I know I say this about a lot of episodes, but “4 Days Out” is one of my all-time favorites, like for real. Definitely top five. Some of the funniest lines in the whole history of the show are in this episode. I still to this day can’t go get clumps of copper for fractional distillation (organic chem lab) without thinking to myself, “Ahhh wire.” And does anything really beat, “A robot?” Jesse’s failed chem tests are showing through.
One thing I love about this episode is that it fits into the arc of the season (I mean, talk about Walt pushing for more, and about consequences) and it also works really well on its own. It has a complete story arc within these 47 or so minutes, and could almost be a mini-movie. If someone came to this episode first, I think they’d be able to follow most of what’s going on. It advances the larger story, sets up a LOT (Walt’s going to live, they have a shitload of meth they need to sell) while still being a full story unto itself.
It’s bookended really nicely by Walt’s scenes at his oncologist’s office. The entire family is present for both visits, further establishing that this is a family that, despite their flaws, really support each other and that there is a lot of love between them. Walt has an entourage of support. And he supports them in a lot of ways too. In the previous episode, (think I forgot to mention this in my post), Walt doesn’t hesitate to go over to the Schraders’ to help Hank when Marie calls. So the family togetherness only shows us, again, that this is a close-knit caring family that will do just about anything for each other, sometimes to the extreme.
At the end, he’s back in Dr. Delcavoli’s office (if I ever get cancer, I want that guy as my doc) with the family, ready to hear that he only has weeks to live. He’s made Jesse promise that his family will get his share. He’s coughed up blood. And instead he gets the opposite news: remission. What the fuck? This was the absolute last thing Walter White expected to hear.
Walt’s cancer is what started this whole thing, what allowed him to take the risk to break bad. I think he genuinely wanted to leave behind money for his family, but I also think the cancer gave him the “nothing left to lose” attitude that allowed him to do something that was probably always in the back of his mind, allowed him to take on the Heisenberg persona. Allowed him to lie to his family, over and over. This is highlighted by the scene at the beginning with Saul, when Saul says that not telling the wife is a bad idea, and Walt says that anything she finds out about what he’s been doing will be after he’s gone.
And then suddenly, his tumor has shrunk 80%. He’s in remission. In a way, this news is more devastating than his original diagnosis. Remember how dispassionate he was back in the pilot? How he said “stage four, inoperable” in a monotone then pointed out the mustard on the doc’s white coat? Some of that was probably shock, but another part was like, not caring, feeling like this news was oddly expected. He wasn’t really awake in life anyway so what did it matter?
And now he’s done all these things, told all these lies, killed people, gotten in deep in the drug trade, cooked a whoooole lot of meth, and now his out at the end of it is gone. I think this is one of the most interesting turns this show has taken. It shakes up the whole premise of the show. Walt now has to live with all of it–all the lies he’s told, the people he’s killed, all the drugs–and with the possibility his family will find out about all of it while he’s still here. That’s why he beats up the paper towel dispenser. Things that seemed neat and tidy and ordered to him are suddenly all a mess.
Walt has to get his bleeding cough taken care of, and this seems a minor detail, maybe a plot trick to explain why he was coughing blood out in the desert, a way to make it believable that the thing that made him think he was on his way out is minor. But I think there’s another layer. This episode bookends not only with visits to his oncologist, with the story of thinking he’s about to bite it to finding out he’s going to live, but also with men telling him he shouldn’t lie to and hide things from Skyler and the family. Saul says it in the beginning, Dr. Delcavoli says it in the end.
Marie in the waiting room in the beginning is classic. The way she gestures with her hands in that scene is spot-on perfect. And what she says sets up the idea that anyone, like say, Walt, can read a scan. And when he catches a glimpse of it, he thinks it spells doom.
