Gustavo is such a welcomed and fascinating character (after suffering through the likes of Tuco, Walt has graduated to the big leagues now). He is at once professional and charming as well as frightening and ice cold in his calculations. This week's flashback took us to two times Gus and the never-dying Hector met in the past, and fueled our understanding of both sides of Gus. On the one hand, we see him young and nervous in Mexico with a man, Max his partner, with whom he is as close as a brother (Hector comments, "Dark meat? White meat? Don't look like brothers to me." Later Max confirms that the two only "feel" like brothers). Seeing Max's sudden murder by Hector and Gus' emotional reaction to it reveals to us many things. For one, Gus has transformed greatly from the man we meet by the pool. Two, Gus has a long grudge history with the Mexican cartel - I imagine he likely hunted down and killed every person there that day, Kill Bill style (saving Hector for special torment). Additionally, it prompted Gus' immigration to the United States whereupon he set up his own cartel, and continued the tradition of paying for the education of gifted chemists whom he could trust to run his meth labs. Gale was one of these chemists, which we find out through Gus' interrogation. Even though Gus warped certain edges and facts of their partnership, we learned a lot about Gus' "program." It also illustrates just how far out of his comfort zone he had to feel taking Walt in - Walt, an unknown; Walt, a volatile personality. Do I now believe that Gus truly did seek a fruitful partnership with Walt in a way like he had with Max? I do. I remember back when we first met Gus; he and Walt seemed like odd mirror images of each other - these balding, unassuming older men with glasses who wanted to remain cooly professional. Jesse was the first kink in this arrangement, but Walt and Gus both in turn retaliated against one another in ways that lead to their ultimate break and continued uneasy alliance. It also makes sense, however, that Gus would listen to Walt and spare Jesse — did it harken back to his partnership with Max? In the preview for next week we see Jesse screaming that "if you're going to kill Mr. White, you're going to have to kill me!" It surprised me a bit, given what a complete asshole Walt has been to Jesse, even moreso of late. Jesse also seemed to have turned towards Gus and Mike's side, particularly when we discovered that Jesse did have a meeting with them that night despite telling Walt otherwise. Is Jesse's house bugged, or did the incident earlier that afternoon cause Gus to want to distance himself from both of them? At the end of the day, Walt and Jesse do need each other (this season showed how much Walt, in particular, needs Jesse). That bond of partnership has been a driving force of this series in many different incarnations, and the way it wraps up with Gus and his past has proved riveting storytelling.
I've spent almost all of my word count on Gus, and how could I not? Yet every moment of this episode deserves it's own paragraph. From the big moments (Hank forcing Walt to put a tracker on Gus' car which, by the way, Walt handled particularly well despite looking guilty as all hell) to Saul delivering weekly checks to Andrea like Ed McMahon, which Jesse attempts to remove himself from emotionally, "Hermanos" was, for me, one of the best episodes of the series to date. There was no dead weight. Even Skyler's short scene of stuffing the cash in vacuum-sealed bags of clothing (that eventually end up under the floorboards - Walt's old stomping grounds!) showed, once again, her never-ending resourcefulness. I often tell people who have never seen the show that "Breaking Bad" is like "Weeds," but believable (it really doesn't deserve that comparison, but it's a useful launching point). The thing is, the Whites are not normal. Walt is probably something very close to genius, and despite his overwhelming arrogance and toxic personality of late (cue that scene from the hospital where Walt robs a fellow patient of his right to feel confused and upset over his cancer), his quick wits have gotten him out of more scrapes than I can count. Not to mention how his encyclopedic knowledge of chemistry and related sciences have also saved him, and Jesse, on more than one occasion. Skyler, too, is an exceptional woman with a very shrewd mine that is tempered, unlike Walt's, with great compassion and sensibility. No, the Whites aren't normal. If they were, they'd all be dead long ago. But though they may be extraordinary individuals, their living situation is one we can understand … a lot better than being forced into indentured servitude to a Chilean nationalist, anyway. And Skyler stuffing that money reconnects us to a place we can comprehend, and makes up fearfully empathize with an otherwise unfathomable scenario, much like seeing Gus wail in sorrow over Max gives us a better understanding of the depths to the cold mastermind man we know today.
Next Week: Hanks finds the laundromat, Gus asks someone for help, and Jesse stands up for Walt.
Musings and Miscellanea:
— The red light of the camera was not turned on, right? No one was listening or recording Walt's speech in the lab, did they? RUH-ROH!
— "Miss Daisy with binoculars" - Hank according to Mike.
— Apologies for a statement I made last week: there are more episodes remaining than I thought! (or had read) - about 50% more, in fact (doh!)
— The cartel boss says of Gus "I know who you are" when he spares his life. Gus wants to be sure his records from Chile are never found … I can't wait to find out that reveal!
— Math class with Mr. Pinkman: + 1 douchebag - 1 douchebag = 0 douchebags!
— Saul's conversation with Brock had me rolling. Starting out with the reminiscences of seesaws, story time and chasing girls with a stick to Saul's romantic confessions from the fifth grade when his crush moved away and it was not meant to be. *slayed*
— I need to look at the SkyMall catalog more closely - a car tracker for a mere $289? A bargain! (I first typed that as "cat tracker" - I don't doubt that have that available, too!)
— Mike sitting in the car next to Walt reading the paper was fantastic.
— "This is what comes of blood for blood, Hector" - Gus. I'm sure there are more Gus and Hector flashback to come. I'm on Team Gus, of course.
— "Never give up control. Live life on your own terms." - Walt. Yeah that's worked out really well, hasn't it ...
— Credit should be given to Hank in this recap, too. He's a smart and resourceful man, even though he often plays the crude dunce. He's good police, too - going after Gus is dangerous, but he truly believes him to be guilty (and he doesn't even know how much he's right!)
— OMG was Marie not wearing purple last night?!
— Jesse's gliterrati shirt almost gave me a seizure. Yikes!
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