The pressure is still on everyone. Walter has the threat of being murdered by his boss. Gus is caught between the cartel and (perhaps unknown to him) the DEA. Skyler has her work cut out getting the money laundered while keeping her family beyond suspicion. Jesse's loyalties are divided. Hank still has a score to settle with Heisenberg.
These problems have all been held over from the previous episode, restated without much development. This story feels like a placeholder, except for a couple spots of slight forward momentum.
One such spot is Walter plotting with Jesse to kill Gus. There is now a tiny poison pill in Jesse's cigarette pack; this is Chekhov's gun in Act I, and we'll see it used eventually, just not now. And we can't be sure on whom. Jesse did have the opportunity to kill Gus, and let it slide. And how seriously can we take Walt & Jesse's plot, anyway? What happens once Gus is gone? Like Satan, it's unlikely that Walter has a plan once the order is overthrown. For this reason, I can't seriously consider that this plot of theirs will come to fruition.
Another development is Gus's falling stock with the cartel. He anticipates a high-level meeting, only to find that a single, low-level operative shows up to deliver an ultimatum, with no negotiation. It can be assumed that both sides know that Gus and the cartel are now in open conflict, no matter what was said in the meeting. Gus is not respected, and he can't possibly find that tolerable. Worse, Gus's talent for motivation -- making someone believe that doing his bidding is the best possible outcome by telling them exactly what they want to hear-- has been rendered useless in this circumstance.
On the other side, Hank does his homework and legwork, and definitively links Gale Boetticher to Gustavo Fring. Again, just a nudge forward. But there are two interesting aspects. Hank reveals his evidence to Gomie and the DEA chief ... and I still think one, or both, of them knew about The Cousins' assassination attempt last season; at least one of them is crooked. And Hank keeps chirping about how his recovery is due to "clean living and vitamin pills" ... I'll make a prediction here that "vitamin pills" means painkillers, and Hank is an addict.
Jesse is stuck in his guilt over murdering Gale, and, like a guilty man, wonders aloud why nothing has happened to him for his crime. With the threat of being murdered by Gus evaporating (it seems), the lack of retribution on Jesse has thrown him into a moral tailspin (just slightly different from his fatalistic tailspin when he thought he'd be bumped off). Like his filthy living room, Jesse is whitewashing his guilty past.
Oh, and he has a gun now, sometimes, for real. The gunslinger life that appeals to him in his video games and simultaneously plagues him with guilt in his real life is becoming a reality.
The performances this week were high-calibre as always, especially Aaron Paul's. Still beautifully shot, still smartly scripted. But after weeks of having the story inch forward, this quarter-inch of progress is just slightly frustrating. I know, I know, we'll get those inches back soon, and that'll be a perfect-10 episode. But that upcoming high point comes at the expense of this episode, which justrounds up to an 8.