Breaking Bad: Box Cutter   Rewatch 
November 28, 2014 5:59 PM - Season 4, Episode 1 - Subscribe

Walt and Jesse face the deadly consequences of their actions. Skyler deals with a puzzling disappearance, as Marie struggles to help Hank with his recovery.

Alan Sepinwall, HitFix:
When a review describes a movie or TV show as "manipulative," it's almost always with a negative connotation. But most fiction is manipulative in some way. It's just a question of whether something was bad and manipulative (it made you feel emotions it hadn't earned, or you could tell what emotions it wanted you to feel, even though you didn't feel them) or good and manipulative.

"Breaking Bad" is constantly manipulative. Think about the reaction you had when Hank got the call that the Cousins would be approaching him within a minute, or when Walt stood and watched Jane choke to death in a manner he could have easily prevented, or when a tearful Jesse stood in Gale's doorway at the end of last season and prepared to commit his first murder. Those are reactions that Vince Gilligan and company wanted you to have and worked very hard to make you have. But they're also reactions the show earned through hard work, through execution, and through the patience to let us understand these characters well enough to believe what they're doing in these moments.
Matt Zoller Seitz, Salon:
If you'd watched the previous three seasons, you couldn't help thinking about Walt and Jesse’s moral degeneration over time. They've gone from small-potatoes hustlers on the fringe to major players. It's impossible to make that trip without becoming desensitized to violence, and increasingly willing to rationalize the most horrific crimes.

If Walt and Jesse are horrible human beings, then what does that make us, the loyal viewers? Complicit. They’re our stand-ins. They are capable of almost anything, and there is almost nothing we won't watch them do. It’s the line about how to cook a frog in a pan of water; the show's writers turned up the heat so gradually that it isn't until season two or three that you looked down at your arm and thought, "Hey, are those blisters?"
"Well? Get back to work."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle (6 comments total)
It's heartbreaking here to watch Gale stump for Walt as a partner in the meth lab.

I still am not clear on why Gus killed Victor. I get that it's a powerful way of intimidating Walt and Jesse, but there must have been other ways of doing that without murdering anyone. Was it because people saw Victor at the crime scene?
posted by johnofjack at 1:50 PM on November 29, 2014

A little of both, I think. Also, Victor's hubris in believing that he can take over the role of cook: "like following a recipe." Maybe that too is stepping out of line that Gus won't tolerate.

More great background work from Jonathan Banks in this one. His reaction when Gus slits Victor's throat is pure surprise and shock; instinctively drawing his gun, then as rational thought returns holstering it again.

That reaction suggests that this is an aspect of Gus that Mike hasn't seen before: usually Gus uses Mike to do the dirty work for him. But this is Gus killing as theater, as an expression of dominance; we see later this series that this was something he learned from Don Eladio and Hector Salamanca.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 2:45 PM on November 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah I think Victor messed up so had to die, and Gus decided to use that as a lesson. It also establishes that he really isn't to be trifled with: not only is he extremely smart, he is also very, very deadly.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:10 AM on December 1, 2014

Researching the next post, I found this (spoiler-free) Vince Gilligan interview at Grantland which speaks a little to the justification for killing Victor:
The audience has every bit as valid an opinion as I do, but for what it’s worth, I think what happened was that Victor made two mistakes: He let himself get seen at the house, and we can tell from the early going that that seems to worry Mike. The other thing is, it’s a bit of an affront to Gus that Victor added insult to injury by thinking he could cook Walt’s formula. This is a guy, we learned from the teaser, who wants the best. He doesn’t want just some well-intentioned schmo who’s not a chemist cooking the formula.
As an aside: Gilligan seems fond of that "its for the audience to decide for themselves" formulation of authorial intent.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 7:31 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

On rewatch: it struck me watching this and the previous episodes that had things gone as Gus had planned, Victor probably would have become the lab assistant to Gale.

Also on rewatch: the lighting in this episode is incredible. Usually the lab is lit as starkly bright and industrial; in this episode it becomes dark and shadowy, all pools of light with red and blue casts thrown over the characters
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:11 PM on January 14, 2018 [1 favorite]

I don't think it is impossible that Gus's decision to kill Viktor was not influenced by Walt's monologue as get got changed - for sure he was going to kill somebody for what happened - but he may not have considered who. Walt very eloquently makes the point the merely knowing how to follow the recipe is not the same as knowing how to write the recipe - Viktor may be able to operate the lab fine for a while - but when something goes wrong or something needs adapting; he will be lost. Gus could also have killed Jessie - and we see him shoot a particularly angry glance his way - but he has been assured by Walt that that would lead to the end of his co-operation; and he is not in a position to force Walt to do anything - because there too many options for that going badly wrong. Apart from his arrogance in assuming he can take over - Viktor not only showed his face at the murder scene (at a point where he could have eliminated witnesses) but also failed to guard Gail's residence properly in the first place.
posted by rongorongo at 3:45 AM on August 30, 2022

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