The Breaking Bad season four premiere, Box Cutter was a gripping and frightening return to the world of chemistry teacher-turned-drug-manufacturer Walter White. In the three previous seasons we saw Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his recovering addict partner-in-crime, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), learn all about the dangers that come with making it big in the drug enterprise. Breaking Bad season four picks up where last season’s nerve-racking cliffhanger left us and heightens things to a whole new level of suspense and terror.

Last season left off with Jesse standing at the rival chemist Gale’s doorstep with his gun pointed at Gale’s face. In the first moment of the episode, we see that Jesse certainly did blow Gale’s brains out. It was going to be either Gale or Walt’s brains and Jesse made the decision himself. Now, Walt and Jesse are locked in the meth lab, supervised by their employer’s hit man and associate, confronting a seemingly evident death upon the arrival of their cold, cruel, and composed employer Gus (Giancarlo Esposito).

It’s a terrifying waiting game to see how Gus will react. There are very few words spoken throughout the scene in the meth lab but words are frequently needless in this show; the characters’ faces convey everything far better than words could. The show has developed such poise and a rare style of direction that it hardly needs its characters to speak, and the outcome is simply captivating.

In the meantime, we get a glimpse of how Walt's decisions have affected those around him. Walt’s wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) notices Walt’s car in the driveway and immediately suspects something is wrong. Sneakily, she moves his car a couple blocks away to avoid any questions and embarks on her own search for Walt. Skyler proves to be a great liar as she manipulates like a pro in order to get her way. Like Walt, she has also become hardened and a bit immoral. She even makes a visit to their corrupt lawyer, Saul, who is so paranoid and worried for his life, he refuses to discuss anything with her.


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While Skyler searches for Walt, her sister Marie (Betsy Brandt) desperately continues to care for her husband, DEA agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), who was shot on the job and almost paralyzed from the waist down. Marie tries to keep the faith while Hank appears to have lost all hope. Hank and Marie have long been the show’s most lackluster, unlikable characters. Marie has always been intrusive, bossy, irritating, and speaks as if she is preaching despite her slight shoplifting problem.

Hank started out as a kind of one-trick pony. He was a bigheaded, power hungry DEA agent up until his accident. Now, he has been stripped of his masculinity and is so disheartened he doesn’t seem interested in his wife’s efforts to help him. If he ever uncovers the truth about Walt, Hank’s anguish and wrath will make him the most dangerous character on the show and all hell will break loose. Throughout the season, this possibility will be always be looming on the horizon. The premiere had hints of foreshadowing about the evolution of these characters as individuals and what might happen to their marriage

The premiere also gave us one particular scene that stands as the most gruesome moment on Breaking Bad thus far. Gus finally appears, donning a protective suit, and a box cutter in his hand. There is moment of total fear and silence as Gus stares at each of them: Walt, Jesse, his hit men, and his associate Victor who was seen at Gale’s crime scene. Abruptly, he slits the throat of his most loyal associate Victor; not merely slitting it but prying the neck open so the wound would gush blood. Gus simply stands there emotionless, staring at his captives, the box cutter still tearing up the man’s throat.

With Victor dead, Walt breaks the silence and pleads for survival in a purely Heisenberg fashion. He focuses solely on the job at hand: someone has to cook. He says Jesse should be kept alive because Walt would not work without him, not because Jesse's life has any value. Gus needs Walt because Walt is the only man experienced enough to cook the product.

Gus utters his first words in the entire episode; five words before he walks away – “Cook, get back to work.” The brutal killing emphasized his commitment to his own goals and ideals, and his total disregard for trifling emotions. With his underground lab, Gus is the most professional drug dealer around and serves only the best product. While he needs Walt, Gus’s excessive display of violence was a warning for Walt and anyone who dares to step out of line.

This season will surely be the most thrilling yet. All of the characters seem to be on a slow descent into Hell. Walt is in danger, as always, but now he is a dangerous force to be reckoned with, and neither Walt nor Jesse has anything left to lose. There is still the issue of the folder with the lab notes for cooking, left at Gale’s apartment. This is Walt’s expert recipe and method and someone is going to get their hands on it; wherever it does end up, it will surely be a disaster. This is the most astounding season premiere we have seen in awhile.


  • Sydney Ramsden
    Sydney Ramsden on

    I've always been meaning to watch this show. I think i'll have to start now 🙂

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