[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from the Season 4 premiere of Breaking Bad. Read at your own risk.]
Did Jesse kill Gale? After spending more than a year wondering, Breaking Bad viewers had that question answered by the AMC thriller's Season 4 premiere.
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But the fact that Jesse (Aaron Paul) did indeed murder rival chemist Gale (David Costabile) to prevent Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) from killing both Jesse and Walt (Bryan Cranston) only created more questions. Namely: How would Gus react?
That answer came in the premiere's most tense sequence, as Gus stalked wordlessly around his state-of-the-art meth lab as Walt begged for his and Jesse's lives. Gus suddenly and brutally used a box cutter to slit the throat of his assistant Victor (Jeremiah Bitsui), who was seen by onlookers while recovering Jesse from the crime scene at Gale's house. The gruesome scene — Gus makes Walt and Jesse watch as Victor bleeds out — almost causes Walt to vomit, but it shows just how confident the creative team behind Breaking Bad has become, Esposito says.
"It's groundbreaking television," Esposito tells TVGuide.com. "The episode is a mind-blower. I read the script after I received it, and I was shaking; I had to put it down. ... It's brutal and quiet and subtle. So, it's very, very unsettling."
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As for why Gus would kill one of his right-hand men, instead of the relatively new-to-the-operation Walt and Jesse, Esposito says it's a no-brainer. "This had to be done," he says. "Someone did something — they got seen. ... So it was about preserving a family; it was about survival. This had to be done, but I could do it in a way that also sent a message to the people who weren't listening.
"It's a proving moment for Gus, because we've never seen Gus do something so formidable," Esposito continues. "This is the final chance that Gus is giving Walt to step up. He's giving him a warning. He's saying, 'Listen: Do it my way, and you'll be all right.' It is a moment where Walt could step up and really embrace a part of him that's Heisenberg."
Instead, Walt's reaction will be to go on the offensive. In next week's episode, he buys a gun for protection, but it's pretty clear that there's also a bullet with Gus' name on it. "Walt knows that his time is limited," Cranston says. "He knows that, given the opportunity, Gus will kill him and get rid of him."
Adds Esposito: "There will be a huge showdown between Gus and Walt. These are two very smart men, and Gus, being the smarter, is always ahead. He has more eyes, more ears, and more experience. So you'll have to see Walt get very, very tricky to even get in Gus' presence."
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Meanwhile, Gus will also have his eye on Jesse, who, after killing Gale, seems to be on the path to becoming a more hardened criminal. "[Gus] sees that Jesse ... has done enough to dull those emotions," Esposito says. "He sees Jesse as the future. Walt's not going to listen. He's got too much going on in his head. He's got too much in his life. Jesse is less of a liability now. It's all flipped."
Of course, Gus has other (and no doubt bigger) fish to fry. Last year, with Walt producing crates and crates of meth, Gus cut his ties with the Mexican cartel in bloody fashion. There will be consequences, Esposito says, and Gus will have to be much more active in protecting his meth empire.
"You see a much more hands-on Gus — a different Gus," Esposito says. "You see the other side of him. ... You also start to find out the secrets he's hiding, and why he is the way he is. There's an even greater war in Season 4 with the cartel, because we go back into Gus' history, and we start to really look at how the cartel played into who he is. He's got to settle the score."
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And as for how the score with Walt will ultimately be settled, creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan paints a pretty simple picture. "Walter White and Gustavo Fring are the Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky of the meth world, if you will," he says. "When two people play, there's got to be a winner and there's got to be a loser. I suppose you could retire amicably from the game with no winner and no loser. But this is Breaking Bad, so I wouldn't count on that."
Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10/9c on AMC. Watch our video interview with Esposito below.
What did you think of Breaking Bad's premiere?