Illustration by Mary Grace Ewald
Season 3, Episode 8: I See You
“I am told the assassin that survived is gravely injured. It’s doubtful he’ll live. Now thank me and shake my hand.”- Gus Fring
After the cold open, which gives us Jesse’s perspective of Hank’s arrival at the hospital, we pick up with Gale’s awkward goodbye, in which, not only does Walt stumble through explaining why exactly he’s essentially fired the poor man, but Gale gets introduced to the man who’s replacing him: Jesse, in all his stoner glory, parading through the superlab like a dumb kid in a candy store made out of advanced trigonometry. “200 pounds a week,” Victor reminds Walt when he reiterates that it’s for the best. Jesse then, to his credit, notifies Walt what happened to Hank.
Essentially the rest of the episode is spent at the hospital waiting room, where Marie kicks out ASAC Merkert and Gomez after she learns that Hank didn’t have his gun when he was attacked, due to his recent suspension. And when she turns on Walt for having associated with Jesse in the first place, you can see the realization dawn on him: maybe this is all his fault. This is on his mind when, the next day, he gives Marie a speech about how terrified he was when he had his lobectomy (at this same hospital), and how if he survived this place, so will Hank. Speaking of surviving, we’re treated to a frightening scene when, after Gomez brings Walt up to see him, Leonel throws himself out of his hospital bed and drags himself along, bloody stumps and all, enraged to have finally met his true quarry.
There’s one other storyline in this episode, one that runs both parallel and beneath the main one, and that is the storyline of Gus, and his power play with the Cartel. After feigning innocence with Juan Bolsa, who wants to know who authorized the attack on Hank, Gus learns that Bolsa plans on getting the full story straight from Leonel’s mouth once he recovers and is acquitted by the best lawyer the Cartel can buy.
Our two storylines converge when Gus (secretly accompanied by Mike) pay a visit to the hospital. On the surface, he’s there to bring food for all the cops gathered at Hank’s proverbial bedside. In reality, he’s there to distract the police and DEA away so Mike can administer a poison to Leonel, ensuring his silence and effectively covering his tracks. Later, when Juan Bolsa calls him with “Federales in his rose bushes,” Gus again feigns innocence as Juan accuses him of being behind everything. As Juan tells him that the Cartel will learn of his treachery, the Federales break in a gun Bolsa down, as Gus listens in on the phone, smiling. He destroys the phone, dumps it in the trash and heads back inside Los Pollos Hermanos, an international drug lord, “hiding in plain sight,” as he himself says to Walt. This episode’s title has a double meaning. One, as a phoneticization of “ICU,” or Intensive Care Unit, and two as “I See You,” or the audience’s first real glimpse at how powerful and dangerous Gus Fring truly is.
Season 3, Episode 9: Kafkaesque
“I learned from the best. Somehow, something tells me Hank is here because of you. And I’m not forgetting that.”- Skyler White
The cold open in this episode gives us our first glimpse at the true breadth of Gus’ meth empire, as we see the product handled all the way from Walt and Jesse to being shipped out in Los Pollos Hermanos trucks as Gus looks on. It’s simple, free of dialogue (aside from the deliciously cheesy LPH commercial that begins it) and among the most powerful cold opens in the show’s history.
The conversation Walt and Jesse have just after that cold open lets us know that Jesse understands just how big this operation is, too. He’s been crunching the numbers, and according to him, $1.5 million each is not fair recompense for the work they’re doing, work that will result in Gus making nearly a billion dollars from their product. Walt scoffs at this newly-minted millionaire’s sudden bout of Marxism, and leaves. This new mentality appears again later, when, after Jesse tells a story about the one time he truly put everything he had into something, when he was in shop class in high school. This gets his wheels spinning, and he starts surreptitiously skimming off the extra meth he and Walt have been making. But where before he might have simply smoked the efforts of his labor, now he’s trying to sell it, with Badger and Skinny Pete by his side once again . He wants to make his own way, to escape from the “totally Kafkaesque” existence of his new job.
Walt’s storyline starts at the hospital, where Hank, who is awake, tells Gomez that someone tipped him off about the attack. It doesn’t take long for Walt to put two and two together, and he sets up a meeting with Gus at the chicken farm, where he states his belief that it was Gus who deflected the Cousins away from him and towards Hank, masterfully cutting off the Cartel from the New Mexico meth market, opening it up for himself. Walt is not condemning this, and as he states to Gus, not only does he acknowledge that this ploy saved his own life, but that in Gus’ position he’d “have done the same thing.” The one thing he doesn’t know is what happens when his three month contract ends. Gus immediately extends the contract to $15 million a year. It’s clear, however, that Gus does this simply to placate Walt, and that him so quickly putting together Gus’ plan troubles him. This is Heisenberg, and for the first time since they entered business together, Gus meets him. And he is afraid (or as close to being afraid Gus Fring is capable of being).
Another thing that becomes clear is that Gus’ attempt to placate Walt has done no such thing. Walter, too, clearly understands that Gus is the most dangerous man he has ever met, and that they have know entered into a potentially lethal game. He is gambling, now, much as he does on the drive home when he guns the accelerator and drifts into the oncoming lane, nearly colliding head on with an approaching semi truck. Ironically enough, Walt gambling is the basis of the cover story Skyler impressively weaves in front of a stunned Marie and a bewildered Walt. This episode really signals the beginning of Skyler’s acceptance of Walt’s second life, or at least her acceptance of his reasoning for it. This will lead to her increased involvement in the “business” in Season 4.
