Monday, February 4, 2013

Meth Monday #18: "Box Cutter" (4.01)

Hello Readers Mine, and welcome to another edition of Meth Monday. This week I'll be looking at the opening episode of Season 4, "Box Cutter," where Gus delivers a very pointed message to Walt and Jesse.

As I was working on the guide to this episode for Wanna Cook? The Unofficial Companion Guide to Breaking Bad yesterday, I realized that what strikes me most about the entire thing, and that still has the power to send shivers down my spine, is Giancarlo Esposito's incredible stillness and silence as Gus goes about slaughtering Victor. From the moment he enters the lab where Mike and Victor have Walt and Jesse under guard, Gus says nothing. He finds Gale's box cutter (which we saw int he cold open before the credits and then calmly, meticulously changes his clothes for one of the orange hazmat suits Jesse and Walt cook in.

Walt, of course, is babbling on with increasing desperation, justifying his actions, up to and including telling Gus that he would shoot Gale again in similar circumstances, and utterly ignoring the fact that he didn't shoot Gale to begin with. Gus says nothing, Mike is looking progressively nervous, Jesse seems to still be stunned by his actions at the end of Season 3, and Victor is playing cock-of-the-walk, following Walt's recipe for the cook without any difficulty, proving that Walt may not be as vital a part of Gus' kingdom as he thinks he is.

And then all hell breaks loose. Without flinching, without any real emotional expression at all, calmly, matter of factly, and above all silently and perfectly controlled, Gus cuts Victor's throat. More than that, he holds him up and pulls back his head to that his blood will splatter Walt and Jesse, and so that they can see what he is doing - what he is willing to do. Victor was a long time, highly valued, trusted member of Gus's organization. But he screwed up and let himself be seen at the scene of Gale's murder, and thereby has possibly left a trail straight back to Gus. That can't be allowed. So, despite Victor's position, Gus' trust in him, Mike's reliance in him, and even Victor's ability to duplicate Walt's cook, Gus kills him.

The point is that Gus is willing to do anything, sacrifice anyone to achieve his goals and protect his business. Without saying a single word, Gus demonstrates to Walt and Jesse both that they are only momentarily useful, and that he will not hesitate to do to them what he has just done to Victor. Indeed, he'll probably do it even more easily - after all, Walt and Jesse are many things, but they're not anywhere near the trusted employee Victor was. Then, silently, carefully, meticulously, Gus removes the hazmat suit, washes his face and glasses, and very carefully put his shirt, tie, and coat back on. Walt, Jesse, and Mike are too damn stunned to move, and, finally, as he is about to leave, Gus pauses on the catwalk above the three men below and says the only line he has in the entire episode: "Well? Get back to work."

Brilliant. Terrifying. And more menacing than any amount of red-faced screaming of threats could ever be. Gus silence is terrible, and his will is a palpable force in the room. Just an astonishingly good sequence, and made even more so by the fact that it takes place over 28 minutes into the episode, when the viewer is already squirming in anticipation of what's gonna happen to Walt and Jesse.

God I love this show!

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