I believe Gus killed Victor because both Gus and Walt (and Gale) see the meth-making as an artform that you have to carefully finesse, while Victor thought it was just a recipe to be followed.
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I found that scene where they showed the bin with the dissolving body to be absolutely chilling. Walt was wiping the container so calmly and so detached from the fact that there was a person in there. Probably the most memorable scene for me after Victor's murder.
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You all have it wrong. Gus killed him because he didn't do his job - which was protecting Gale from being killed. That's why he chose a murder weapon that belonged to Gale, it was to show respect to him.



The one thing I didn't like about this episode: It didn't surprise me, something BB has always been great at doing. I knew from the minute Gus walked in that Victor would be killed. It was all too obvious with the whole "Oh look, he can cook too, OMG we're gonna die" plot.



Seeing Hank like that is tough. Those few minutes were probably the most intense of the entire episode for me.
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Tim, you made a very bold proclamation declaring this show better than everything else on TV. Some disagreed with you, but the majority of us who recognize extraordinary television when we see it, were glad somebody finally put into to words what we had all been thinking for some time. The season 4 premiere of Breaking Bad in my opinion has proven your argument indisputable, this episode was the nearest thing to perfection you will ever see on Television(almost as perfect as Walt's Meth).
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I love this show so much but I'm sorry this was just a bad article. a) there were SO many better shots than the swabbing of ketchup, which was infantile by comparison to some of the lingering eerie tense shots and pans the episode showed us. b) Gus killed the guy not to send a message. Jeez, he's not an idiot. He did it because the guy was seen going into the apartment, and it could be traced back to Gus. c) Walt WAS scared. He was desperate and seemed close to tears at times, but that's what I love about this show. Walter White is still in there, but it's like he has a duel personality that only switches to Heizenberg during these odd moments when he has to do what is needed. It's almost a dissasociative personality disorder he's developing but the important thing is, he's still Walter White and he still feels fear and shame and he still acts like a dork sometimes. The transformation isn't complete yet and this episode showed us that.
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The lab notes, the lab notes, the lab notes(green cover)!!! I see Hank's recovery coming. The DEA is sure to include Hank on this huge clue. I think Gus' expiration date is close!! Either the DEA or Walt will see to it. Setting up Walt as the new boss?? I like it!! I think Mike will see to it that Walt is safe and sound. Jesse is growing up rather quickly and will definitely play a role in Gus' demise. I loved this episode in that it left me not only wanting more, but THINKING!! A rare commodity these days.
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I agree - Victor was not only arrogant in thinking he could cook - but he was also seen at the scene of the crime and could possibly be identified - a chance a man like Gus would never take. And yeah, Jesse was in shock is why he didn't run.
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Great review Tim, but you didn't say much about how awesome the episode was. Was it not awesome??



I think Gus killed Victor to make a point, but I also think he killed him because of his arrogance about matching Walt's formula. Gus sensed the flaw, and if there's one trait Gus does not like in the people he does business with, it's weakness. Victor had a specific purpose in the business, and it wasn't cooking. As soon as he smiled at Gus, I knew Gus was going to kill him.



I think Jesse probably remained in the lot because he was in shock, or maybe on some level he believed he had to be punished for what he did?
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Gus killed Victor because he was witnessed at the crime scene. He also took it as an opportunity to send Walt and Jesse a message. I have a feeling Jesse has a kind of PTSD after the murder. Judging from the sneak peek for next weeks episode, it seems as though he's heading for a downward spiral. All in all, this was a great episode and I'm so glad this show is back!
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I think Gus killed Victor because he found out Victor is an undercover cop/agent, and Gale was a protected informant, notice how pissed he was after he found Gale dead, and then he started kicking things in the lab as Mike looked at him with a confused glance.
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I think Gus did it like you said, a little because of Victor's arrogance and endangering the cook, partly the crime scene, but mostly as a stage to show who's king of the lab
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I agree with Jacoby, it probably has to do with the crime scene. But also, trying to cook his own batch of meth may have appeared as a sign of smugness to Gus. Just look at how Vincent smirks at Gus when he enters the room. Smug bastard had it coming!
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Great Episode
I think Gus killed Vincent because he was connected to Gail's crime scene
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