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.
... 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.
... 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