Breaking Bad Review: “Thirty-Eight Snub”

I’m going to open this review with something a bit unorthodox, an apology.

Last week, I wrote my first review covering the premiere of Breaking Bad, and it was something of a disaster. Faithful readers that you are, you sure as hell let me know about it, and I have to admit you were right about a number of issues.

My attitude coming into the review was a bit more cavalier than fans might have liked. I seemed to give the impression I was just a casual watcher of the show, and didn’t really care about it, but that isn’t true. I do love Breaking Bad, and though I don’t think it’s without its flaws (don’t get me started about the airline crash plotline of season two), it’s absolutely one of the best shows on TV.

The way I came at the pilot was from that of a casual observer. Having watched about 20 other shows between now and the last season, I was a bit rusty on things. I thought they should have had more of an opening refresher for the average viewer, but yes, it was rather stupid that I was missing some pretty large facts going into the pilot. Forgotten names and missing plot arches made it seem like I wasn’t putting in the effort, and that was probably correct.

Also, I’m working on how to better write about TV shows. I’m told for that review, (and many of my TV reviews), I heavily rely on plot rather than analysis, and I’m going to try and dig a bit deeper into things and hopefully deliver less of a recap and more of a discussion about the subtleties and motivations found in the world of the show.

And finally, one thing last week taught me was that yes, Breaking Bad DOES have a big fanbase who wants to talk about the show, so this was definitely a good pick to be my new weekly feature. I will continue to try and make my analysis better, and I thank you for your constructive criticism. Now, let’s start the show.

Blast that emotional trauma into submission with techno.

In three (point two) years of Breaking Bad, this has to be the most psychologically fractured the cast has been to date. Yes, the individual characters have had their stress-filled moments (particularly early on as Walter was just trying to break into the business), but now it’s at a whole new level.

Walter has now directly killed someone and is constantly fearing being killed himself as a result. Jessie has murdered an innocent man, Hank is a cripple and Marie is his neglected caregiver on the verge of a breakdown herself. Even hitman Mike seems to be suffering an identity crisis.

Each catastrophe has affected the characters differently. The strangest reaction I’d say would be that of Walter, as demonstrated in this episode. He’s understandably paranoid after watching a man’s throat open up in front of him as an object lesson last week, and I thought he was planning on being overly cautious as a result by buying that gun, which could actually seem like a good idea given his line of work.

Doing his best Eastwood impression.

But in that initial scene, his intentions became clear. He wants to kill Gus before Gus can kill him. A good plan in theory, but rather stupid in execution, no pun intended. The idea of carrying around an unlicensed gun is idiotic to begin with, as the vendor himself points out, but also that Walter is what, just going to waltz into his house and shoot him? During that entire scene, I was shaking my head. This is far from the calculating and risk averse (well, to a degree) Walter we usually see.

It was only two words, so I couldn’t quite make out who called Walter to tell him to “go home.” I assume that was Mike attempting to look out for him, as if it was Gus watching on a security feed, I doubt he would have leveled such a friendly suggestion and that would have more serious repercussions later on.

But if it was Mike, then Walt definitely mistook his intentions. He seeks out an ally, but finds a fist in his face at the local bar. I don’t think Mike hates him per se, but I think he kicked his ass to show Walt that he’s not a hardass just because he bought a gun and puts on his Heisenberg hat when he means business. I think Mike could still be a valuable ally in the future, though it will clearly take some effort to get him onboard.

Mike’s a complicated guy.

Jesse’s plight was a little more straightforward. It may seem odd that the man who just murdered a rather nice fellow is out partying it up like Casey Anthony, but it soon becomes clear with a drug binge and subsequent three day rager that he’s just trying to escape his demons, something he can only put off for so long. The speaker system was a physical representation of how he’s trying to blast those thoughts out of his head, something he literally tries to do in the episode’s closing scene.

Where Jesse goes from here, I’m not quite sure. There’s going to be a mourning period, yes, but when will he find his head again and get onboard with Walt’s takedown of Gus? Will Andrea be a player this season, or did she just show up to remind Jesse of why he ended up doing all this stuff in the first place? I would guess the latter.

I never really cared for the characters of Marie and Hank, as they’ve always been bit players, but their plotline this season is one of the sadder and stranger stories I’ve seen. Marie in particular has always been incredibly annoying, but it’s hard not to empathize with here as she bends over backwards for Hank and he treats her like shit. I’m also attempting to understand Hank’s new mineral obsession. Is this just some sort of weird psychological break where he’s latching onto something during his recovery, or does it have anything to do with understanding the blue meth on the streets? That’s quite a leap, yes, but next episode does have him being involved in the upcoming investigation into the meth superlab, something not discussed at all this week. I hope he can get past his present state and help out with that in a significant way. Right now he’s just weirding me out.


Funny that the only person with their shit together out of all of this is Skyler. She’s busy trying to secure the car wash to be Walter’s new front, but the manager hates him, and therefore won’t sell for anything less than a 2000% markup. I have a hunch that Skyler will embrace the mob wife role and flex some muscle with him to lower the price.

Next week brings us apparently an elaboration of the police’s inquiry into the superlab, and not much more was in the preview. When are we going to see Walter use that shiny new serial-numberless gun?

Alright, well hopefully that went a little better than last week, and any constructive criticism of my new review style is appreciated. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts on both the review and the episode itself.


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  1. Good review – way better than last week. Lots of stuff in 38…noticed the overabundant ‘blue’ hues. Also noticed the mineral magnifying glass showing Hank ‘upside down’. But the best that had me fall off my chair was the Roomba, when it passes by and Badger says “Did that just happen?”

