Season four of Breaking Bad has so far been a slow-builder of a season. Season three ended with a bang and we expected it to go crazy from there. However, certain events occurred that put the season on the back-burner. Since the premiere things have been building and building, with some pay-off, but nothing extraordinarily satisfying. Character development has mostly been the focus of season four. We’ve watched the various characters of Breaking Bad evolve heavily this season. Walt has become an egotistical megalomaniac with a hint of paranoia. Jesse has become apathetic, uncaring, but he still has his heart deep within him. We got to see what happens to Hank when we take his mojo away and we saw how it affects Marie. We saw Skylar become more like Walt, willing to break the law, but one conversation in “Cornered” tells us deep down she is still scared and skeptical. Mike still remains the mysterious jack of all trades and Gus… Well, this episode titled “Hermanos” goes back years into Gus’s life and makes him much more human.
The episode begins with Gus visiting Hector. Hmm… That’s odd, I didn’t know Gus knew Hector. Anywho, they have a little conversation where the words “sangre por sangre” are exchanged. Blood for blood… It looks like Gus and Hector have a little past they’d like to share with the audience. The opening ends with a shot of water, yellow and tingy (much like the stylized lens they put on the cameras for flashbacks and Mexico scenes) with a hint of blood-red. It was very reminiscent of the season two scenes with the pink teddy bears.
The episode is slightly inconsistent and choppy with it’s pace. It’s a package, the wrapping ruffled a bit, but it’s still been packaged. What’s inside the package is what really counts. We get some great little plot developments, inching ever-closer to a (hopefully) exciting climax. Gus is getting into deeper trouble, but he slickly has an answer to every question when the DEA confronts him. Skylar is seen hiding the huge amounts of money in Space Saver bags and a family dinner leads to Hank asking Walt for a seemingly inconspicuous favor. The next day, Walt drives Hank around until they get to Los Pollos Hermanos. It’s a great little scene, Hank trying to convince Walt to place a GPS tracker on Gus’s car. Walt does a bad job of acting normal, asking Hank every question under the sun related to Gus. However, since Walt has been under Hank’s nose for so long, it’s almost impossible to expose himself simply through weird behavior. Hank thinks nothing of his odd line of questioning as usual and he eventually convinces Walt to do it after BAM! Mike pulls up next to them. Fearful, Walt goes into Los Pollos Hermanos and shows Gus the tracker, to which Gus simply tells him to “do it.” Walt goes back outside, food in hand, and places the tracker on his car. Nothing comes of Mike pulling up next to them, but it was a good little touch that could almost be taken comedically.
The great revelations in this episode come from a flashback featuring Gus, one of his closest friends Max, Hector, and the cartel. The scene is long, but it’s necessary to establish the characters and suck us into the meeting they are having. We already know Hector is an evil skeeve, but this scene just makes us hate him even more. He urinates a pool to the dismay of Don’s other cronie. It’s the same pool we saw in the opening. Hector makes a few comments towards them that define his evil character. Then we meet Don Eladio, head of the cartel. They all play dumb for a little while asking about the famous chicken restaraunt Los Pollos Hermanos. Eventually Don cuts to the chase and questions them about methamphetamine samples Gus gave to his customers. Max attempts to convince Don that meth is the drug of the future, citing it’s artificial production, addictiveness, and their own method of producing the purest meth. He gives a great pitch, but Don has a little bone to pick with Gus. He says Gus disrespects him by going under his nose and giving his customers drugs without permission. Max valiantly defends him and they both explain it was merely a way to attract his attention. Max panicks and we find out Gus rescued him from the slums, paid for his college tuition, etc. Gus was an incredibly loyal and kind friend to Max. Then… Hector comes up and shoots Max in the head from nowhere. The shock on Gus’s face when the blood spatters all over it is gold. If the Emmy’s are really about rewarding excellency in television, they will surely recognize Giancarlo Esposito for his flawless performance in this episode. Gus yells and screams (although it’s toned and muted for a dramatic effect) and acts in a way we have never seen him act before. Gus has always been extremely calm, calculated. He hasn’t really seemed all that human. But when a close friend of Gus’s is murdered coldly, we see he is a human just like the rest of the characters. He is just as much of a human as Walt.
As Walt becomes more powerful, he becomes more maniacal. The longer Walt lives with cancer, the less and less it intrudes his life. The more and more he makes meth, the more paranoid he gets. He is spiraling out control. It’s hard to believe we used to sympathize and root for this character and it’s almost harder to believe we are able to sympathize with Gus now that we know his back-story. Whether or not this back-story was necessary, we’ll have to wait and see.