We go slow...then fast...then slow again...
Life has a tendency to change speeds on you. It happens unpredictably, and even while you're hurtling towards an eventuality, getting there can feel like it's taking forever. That unpredictability can take a guy out of his rut and get him going again.
"Shotgun" feels like an exercise in remapped time. It opens with a frantic, high speed car ride as Walt rushes his way towards Pollos Hermanos, nearly running all kinds of bystanders off the road. While he's driving, he's making panicked phone calls to Saul, instructing him to make sure that Skyler gets her money (as well as a goodbye "I love you" call left on Skyler's answering machine). The high-speed, high-energy cold open leads to a scene where Walt marches into Pollos Hermanos, demanding to speak to Gus. As he waits in the restaurant, time crawls almost to a stop. The stillness creates a high-tension atmosphere as Walt surveys his surrounding. He makes himself keenly aware of the surveillance cameras as he sizes up potential enforcers who could do to him what he believes Mike the Cleaner is about to do to Jesse. We go from a crashing speed to a standstill. We stick with the slower pacing when we see exactly what Mike has in store for Jesse. Though Jesse believes, as Walt does (and ostensibly the audience as well), that Mike will kill him, that is not the case. Basically, Mike drags Jesse out to the middle of nowhere so Jesse can watch him meticulously unearth a hidden cache of money. Mike's orders are to haul Jesse around as he goes around all day "to every dark anal recess in the state" picking up dead drops of the profits from Gus' meth-dealing enterprise. It's exceptionally boring work, and Jesse can't stop fidgeting the whole time. Thus, we get a montage of Jesse's restlessness sped up to a really eye-catching degree. From a standstill to crashing speed.
Somewhere along the way, we get another glimpse into Mike's professional worldview: "You're not the guy. You're not capable of being the guy. I don't know [why Jesse's around], but I do what I'm told, so now you're going to do what you're told." Later, when Mike lets on to Gus (who had set up the whole day, including an assassination attempt from which Jesse escapes, in another speedy, high-octane scene) that he has questions, he notes that "I know better than to ask." What is plainly obvious, even to Mike, is that the events of the day have woken Jesse up, and by episode's end, he's a partner to both Walt and Mike.
Some people have been saying that thus far, this season of Breaking Bad has been moving somewhat slowly. Whether that's true or not, the series, in the big picture sense, continues to move inexorably to a definitive conclusion, and tonight Walt takes what may be the biggest step yet towards his eventual demise. While getting boozy off some red wine at dinner, Walt hears Hank go on and on about Gail Boddicker's eccentricities and "genius," which bristles Walt's pride. Knowing that he's the real brains behind the meth cooking, he corrects Hank's "genius" assertion and puts the idea in Hank's head that the real Heisenberg (who is, of course, Walt) is still out there somewhere–all with Skyler looking on, horrified. This after Hank decides earlier in the episode that he won't be helping out with the investigation of Gail's murder after all. "It feels like closure," he says about what he thinks at the time is Heisenberg's death. "I'm done." Now that Walt has taken that belief out of his head, Hank is back to examining the case file. As he's looking at crime scene photographs of Gail's apartment (and acting like a human being towards Marie again), he's wondering why a free-range, organic-food-eating vegan like Gail Boddicker would have a paper bag from Pollos Hermanos in his apartment.
So why is Walt hitting the wine bottle so hard? It turns out, after enthusiastically jumping into bed with him, Skyler has all but unilaterally decided that Walt should move back in. Granted, that's what Walt was trying to do most of last season, but that was before Skyler had basically positioned herself as Walt's other boss. Being that things have cooled with his other boss, Gus, Walt isn't so happy about moving in with Skyler. Thus, he drinks too much at dinner, and foolishly snaps Hank out of his rut. That, along with Jesse getting out of his own dark place, leads to Walt getting more and more buried in his life. Things may be moving slowly, but they're also speeding up a whole lot at the same time.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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