Season 3, Episode 10: Fly
“I’m saying…I’ve lived too long. You want them to actually miss you, you know?”- Walter White
I talked before about the nature of the so-called “bottle episode,” and how “4 Days Out” was one of the best examples of such in the history of television. Well this episode, “Fly,” is maybe even better, and stands shoulder to shoulder with any episode of the show before or since. The premise is simple: while cooking, Walt discovers a “contaminant” in the superlab. It’s a simple housefly, and while he’s justified in thinking it could ruin their cook, he’s anything but justified in how he goes about trying to catch it. This show has often been is at its best when it locks Walt and Jesse into a confined space and lets them bounce off one another, and “Fly” is as good at that as any other episode, “4 Days Out” included.
The cold open is strange and psychedelic, featuring a recording of Anna Gunn singing “Hush, Little Baby” over extreme close-up of a fly. The meaning of this cold open can be seen as a metaphor for the meaning of this episode itself. I’ll get more into that in the episode’s best scene, which encapsulates all this perfectly. As for the plot itself, Walt wakes up and heads to the superlab, where he meets Jesse and they begin to prepare for the next day’s cook. Just before starting, Walt notices a discrepancy in their numbers, which we know is a result of Jesse skimping extra meth. Jesse spouts off as many excuses as he can, eventually giving one Walt sort of believes. Regardless, Walt’s perfectionism is going rampant, and that’s before he starts noticing the fly that has gotten into the lab. A decent bit of slapstick ensues, as Walt chases the bug around the lab. When Jesse arrives the next morning (after finding a cigarette smeared with Jane’s lipstick, a sad reminder), we realize Walt has spent the entire night here, futilely chasing this long insect. Indeed, he’s made an entire arsenal of bug-catching weaponry out of various supplies he found in the superlab, which bewilders Jesse just as much as the fact that he’s made a seal on the exit to contain the contaminant and refuses to cook until the fly is gone.
It doesn’t take Jesse long to realize that Walter may very well have lost his mind, just as it doesn’t take very long for Walt to convince him to help (a microcosm of the show if I ever saw one). More hijinks ensue. First, Walt slinks around the lab like a killer from a slasher film, then, he and Jesse take turns whacking each other with Walt’s Super Science Swatter, and finally, he tricks Jesse and locks him out of the lab, forcing Jesse to cut the power right when Walt is poised to make a killing stroke. After reconciling, Jesse goes out and gets some fly-catching supplies, including, unbeknownst to his partner, some sleeping pills for Walt. He then tells Walt a story, about how his aunt was tormented by an opossum living under her house, one that she still thought was there even after it had been caught. He tells Walt that this obsession was a byproduct of her cancer having metastasized, and it’s clear he believes something similar may be happening to Walt. Walt brushes this off, telling Jesse that he’s still in remission and that there’s “no end in sight.” When Jesse reiterates that this is great news, Walt claims that “he missed it.” “It” is his perfect moment, and what follows is a terrifying speech in which Walt muses upon what would have been the perfect moment for him to die. Before Skyler found out, before all his family’s memories of him were bad ones.
Jesse is mortified when Walt continues, spouting off a list of criteria that would qualify this perfect moment as such. It had to be after the fugue state, because he didn’t have enough money. It had to be after Holly was born. It had to be before the surgery and the second cell phone. Then, he realizes it. The night that Jane died. He then tells Jesse about how, after he gave him his share of the money, he met Donald Margolis at a bar, and how he took his advice to “never give up on family.” Walt reiterates that he never should have left home that night, that he never should have gone to Jesse’s, and it’s clear we know which visit he means. He realizes that his perfect moment was while he was watching a nature program, listening to Skyler sing “Hush, Little Baby” to baby Holly over the monitor.
Walt’s guilt over Jane’s death and Hank’s near-death combined with his fear of the situation Gus has put him in has forced him to the edge of his sanity. He has lost a lot control over his life again, and the things he has been able to control, he has destroyed. It seems that now, on the verge of delusion, he’s realizing that Jesse is indeed one of those things, and the weight of what he’s done to him comes to a head as, while he feebly holds up a ladder, while Jesse risks his life in an attempt to kill that damnable fly (another microcosm for the series), he tells Jesse that he’s sorry about Jane, nearly confessing to his role in her death. Right before it happens, Walt convinces him to come down, stating that this particular contaminant really doesn’t matter, because “it’s all contaminated.” Jesse obliges, but while he does, the fly lands on top of the ladder, giving Jesse the perfect opportunity to kill it, which he does. Walt has already passed out.
When he comes to the next morning (or afternoon, as this episode perfectly captures the time warp that seems to occur after staying up for more than 24 hours straight), Jesse has completed the cook. They say their goodbyes, their weird little bond that much stronger. Walter warns Jesse that if he keeps skimming meth off their weekly yield, that Gus will catch him, and Walt won’t be able to protect him. “Who’s asking you to?,” Jesse responds, and when Walt lays down in his sleep that night, he hears the fly. He looks up and sees it, outlined in the blinking light of his smoke detector. Everything is contaminated.