BREAKING BAD 4.06 ‘Cornered’

The cartel makes another move on Gus' empire as Jesse gets deeper in Mike's world and Walt's family life starts to unravel.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Cornered"

Writer: Gennifer Hutchison

Director: Michael Slovis

Previously on "Breaking Bad":

After the sudden disappearance of Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Walter White (Bryan Cranston) left a frantic message for his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) professing his love for her as he raced to confront his boss, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) about Jesse's fate. To Walt's surprise, he received a call from Mike (Jonathan Banks) informing him that Jesse was with him on a drive; which Jesse confirmed. On a long run with Mike to pick up Gus' payments at different locations, Jesse came to see himself as Mike's backup and he even thwarted a robbery attempt; seemingly earning Mike's respect in the process.

Later, Mike conferred with Gus and said that his plan worked and Jesse thought he was a hero to the organization. Meanwhile, Walt was distracted by Jesse's unknown fate while closing the car wash deal with Skyler. She heard his message and assumed it was only meant as a declaration of love. After taking Walt back to her bed, she decided that he was moving back into the house within a few days. At dinner with  Hank (Dean Norris) and Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt), Walt got drunk and listened to Hank sing the praises of Gale; who he assumed was the brilliant Heisenberg that he had chased for so many years.

In his drunken hubris, Walt stated his belief that Gale was just imitating a real genius behind the formula and that the real Heisenberg was still out there. This had the unintended affect of re-energizing Hank and giving him a renewed drive to take down Hank's alter ego once and for all.

Story:

In a raid that mirrors the one that Mike survived a few episodes ago, two of Gus' men are heavily armed in a Pollos Hermanos truck. They hear the truck get forced off the road and their driver killed by Spanish speaking mean from the cartel. But instead of facing the ambush within, they use the truck's exhaust fumes to overcome the men inside and calmly wait for them to die before retrieving the hidden meth within the truck. At the White residence, Skyler constantly replays Walt's desperate message on the answering machine and it seems to dawn on her that he meant them as his last words.

Skyler confronts Walt about what he said the night before and she deduces that Gale's murder was tied to his drug trafficking. She states her belief that Walt subconsciously wants Hank to catch him; which he mercilessly mocks. She reiterates his worry that he's in danger, but Walt's hubris overtakes him again and he tells Skyler that he is the most important man in the local meth business and that he is far more dangerous than she realizes. Skyler is shaken by Walt's words and when he emerges from the shower to better explain himself, but she and their infant daughter are gone. 

With his wife MIA, Walt meets with his former boss, Bogdan (Marius Stan) to formally assume ownership of the car wash. Bogdan gives Walt some good advice about being the boss and running the business, but he also casually insults both Walt and Skyler. When Bogdan tries to leave with the framed "first dollar," Walt insists that it belongs to him now and he uses it to buy a soda moments after Bogdan leaves. Elsewhere, Mike and Jesse sit a diner while Jesse deals with withdrawal symptoms. Mike even seems sympathetic towards him and offers some of his food to him. But when Gus calls Mike with an assignment, Mike tells him that he doesn't need any help.

The next day, Walt breaks it to his son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) that he isn't moving back in with the family, but Walt Jr. uses his real disappointment to get his dad to finally buy him an impressive Dodge Charger. At the drug lab, Walt is surprised that Jesse actually showed up to work and he ushers his partner away from the cameras to get up to speed on why Gus is giving Jesse important assignments like backing up Mike. Walt correctly guesses that the robbery attempt was a set up to make Jesse look good, but Walt thinks that it's all about him; which alienates Jesse.

Jesse is soon called out for another assignment with Mike, leaving Walt alone to clean up the drug lab. He bribes three non-English speaking women from the factory next door to clean the lab. But Walt is dismayed when Gus has the women immediately sent back to Honduras for seeing the lab. Meanwhile, Jesse and Mike are on a stakeout of an apartment whose inhabitants may be dealing with the stolen blue meth from the top of the episode. Jesse takes a risky and direct approach to get inside the apartment, but Mike's timely arrival helps Jesse get the drop on the violent man within. Mike also notes a message written in Spanish meant for Gus that was left on the stolen Pollos Hermanos bucket.

