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Breaking Bad season premiere recap: Death By Box Cutter

Walt and Jesse finally face Gus (and the world’s sharpest pair of scissors)

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Ursula Coyote/AMC

Breaking Bad

TV Show
Current Status:
Off Air
run date:
Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk
Vince Gilligan

For anyone who prefers their meth dramas to be airy and escapist, let this be a warning: things are about to get dark. By the end of Sunday night’s season premiere, “Box Cutter,” Jesse had fired his gun directly into Gale’s face. Blood had sprayed around a meth lab in great, sprinkler-head gusts. And no less than two Kenny Rogers t-shirts had been purchased.

Still brave enough to stick with us? Good. Because this episode was awesome. So let’s start with that gun.

Clearly, Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan is a big believer in Chekhov’s gun; the rule that says a writer shouldn’t put a loaded gun in the first act unless someone’s going to shoot it by the third act. (Or, in this case, that one shouldn’t start an episode with an image of a box cutter unless he plans on eventually ripping out a character’s throat with it—but we’ll get to that later.) So, yes, when Jesse shot at Gale, he killed him—though, considering all the online debate over that topic, you can’t blame Gilligan for toying with our expectations first. When we first see Gale, he’s not only alive, he’s praising Gus, quipping, “I doff my proverbial cap to you, sir!”

Of course, we soon find Gale lying on the ground with a bullet hole through his left eye. The clock on his shelf is flashing 10:13. (Superfans might recognize that number as 10/13, or October 13, a reference to the birthday of Gilligan’s friend and fellow X Files alum Chris Carter.) The message here is clear: Gale’s time is up. Consider our own caps doffed.

It’s fitting that this season begins just like the last one did, by going back in time. During the season finale, a flashback showed us that, long before he was dissolving dealers’ corpses in acid, Walt was a risk-taker in the making. Now, this latest flashback shows Walt taking another step in his transformation from “Mr. Chips to Scarface,” as Gilligan once put it. Long ago, Gus might have told Gale, “I don’t consider [Walt] a professional.” But that bullet hole in Gale’s face should settle that debate forever. Like it or not, Walt’s a professional now.

As for Jesse, we’re not quite sure. It seems he’s having a harder time adjusting to his new role as a murderer. Our first clue? After he shoots Gale, the camera zooms in on Gale’s table, where there’s a copy of Stephen King’s short story collection “Everything’s Eventual.” The title story in that book focuses on the guilty conscience of a man whose job requires him to kill criminals. We’ll bet Jesse can relate.

Not only is Jesse all busted up over murdering an innocent meth cooker, he also knows Gus will soon want payback.  “We’re on the same page,” Jesse tells Walt of Gus over breakfast at Denny’s. And what page is that? “The one that says, if I can’t kill you, you’ll sure as shit wish you were dead.” Yep, everything’s eventual—especially Gus serving up Jesse’s head on a Grand Slam platter.

NEXT: Why did Gus kill Victor?