Somehow, Vince Gilligan and company always know.
Without any warning, and without viewers even aware we're missing key pieces of information, the Breaking Bad team knows when to sprinkle in flashbacks or side stories that change our view of the bigger picture. Such was very much the case on "Hermanos."
Following last week's episode, I wondered what would happen to Gus. Hank was on to him, the cartel was making demands, Walt was pushing Jesse to end his life.
I never stopped to wonder who Gus was, how he ended up as the richest, most devious fast food chain owner in the Southwest. It wasn't a tidbit I felt necessary, not when Breaking Bad already offers such well-layered, defined characters. Gustavo Fring was simply the icy businessman behind it all, I figured. And that would have been enough.But that all changed with one fascinating flashback.
We discovered a new dimension to this man, a time when he cowered in fear and when he learned a lesson that he uses to this day: a cook may be the most important cog in this operation, but that's all you can see him as. A cog. The same goes for all employees, as Gus certainly doesn't shed any tears over the loss of them at this point. RIP, Victor.
But Gus still mourns for Max, of course. That chemist scholarship? Likely more than a mere cover. It's a tribute to his fallen friend, a man who served as his student in much the same way Walt thinks Jesse serves as his. At one time, Walt may even have been as shaken up as Gus if Jesse had been killed (which was the original first season plan, Gilligan has said).
And bravo, Giancarlo Esposito. Great, emotional work by the actor who hadn't been asked previously to do much except give us a calm, collected version of his character.
Breaking Bad didn't merely take us inside the life of Gustavo Fring here, though, it also posed a question and possibly forecasted the future. First, the question: What is Gus asking of Hector? Now, the forecast: I don't see Gus surviving this season. Among many other reasons to provide us with background on him is to make his inevitable death all the more impactful.
From the actual boss to the man who thinks he's boss... we got another example of Walt talking a good game this week, while walking a frightened one. That sure was a nice, inspiring speech Walt gave to his fellow cancer patient: take control of your life! Always be in charge! Live on your own terms!
Too bad Walt can't comprehend how little he actually follows his own words. His level of narcissistic ignorance is ratcheted up on a weekly basis, as Walt is anything but in charge of the meth business, pleading with Gus to spare Hank's life (because he cares about Hank or because it could lead to Walt's demise?) and even learning that Jesse is no longer his loyal protege.
Yes, it was a convenient plot device to have Jesse use the bathroom just when a relevant text came in, but whatever. I'm excited enough to see how Walt reacts to Jesse's lie that I can easily overlook such a detail.
Very little storyline movement overall on "Hermanos," but the seeds are planted, the tension is mounting and the cliches are pouring out. We have Hank on Gus' tail and, as a result, on Walt's tail. We also have this question for fans: Does Hank suspect his brother-in-law at all? Or was he truly just in need of a driver? For a dogged, intelligent DEA agent, it's hard to imagine some part of Hank doesn't wonder about Walt's involvement in all this.
We have Gus fighting off the cartel and Jesse having to decide where his loyalties lie. We also have Skyler is need of a new clothing bar for her closet.
Indeed, it's gonna be an eventful final few episodes of season four.