Breaking Bad, Ep. 4.09: “Bug”

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Breaking Bad, Season 4, Episode 9: “Bug”
Written by Moira Walley-Beckett and Thomas Schnauz
Directed by Terry McDonough
Airs Sundays at 10pm ET on AMC

When you were watching Walt’s blood trickle down towards the frame in “Bug”‘s typically striking cold open, was there any doubt in your mind that it was Jesse who’d dealt the blow? Mike’s already gotten his kicks at Walt’s expense, Hank isn’t quite up to the task yet (give him a few weeks), and Gus isn’t really the hands-on sort unless there’s a blade involved.

Despite the fact that the eventual outcome of “Bug” was easy enough to predict – Walt and Jesse’s finally coming to blows is the culmination of tensions that have existed since Walt gave Jesse the order to execute poor Gale, and even before that – “Bug” was notable for its accelerated pace and quick accumulation of little narrative twists, a marked contrast from the leisurely pace of the rest of the season. Much of that was attributable to the increased level of dialogue between Jesse, Mike and Gus. After a cartel sniper – we’re told – picks off one of Gus’s men (in a nicely staged little sequence – emphasis on staged), Jesse demands answers from Mike – who suggests he talk to Gus directly. And so Jesse and Gus finally have the pow-wow Walt has been angling for over the last few episodes – but it doesn’t go the way Walt would like.

Gus is proving to be one of the most elusive villains in pop-culture history. Despite last week’s humanizing extended flashback, his actions and motives are no less inscrutable than before. This week, to what end we still can’t be sure, he plays poor Jesse like a fiddle, discerning whether or not he can cook Walt’s meth through the revelation of his organization’s struggles with the cartel, rather than as some obvious play against Walt. Earlier in the episode, Hus is seen talking to some sort of cartel representative just long enough to reply in the affirmative – but to what, and who? It’s no wonder no one’s been able to poison or otherwise kill off Gus this season; the Gods of TV know he’s simply too valuable to the show.

Less exciting and inscrutable was Skyler’s subplot this week, which brought back dear old “I Fucked” Ted and, by the episode’s end, Wacky Rescue Skyler, who dons a ridiculous outfit in order to save Ted’s insolvent ass via the magic of cleavage and ditzery. It’s nice that Skyler’s past trespasses haven’t just been discarded, I suppose, but to what end is Ted making an appearance now, just when so many other, more interesting narrative threads are heating up? One thing seems certain: if he sticks around for any length of time, Ted seems like a natural casualty.

“Bug” is an exceptionally difficult episode to gauge on its own, as we still have no idea where any of this is headed. (Or, at least, I don’t.) The cartel is still a force of unknown quantity. Gus’s moves are difficult to anticipate. And, further complicating things, Walt is still as uselessly resourceful as ever. He picks up Hank’s habit of bugging cars in order to track Jesse, but it only serves to piss him off and fuel Walt’s richly deserved thrashing. With Walt and Jesse well and “broken up,” it’ll take some serious plot contortion to get them back to being remotely friendly. Though their tentative partnership has driven the last few seasons, even taking their reunion as a given seems foolhardy now.

Simon Howell

  1. tmack says

    It took me awhile and a second viewing to process this episode. one of the best ones this season. Except for the Skyler as I Love Lucy scene, the show was packed with intrigue and well paced narrative development for a change. When it ended, I was somewhat stunned.

    The fight between Walt & Jesse was disturbing. Although they’ve fought before, Jesse has always restrained himself from using his fists on Mr. White. This was a fight between 2 men; Jesse has matured and Walt can’t see that. I felt sorry for both of them.

    Skyler has made a gigantic mistake. While I can see why she did it, I can’t believe she gave Beneke $600,000. Walt hates Ted and when he finds out that the money he’s earned under the threat of death has gone to Skyler’s loverman…well, somebody might die. Ted may get sick from eating a meal of rice-n-beans. Skyler may get an ass whoopin’. Not a good move.

    Now Walt has not one friend in the workplace. Have you ever worked a job like that?

  2. Mario in Philly says

    It seemed that Skyler could easily give Ted the money to wash away his laundered money woes but if she did, then the question would be (from the IRS) where did he get the money. She came as close to the IRS as Walt comes close each week to the DEA. I think this play out again but not sure to what end — but I actually have always thought the IRS would show up at the very end. I can’t predict where Walt and Skyler will be when the show wraps up but if they can survive Gus and escape the DEA then they can also avoid the IRS. (I think!)

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