By Matt Zoller Seitz
Press Play Contributor
EDITOR'S NOTE: As always, the following recap contains spoilers for last night's episode. Proceed at your own risk.
Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, once said that he and the show's writing staff deliberately wrote themselves into corners during season three for the challenge of writing their way out. I hope the exercise has been fun, because the show is still backed into a corner from the end of last season, when Gus decided that Walt was more trouble than he was worth and could be replaced by his erstwhile protege, Gale. Walt responded by pressuring Jesse to kill Gale. (Walt volunteered to do the deed himself but had to press Gale into service when he got held hostage in the lab.)
The murder of Gale was strictly a desperation move; by Walt's admission, it didn't truly solve any problems, it just bought him and Jesse a bit of time. But the cost of that time has been steep, not just for Walt but for the show itself. We're almost halfway into season four of Breaking Bad, and the show is still dealing with the fallout from the last episodes of season three. The title of last night's episode was "Bullet Points," named for the comically thorough list that Skyler printed out to help her and Walt convince Hank and Marie that Walt earned his fortune by counting cards rather than cooking meth. But the title doubled as an inadvertent confession of what Breaking Bad has become in season four: an exercise in accounting, in dramatic housekeeping, one that is constantly asking: Where are we? How did we get here? How do we move forward? Are there any loose ends that still need to be tied up?
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PressPlay founder and publisher Matt Zoller Seitz is the staff TV columnist for Salon.com. His video essays about Terrence Malick, Oliver Stone, Budd Boetticher, Wes Anderson, Clint Eastwood, Michael Mann and other directors can be viewed at the at the online magazine Moving Image Source.