  2. Better review than last week. One big thing, please do not include any spoilers for the next episode. Many viewers choose not to watch the previews.

  3. @D-Money

    Yeah, I never do that too, but I did here because then people are always like “well in the preview it shows this so you’re wrong.” I’d prefer to just be in the dark though.

  4. Yes agreed much better than last weeks review. Maybe Hank is trying to be the big rock he used to be by buying big rocks ? lol I do love Hank he was so much fun , however his growth and change is interesting. Pajiba’s review brought up an interesting point about how each character was dealing with the fact that they are trapped, expect for Walt. One thing i have noticed is that with more time Walt seems to be sinking more into denial about his entire situation.

  5. Since I was the first one to trash last week’s review, I was interested to see how this one would turn out. And, I must say, this week’s entry is notably better.

    Sorry if the criticisms last week got under your skin a bit, which seems to be the case since you spent the first five paragraphs apologizing. That said, I’m glad we spoke up, because the “Thirty-Eight Snub” review is excellent.

    Though I’m at work and don’t have time to comment on the actual “review” portion of the review until later, I wanted to commend Paul for handling our harsh criticisms well, and responding with a well-thought-out, insightful review.

    Last week, I ended my initial comment with “Step your game up.” Good job of shutting my big fat mouth.

  6. I am seriously feelin’ for Jesse. I’m waiting for Jesse to get at Walter for Gale’s death. I’m disappointed in Skinny Pete and Badger, I REALLY wanted those dudes to stay on the straight and narrow, so that kinda made me sad to see them tweaking again. I absolutely LOVE Mike, I really hope he schools Walter and gets on board with the plan. Mike is too cool of a character to let go.

    I could careless about Hank and Marie. Marie has been nothing but a load all 3 seasons and Hank was alright in Seasons 1,2 and parts of 3 but seeing him castrated like this is just disheartening. I’m surprised Gomez hadn’t stopped by yet. I REALLY don’t like Skyler…I don’t know, something about her just bugs me. Can’t put my finger on it.

    Great review by the way. I’m EXTREMELY curious to see where they go with this Season and where the characters are gonna end up. I’m REALLY hoping for Jesse and Walter to REALLY come together. One of my major complaints about this show is Jesse and Walter have always had an EXTREMELY shaky truce and at the moment it looks like it’s gonna snap. Frankly I’m also curious about Walt Jr.’s relationship with Walter…they haven’t had much screen time together.

    If Skyler does start becoming a factor in this Season I’ll be interested to see where that goes. As for Hank and Marie I could give less of a crap.

  7. Hey Paul,
    I think I was one of the few that liked last week’s review, but this one was great!
    Jesse’s final scene game me goosebumps. I agree with Ugo Strange in that Mike’s character is too cool to let go. I think this season will put Walt as the new drug kingpin under Mike’s advice. But I also think it will come with a tragic loss of a main character.

  8. the voice on the phone was gus, i had to listen a few times, but it has his voice 100%

    the things that bother me about this seasong though are pretty big.

    why on earth did gus even hire walt? in the flashback to him and Gail talking abotu the percentage of gails formula, gus was certain he was not to hire walt. however he seems to go in with both feet and reason with walt even to the level of firing gail.

    maybe this was because he decided to lend a hand, knowing he would kill walt himself after 3 months, and gail would return. and he could have the best meth for the 3 months, then deal with the second best.

    these are problems however since walt is obviously the best meth cook in the world, gus would have forseen his customers dissapointment in sudden drop in quality.

    it just doesnt make sense why he hired walt to begin with, and then let him fire gail. and bring in jessie, a mines worth of problems.

    then theres the whole child killing, and dealer killing.

    why would gus act so seemingly ignorant to the root cause of jessies concern? and justg tell them softly no more kids. without stating a harsh consequence of some sort. maybe tell them to return the child to his life at home or some crap.

    the more i think about it the less bothered i am about the problem.

    then theres how gus killed his guy, cant remember name if i ever even knew it. but seriously. he had to kill him? obviously it was a message, but you’d think walt being taken to the lab to be snuffed would have been message enough.

  9. really good analysis paul. last week wasn’t a disaster per se, just a hiccup in my opinion. this episode delved deep into the psyche of the characters and i just cant commend the show’s writers enough for making each and every episode of (seemingly) the entire series exciting to watch in one way or another, regardless of whether the plotline actually moves forward or not.

    my feelings on jesse are that he is not going to recover very quickly from what he is going through, as gail was the pinnacle of an “innocent victim” who simply had to die so walt and jesse could live. this is understandably killing jesse and he is a stubborn guy and i just can’t forsee him snapping out of it anytime soon.

    also, i believe mike when he says walt will never see gus again. But if it is indeed true and gus becomes less and less seen throughout the season, this will be a significant detriment to the show as he is one of the most watchable badasses of all time and the show will suffer without his presence. kinda reminds me of omar from the wire. but anyways, great job paul. cant wait for next week!

  10. I came up with one theme in my head from this episode: Everyone out of their element… Seems that EVERYONE is just totally lost and fishing for purchase onto something solid on which to hold…..
    Great episode…love the show… and Paul…the reviews? I didn’t have a huge problem with the first, but admit this was way cooler::) Recap it as ya go…but analyse and tell us what YOU got from it, what YOU saw…this is why I read reviews: to see what I might’ve missed, and maybe need to rewatch it:) Good job all around, on this and this website:)
    Mike M

  11. My husband got me started on this show during season 1 and I love it. I have been talking to him about this season and I still stand by my thoughts. We both think Hank is looking into minerals to figure out how the meth is getting a blue tint to it and in the end it will be Hank that figures out it’s Walter making it, the question that still remains unanswered for us is will he turn him in or help him hide it?

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