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Breaking Bad: "Open House" Review

Marie indulges in a favorite pastime; Skyler and Walt continue to look for a way to launder money

By Kaili Markley on 8/1/2011
Only three episodes into the fourth season and we can already tell that Breaking Bad is setting up for its wildest, most suspenseful season to day. There are some obvious set-ups happening: for example, Hank getting involved in Gale's murder/meth lab case, and Jesse cruising for trouble with his wild non-stop parties, but as Skyler warned Walt tonight; "The Devil is in the details." I think that we're about to see some things we may not have paid much attention to coming back to wreak havoc on Breaking Bad... 

One of the best aspects of "Open House" was, for me anyway, getting to see Marie in a new light. Of all of the show's central characters she is probably the one who has been fleshed out the least. This is not to say that she has been one-dimensional until now -- she has certainly evolved from the selfish, insensitive, bratty younger sister that defined her character in Season One, and certainly we have seen her humbled by Hank's injury and her need for Walt and Skyler's assistance. I knew that her sweet patience with Hank would have its limits, especially with him treating her like she was the one who pulled the trigger, lodging that bullet in his spine; but I had anticipated a more direct aggression towards him.

What we got instead was even better: Marie, or should I say Tori Cosner (or Charlotte Blatner?), returning to her kleptomaniac pastime was both gratifying and heartbreaking. The ease with which she concocted these stories, created entire lives for her whimsical aliases, was quite impressive. At certain points it seemed that even Marie was believing the lies rolling off her tongue....Once caught, her despair was also impressive: we finally see the pain she has been suffocating behind that forced cheeriness come tumbling out as she sobs at the police station. "Open House" was a testament to the depth of Betsy Brandt's acting talent, and showcased it in a way the series has not done before.

Now, I'm probably quite slow on the draw here, but I had a revelation about Hank tonight. When Marie calls him from the police station to get her out of the mess she's made he asks; "Are you seriously doing this to me...again?!" We also see him visibly soften when he hears her crying, and of course, he does bail her out again. It seems clear however, that "this" thing that Hank is referring to is not just him getting her out of the legal trouble that would befall ordinary citizens upon similar acts of theft, but also refers to him compromising himself to "save" her, as he did the day she was shot. There is no doubt that Hank loves Marie, and I had been assuming that a majority of his hostility towards her of late had been a matter of convenience and misplaced frustration. Which, it is to a certain extent. But when he incredulously asked her if she was really doing this to him "again," something clicked for me. Hank wouldn't be paralyzed, wouldn't have been nearly killed had it not been for his love for his wife, and his desire to protect her, and he blames her for what happened: so he is now (belatedly) withdrawing his love. Like I said, I'm a bit slow on the uptake....  

We also got to see a new side of Skyler this episode. Or rather, I should say, more of a new side of Skyler -- it has been slowly emerging for a while now. I am, of course, referring to the side of Mrs. White that is a criminal mastermind. Despite being shut down by Bogdan in the last episode, she is tenacious in her intent to buy the car wash, despite the objections of Walt and Saul. Skyler decides that what Bogdan needs is merely "proper motivation" and a bit of an "attitude adjustment," and with a bit of help from Saul (at last proving his usefulness to her), she orchestrates an ingenious scheme, enabling her to buy the car wash for even less than she originally offered. I'm liking Skyler more and more, even despite the fact that Anna Gunn is becoming increasingly bizarre-looking with each new plastic surgery....  

In other news, Jesse's house has turned into the queen of all crack-houses: junkies passed out like living carpet on every inch of floor; people having sex; people fighting. It is obvious that it is only a matter of time before something terrible happens. Even Jesse seems to be aware of this, but he seems to be inviting it; encouraging the punishment he feels he is due after Gale's murder. And on that topic, despite an initial resistance, Hank has picked up the copy of Gale's Lab Notes, so we know that it is only a short while before Hank begins connecting the dots....Like I said, things are about to get crazy on Breaking Bad...
Choice Moments
  • The gap between Jesse and Walt is widening, but an invitation to drive Go-karts is the only attempt to bridge the gap
  • It was fun to see Skyler checking Walt's know-it-all-ness with her bargaining savvy
  • Both Mike and Gus were curiously absent this episode (sans the installation of the new video camera)
  • Now that Hank's involved in Gale's murder case things are going to get crazy....
8.5
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