For a show known for its unbearable tension, I would have to say that this has been somewhat of a timid season so far for Breaking Bad. I do believe that this is intentional though, as this show has a history for the slow burn. This week’s episode was in line with the previous two, setting up a complicated plot that will likely escalate into an amalgamated frenzy. That being said, ‘Open House’ was still a very strong episode.
Walt spends only a few precious moments in front of the camera this week, but these moments are imperative to the forward progress of the show. They also happen to induce the biggest laugh of the season thus far. In the prologue, Walt discovers that a camera system has been installed in the lab. He tests its efficiency and finds that the camera (and whoever is watching its feed) follows his every move.
He produces his requisite steely facade, lifts his right hand, and extends his middle finger towards the camera. It was a funny, albeit serious, moment that got the episode off to a peppy start. It’s also quite ominous, upon reflection, that Gus now has a tab on everything that Walt does.
Meanwhile, Hank’s wife Marie is getting far more screen time than she has in the past. Seemingly avoiding the stress of her life at home, she spends her time at open houses, lying about her life.
She tells the Realtor that she has a husband in NASA, another that she “doesn’t want children”, and third that her son is suffering from an “irreversible heart disorder”. It also seems that Hank’s less-than-model behavior has also driven her towards recidivism, the realtors are discovering missing items from the homes that Marie is visiting. Kleptomania returns!
I am very intrigued as to where they will take this story line. It was introduced in previous seasons, but was never fully fleshed out. I am sure, as the shows’ history would indicate, that this surely play out in season four’s overall arc. I must say though, that giving Marie more screen time was a wise decision. Marie, usually relegated as a background character, had a few tender moments that really conveyed her sense of despair.
Concurrently, Skyler is starting to ‘break’ much like her husband before her. Having been turned down by the car wash in last week’s episode, she utilizes Saul and his crew in a devious yet ingenious plan to dupe the car wash owner and bring him to close on the deal.
Even further, once the plan has come to fruition, Skyler lowers her initial offer and stands firm on her negotiation. It sheds new light on Skyler, not only is she potentially heading into a path of darkness, but she is also unconditionally devoted to her husband. She may not be entirely in love with the man he has become (as they still reside at separate homes), but she is unwilling to leave his side. She almost calls the police when she discovers Walt’s bruised eye, poor soul!
Skyler’s anxiety is further exacerbated while she and Walt celebrate after their car wash purchase. When she discovers that Walt spent over $300 on a bottle of champagne, she reprimands him and informs him that they cannot get away with such purchases at the current time (as they, according to the government are ‘broke’). She still has an influence on Walt, despite their tenuous dynamic. It makes for a very interesting and tense rapport between the two.
Like Walt, Jesse was not a primary focus of this episode. In fact, his arc was a mere continuation of last week’s episode. His despair is growing exponentially, as we can see him on the brink of a serious mental breakdown. He even goes so far as to ask Walt to hang out, and when he is turned down, you can see him stifle a serious bout of sadness. Though not much has happened with Jesse, it really built his character up for the rest of the season.
Finally, and most importantly, Hank got an interesting arc for the season. When a co-worker visits Hank, he presents him with Gale’s lab notebook, asking Hank for his take on what’s written inside. Hank showed apprehension at first, but the episode’s final shot portrayed Hank flipping through the evidence with the same determination and focus that we could attribute to his personality in previous seasons.
It gets Hank back into the game, and will also likely bring Hank to Walt (who is, after all, a brilliant chemist who can help him decipher Gale’s notes). I can’t wait to see how the notebook plays into the rest of the season.
Overall, this was a strong episode that played on Breaking Bad‘s greatest strength, character development. It spent most of its time on secondary characters (Skyler and Marie), allowing us as an audience to accept them into the bigger picture and this week was as riveting as ever. I eagerly anticipate next week’s episode.