After the relentless tension of the premiere, which capped an equally tense third season, "Thirty-Eight Snub" was a quieter hour of introspection and a chance for the characters to parse everything that's happened to them, and in some cases plan for whatever the future may bring. It was another good episode, stylishly directed by Michelle MacLaren, brimming with confidence. The wonderful thing about Breaking Bad is how you could condense everything down to around 20 minutes, but the show really lives and breathes with the extra time to make scenes sink in and the atmosphere to take hold.
There was lots of fascinating character beats in this episode, but I particularly enjoyed Jesse's because it's more understandable. He's a kid who's been through a lot and finds solace only when his mind's distracted by friends, music and drugs. The final shot of Jesse alone, after the party finally came to an end, sat in front of a large speaker that's swallowing him with noise, was the perfect was to demonstrate this. But while Jesse seeks escape from the life he's chosen that, ironically, provide the means of that escape, Walt's grown more confident and accepting of the life he's chosen. He's still rather foolish and his "plan" to kill Gus isn't a clever one—especially as Gus appears to have vanished and, according to Mike, the two men will never meet again. Walt's being kept at a distance to cook his meth in the Superlab, and his movements watched outside of work, so the situation is almost hopeless. The only move Walt had was to get Mike on his side, by making him feel as insecure as he does. And despite the fact he has a point, and as an audience we have some hope that Mike's going to leave Gus's payroll, Walt's attempt to recruit Mike utterly failed. After broaching the subject to Mike in a local bar, Walt was beaten for even suggesting the idea of a partnership against Gus. So is Mike fiercely loyal to Gus? Does he just have no faith that Walt's the man to put his trust in? Does he just need more persuading that even Victor's murder didn't provide? Or is there something else happening in Mike's life we don't know about?
Skyler also has a firmer stake in the story these days, which is great to see. Her business brain could make her a valuable asset to Walt once his empire, assumedly, begins to take shape. But getting their hands on that car wash isn't going to be easy, given the bad blood between owner Bogdan (Marius Stan) and ex-employee Walt. Skyler put together a generous $879,0000 offer, but he wants $20,000,000! Can Walt find a way back into his old boss's good books, or will he have to take more disreputable action to get the car wash?
Another fine episode, considering it was giving us the calm after the storm, but plenty to think about as this nascent season develops.
- There's a new guy working in the Superlab called Tyrus (Ray Campbell), and you have to wonder if he'll be in any way helpful to Walt and Jesse in the future, or is he going to be as unhelpful as Victor was. Also, now that Gus is asking for the meth to be weighed twice, it looks like Jesse's siphoning of the drug to sell himself is going to be nigh impossible.
- Nice to see Jesse's ex-girlfriend Andrea back on the show, briefly, although she was more of a plot-device last year than anything else, so I don't blame anyone for having forgotten she existed.
- Lots of creative POV shots used throughout this episode by director Michelle MacLaren, most memorably with the Roomba device vacuuming Jesse's house, and the windscreen of a vehicle going through a car wash. It all helps give Breaking Bad its distinctive look and feel, but I particularly appreciate the wonderful sonics used in the soundtrack. Sometimes it's like the whole world is buzzing with noise from inside an echoing tube, slowly sending the characters crazy. Interestingly, this noise suddenly quietened the moment Walt put his porkpie hat—effectively becoming his alter-ego Heisenberg as he approached Gus's house. Another nod that Walt asserts control and finds confidence only when he's in that guise.