BREAKING BAD Recap: “Hermanos”

     September 5, 2011

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We’re getting into the tail-end of AMC’s Breaking Bad, and last week, things were really starting to heat up.  We learned that Hank had this whole Gus-Gale-Heisenberg connection pretty much nailed down (in the bravura monologue that closed last week’s episode).  We discovered that Jesse was immediately willing to take out Gus (with a little vial of poison) the first chance gets.  We learned that Walter’s journey over to the dark side is far from over (see also:  Walt blowing up a Mustang just ’cause).  And so, headed into this week’s episode, we were ready for the simmer to become a boil.  Did it?  Find out after the jump, my fellow Breaking Bad enthusiasts…

First of all, an apology to our frequent Breaking Bad recap readers:  couldn’t get this one up until this morning– didn’t even get to watch last night’s episode until this morning– so we apologize for your weekly read being a little later than normal.  Were you able to sleep last night?  Yes, of course you were, but there was much crying before you drifted into unconsciousness, wasn’t there?  You big babies.

Anyway!  Last night’s episode was solid– and provided some very interesting backstory into Gus (revealing not only his history with the Cartel, but also why his chicken joint is called “Los Pollos Hermanos”, despite having only one “hermano” at the helm)(did anyone else read that last sentence in Gob Bluth’s voice?)– but was it as good as last week’s?  I submit to you that it was not.  Not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination, but I came away from this week’s installment feeling slightly less enthused than I did the week before.  Of course, the highly-emotional and unstable commenters among you will take me to task for daring to suggest that an episode of Breaking Bad didn’t cause me to orgasm all over the living room, but I beg you to remain calm:  we all still love Breaking Bad, and nothing the bad man with the keyboard is saying will take away any of your appreciation for the show.

“Hermanos” (Gob named the episode, too) took us deeper into the mind of Gus Fring, a character that’s slowly becoming a favorite for many Breaking Bad viewers.  Giancarlo Esposito’s always been awesome in the role, but his limited screentime– particularly after that “Holy Shit!” season premiere, where we learned much about Gus, indeed– has meant that Gus’ character has remained a bit of a cipher:  we know he’s crafty, we know he’s well-connected, and we know he’s smart, but what else do we know?

Early on in this week’s episode, Gus was brought in to DEA headquarters to explain why his fingerprints might have been found in a dead man’s apartment.  This scene featured an embarrassment of riches:  we got to see Gus-under-pressure, perilously close to being caught by Hank and his DEA cohorts;  we got to see Hank take the upper hand when he revealed that he hadn’t been able to find any record of a Gustavo Fring having lived in Chile, reportedly Gus’ country of origin;  we got to see Esposito charming the shit out of the DEA agents, charming all of us in the process.  If seated across Gus Fring during this conversation, you probably would’ve bought what he was selling right along with Hank’s boss:  Esposito’s Gus is a charismatic, cool, calm, and collected dude.

All that said, though, we still know that Gus is freaking out about the DEA being this close to him.  After all these years, they’ve finally found a couple cracks in his operation, and Gus knows that drastic measures are going to have to be taken to keep himself safe.  At two points in last night’s episode, Gus went to visit with the old, bell-ringing, wheelchair-bound Cartel head that had two bald Mexicans hanging around Walt’s house with an axe last season.  During the first visit, it was clear that Gus has some personal history with the dude, but during the second visit, we got a fullblown flashback explaining the ties between these two criminals:  turns out that, years ago, Gus’ brother was killed by Cap’n Wheelchair after inadvertently pissing off the then-head of the Cartel.  We gather that Gus has been harboring a grudge ever since, and that he’s all too happy to rub Cap’n Wheelchair’s immobility in his face.

This episode focused on Gus more than any episode before it ever has, and for that reason, I was very happy with last night’s episode.  But after last week’s episode, I confess that I was hoping for things to get a little more explosive this week.  We’re in the final stretch of Breaking Bad’s fourth season (can you believe how quickly this has gone by?), which means that Gilligan and company have just a few more hours to get the players in place for the show’s fifth– and, more importantly, final– season.  With one notable exception, the majority of this week’s B- and C-plotlines featured more of Gilligan’s player-placing.

Here’s a few other notable things that happened during last night’s episode:  Jesse and “Better Call” Saul Goodman visited Jesse’s ex, handing over an envelope full of cash to pay her rent (Saul urged Jesse to do it himself);  Skylar continues to struggle with the amount of money that Walt’s pulling in, shoving it in vacuum-sealed laundry bags and hanging it in the closet….only to have the weight of the money break the closet’s support rod;  Hank and his DEA guys talk about Gus’ guilt-or-innocence, and it turned out that Hank’s still the only guy that thinks Gus Fring might be an evil criminal mastermind.  Amongst all of these pieces of the puzzle being moved around, though, was one very tense scene that felt a lot like “classic Breaking Bad”.

This, of course, was the scene featuring Hank and Walt outside Los Pollos Hermanos.  After telling Walt that he was taking him to a rock convention (excuse me, a “Gem and Stone Convention”), Hank revealed that he’d been lying– he didn’t want to reveal his plan in front of Marie– and that the two were actually going to Gus’ restaurant.  Upon arriving, Hank explained that he’s certain that Gus is involved in the ABQ meth trade, and further explained that he wanted Walt to do him a favor:  walk on over to Gus’ car and affix this tracking device inside his wheel well.  As you might expect, this caused Walt no small amount of consternation, but things took a turn for the worse when Mike showed up in the parking lot just as Walt was about to exit the car.

After a few moments of silent deliberation, Walt decides to go through with it, heading inside after appearing to play the tracking device on Gus’ car.  Inside, he meets up with Gus, only to realize that Gus was– as per usual– two steps ahead of everyone else:  Gus tells Walt to “do it”, smiles stiffly, and then tells him to get the hell out of there.  Walt goes back outside, puts the tracking device on Gus’ car, and the mission’s complete.  Hank is, of course, oblivious to all this, and is just happy that he now has a way to track Gus (but, really, he doesn’t:  since Gus is in on the entire thing, he knows to slap the tracking device on a newspaper machine outside Los Pollos Hermanos whenever he leaves).

And slap-the-tracking-device-on-a-newspaper-machine Gus did, right there at the end of the episode.  Gus pulls off the switcheroo in order to go see Cap’n Wheelchair, and upon meeting him, the show’s final scene– featuring the death of Gus’ brother years before– played out.  And so, the second-half of this week’s Breaking Bad was pretty tense all the way around, but it took a little while to build up to that head of steam.  While I wasn’t disappointed with this week’s installment, I certainly wished for more…I’m not sure.  Action?  Revenge?  Plot twists?  With things this close to the end of the season, my Spidey sense is tingling:  Gilligan and company have always rolled out their biggest surprises during the final third of a season, and I’ve been given every reason to believe that the weeks ahead will feature some game-changing shenanigans.  I wanted some of those shenanigans to arrive this week, but it appears that we’ll have to wait just a bit longer.

But what did you guys think?  Excellent?  Better than last week, worse?  Wanna update your bets on who’ll survive season four, and who might be around when season five begins?  Finding it hard to believe that season four’s already almost over?  We wanna hear about it, so hit the comments section below, folks.  Oh, and by the way:  after much thought (read: after thinking about it for about two-point-one seconds), we’ve decided to abandon the letter-grade on Breaking Bad recaps.  The show’s an “A” overall, so let’s just assume that– until we say otherwise– that grade stands.  Deal?  Good.  See ya next week, folks!

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