This kickstarts the plan to go out to the desert and cook the mother of all meth batches. But of course, Walt being Walt, he can’t tell Jesse the truth about why he needs to do this all weekend. No, he has to say the methylamine is losing its potency. That is, after his “Smoking marijuana, eating cheetos and masturbating do not constitute plans in my book” line (love it) fails to move Jesse. As Jesse says later, “Lie much?”
The scene between Jesse and Jane is really sweet. When he has no idea who Georgia O’Keefe is, it actually reminded me of a recent night in real life. I was playing Cards Against Humanity (think dirty, twisted version of Apples to Apples) and one of the cards had something to do with Toni Morrison, and no one else in the room knew who she was, and they were coming up with ridiculous theories (wish I could remember the exact ones because they were pretty hilarious). Anyway when I watched the Georgia O’Keefe scene, it brought me right back to that conversation.
“You brought a meth lab to the airport?” LOVE IT. Sets the tone for the whole horrible adventure that Walt and Jesse take, and Jesse’s lack of foresight, which only gets worse as the weekend progresses. But there’s something really fun about this episode. Maybe it’s all the music as they drive off and as they cook. Maybe it’s the image of the two of them relaxing in their chairs at sunset eating funyons. Maybe it’s this feeling of being part of this big caper somehow.
And when the fun fizzles and our boys are dehydrated and stranded, there’s something kinda fun in that too, as a viewer, the perilous situation, all the things they try that fail, the way everything gets worse at every turn. Total highlight: Walt wearing Jesse’s clothes.
It gets so bad that Walt finally openly feels some remorse for what he’s done. He feels like he deserves to die out in the desert. In fact, the part where he’s way off from the RV and Jesse finds him with blood on his palm, for some reason Walt wandering far off like that always reminds me of how they say animals will go out to the woods to die. So, laying on the cot, Walt feels like he deserves to die this way. He laments the lies, so many he can hardly keep them straight anymore. This perfectly sets up the turn at the end. Walt has his first shot of remorse, of realizing the weight of everything he’s done…and then finds out he has to live with it.
For once, it’s Jesse who gives Walt the pep talk. And it works. Walt makes some batteries! For more info on that and a few other elements of this episode, click the Weak Interactions link below.
When Jesse drops Walt off at the airport (in his car this time, not bringing a meth lab to the airport twice), the scene is so understated. These two men have just narrowly escaped death in the desert, and have survived all sorts of ordeals before this. They both believe, at this point, that Walt has like a week to live. He asks if he can trust Jesse, who says that no matter what happens, Walt’s people will get his half. It’s a touching, poignant scene but just so underplayed. I mean that in the best way. These two are like father and son, they’ve been through life-threatening situations, and I think on some level, they care about–maybe even love–each other. And one might die any day. But no one’s weeping or making this big melodramatic scene. There’s no hugging or even shaking hands or anything of the sort.
Having this moment so understated makes it so much more powerful, and gives it an extra dimension of sadness.
So what are they going to do next? How is Walt going to deal with his life sentence? And how will they sell alllll that meth? Are they going to cook through the rest of the methylamine barrel? Are they going to keep expanding territory and hiking up the price? Will Walt get his $737,000? Will Combo, Badger and Skinny Pete get foot soldiers so they can have layered (like nachos) exponential growth? And how will things progress with Jesse and Jane?
- Breaking Bad Episode 208 “Better Call Saul”
- Breaking Bad Episode 207 “Negro Y Azul”
- Breaking Bad Episode 206 “Peekaboo”
- Breaking Bad Episode 205 “Breakage”
- Breaking Bad Episode 204 “Down”
- Breaking Bad Episode 203 “Bit by a Dead Bee”
- Breaking Bad Episode 202 “Grilled”
- Breaking Bad Episode 201 “Seven Thirty-Seven”
- Breaking Bad Season 1 Posts
- “4 Days Out Insider Podcast
- Weak Interactions – The Science of Breaking Bad: 4 Days Out
- Tim Goodman – Bastard Machine Deconstruction: 4 Days Out