At the four corners monument, Skyler seems to contemplate fleeing her husband for good in another state, but she reconsiders and returns to New Mexico. At a diner, Gus interrupts Mike and Jesse's meal to get a private update from Mike. The message from the cartel was an invitation to talk, so Gus agrees to hear them out. As he leaves, Jesse asks Gus why he was chosen to work with Mike. Gus replies simply that he likes to think that he can see potential in people. At the White residence, Skyler returns with her daughter and reacts to Walt Jr.'s new car.

Walt attempts to do some damage control with Skyler by saying that he overstated the extent of his activities and he assures her that the family is safe. She berates him for spending so much on Walt Jr.'s car because it will damage their cover story. She insists that the car be returned the next day and Walt warns her that Walt Jr. will blame her. But she doesn't back down and Skyler tells Walt that she is protecting their family from Walt's actions.

Breakdown:

It's amazing how smart Walt is, but his growing arrogance is equally amazing. The comment that Walt made at Hank's house turns out to be just the tip of that proverbial iceberg. When he goes off on Skyler and relates how important he is to the local meth business and how dangerous he is… he really means that! To a certain extent it's true, but his embellishments actually scare her rather than impress her into silence. Walt also works out immediately that Gus was behind the staged robbery to snap Jesse out of his stupor and gain his loyalty in the process. Walt's only mistake is that he thinks that it was only about him and it's his almost narcissistic insistence that it was aimed at him that drives a wedge between himself and Jesse.

The thing is, Walt is probably correct about Gus' intentions to drive him and Jesse apart, but no one is doing more damage to that relationship that Walt himself. Even his family, whom Walt really loves is getting further away from him because he can't seem to hold his tongue when he needs to. Walt's only real moment of humanity this week came when he tried to take the brunt of Gus' wraith towards the three women who cleaned the drug lab. Gus' man made it clear that he did blame Walt and it didn't help that Walt essentially mocked whoever was watching the security cameras while the women were cleaning.

Walt also had the super dick move of the week, when he denied Bodgan his framed first dollar and immediately used it to buy a soda. It was a hilarious moment that was built up well and it further illustrated what a jerk Walter has become. Bodgan was no saint and he couldn't resist throwing digs at Walt and his wife in-between some solid advice about running the business. But Walt and Skyler essentially tricked him into selling his business; which far exceeds any insults he's thrown their way. We still root for the Whites, but Bodgan is still their victim in this chain of events.

Walt Jr.'s willingness to allow his dad to buy him off with a car showed that he's got a little bit of Walt's practical immorality in him as well. Walt Jr. still doesn't know where the money is really coming from, but he doesn't see his father's "illegal gambling" as a big problem nor does he understand why Skyler is still giving him a hard time over it. It's understandable that Walt Jr. would side with his father given what little he knows, the question is would he still be so supportive if he was aware of the full range of Walt's activities? I'm inclined to think that he would be after some initial reservations.

The newly sober Jesse has been a lot more entertaining as he attempts to prove worthy of Gus and Mike's apparent trust. Mike in particular seems to be going out of his way to make Jesse comfortable in his new role, even if Jesse is still way too impatient for some of what he is asked to do. Jesse may know meth heads, but he wasn't quite ready for a shotgun being held to his face during an incredibly tense standoff with the older small time dealer. That guy and the kid Jesse tricked into digging a ditch were almost reflections of Jesse's own potential future as an addict. And for once, Jesse may have actually taken that away from the experience.

Anna Gunn did a great job playing up Skyler's sudden fear of Walt and her later resolute anger against him for threatening their cover story. She's more mixed up in his criminal endeavors than she would care to admit and she didn't take it well when Walt gave her a glimpse of who he really is. It does make me wonder if Walt even wants to move back in with his family, given the way that he's pushed her away. There's no question that he loves her, but Skyler is very controlling. If the Whites lived together again it would interfere with the power that he feels from his job. That's also why Gus' tactics against him are working so well. Walt is losing the power he once had in the drug lab and he seems to be increasingly helpless to the whims of Gus.

The opening sequence of the episode was a nice call back to Mike's similar scene a few episodes ago. And the cartel seems to have learned from that experience and adjusted their methods accordingly. The slow burn on that story has been very intriguing, but I have to question what the cops are making of these armed robberies of Pollos Hermanos trucks and now three dead bodies left behind in the last one. There should definitely be some kind of blow back from that.

Either way, this was another strong and compelling episode. There's a reason that "Breaking Bad" is called one the best shows on TV. It lives up to the hype.

Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.