The fourth season of the American television drama series Breaking Bad premiered on July 17, 2011 and concluded on October 9, 2011. It consists of 13 episodes, each running approximately 47 minutes in length. AMC broadcast the fourth season on Sundays at 10:00 pm ET in the United States. The complete fourth season was released on Region 1 DVD and Region A Blu-ray on June 5, 2012.
|Title||Directed by||Written by||Original air date||U.S. viewers
|34||1||"Box Cutter"||Adam Bernstein||Vince Gilligan||July 17, 2011||2.58|
|Walt and Jesse are held in the lab by Victor and Mike, anxiously awaiting Gus' reaction to the murder of Gale. Skyler fears the worst when she can't get hold of Walt. Saul is paranoid about bugs, wiretaps, and surveillance, and hires a personal bodyguard. Hank struggles with life at home after his injury, snapping at Marie and becoming more preoccupied with collecting and cataloging minerals. Gus arrives, sees Victor is cooking, changes into a lab suit, slits Victor's throat with a box cutter, then changes back to his work clothes and tells Walt and Jesse to get back to work.|
|35||2||"Thirty-Eight Snub"||Michelle MacLaren||George Mastras||July 24, 2011||1.97|
|Walt illegally buys and begins carrying a snubnosed revolver, but Mike soon tells Walt he'll never see Gus again. Jesse, in an attempt to distract himself from having murdered Gale, buys an elaborate stereo system and throws an ongoing party with Badger and Skinny Pete. Hank continues to push Marie away. Skyler attempts to buy the car wash that employed Walt earlier (in season 1) but the owner angrily refuses. Walt follows Mike to a bar, tells Mike that he might be in danger as well, then asks Mike to get him in a room with Gus and Walt will "do the rest", but Mike out of either fear or loyalty to Gus, beats up Walt and walks away.|
|36||3||"Open House"||David Slade||Sam Catlin||July 31, 2011||1.71|
|Walt is furious about a motion-detecting surveillance camera installed in the lab. Skyler convinces Walt in a meeting with Saul to buy the car wash. The misguided owner promptly sells to her, agreeing to an even lower price than her original offer. Jesse continues to open his house up for all-night drug fueled parties, deliberately throwing piles of money in the midst of the chaos. Marie renews her kleptomania. Hank obtains from an interested colleague a copy of the notebook found in Gale's apartment.|
|37||4||"Bullet Points"||Colin Bucksey||Moira Walley-Beckett||August 7, 2011||1.83|
|Walt and Skyler plan to tell Hank that they paid for the car wash with illicit gambling winnings. Hank reveals to Walt that Gale was the cook of the high-grade blue meth. Jesse's detached complacence leads to over seventy thousand dollars in cash being stolen from his house. Mike reports to Gus that Jesse has become "incautious" and something needs to be done.|
|38||5||"Shotgun"||Michelle MacLaren||Thomas Schnauz||August 14, 2011||1.75|
|Mike takes Jesse on collections, and assures Walt that he is safe. Walt and Skyler purchase the car wash, after which Skyler asks Walt to move back into the house. When Hank suggests to an intoxicated Walt that Gale was a genius, Walt tells Hank that he believes Gale more likely copied another's work. Because of that Hank's pursuit of the case is renewed, and he finds a Los Pollos Hermanos napkin in Gale's belongings.|
|39||6||"Cornered"||Michael Slovis||Gennifer Hutchison||August 21, 2011||1.67|
|After arguing over Walt's behavior at dinner the night before, Skyler walks out. Walt buys a flashy new car for Walt Jr. Skyler reappears and asks Walt to return the car, lest he blow their cover story. Walt tells Jesse that he suspects Gus is driving a wedge between him and Jesse, while Jesse proves himself useful to Mike.|
|40||7||"Problem Dog"||Peter Gould||Peter Gould||August 28, 2011||1.91|
|Skyler is unsure how she'll launder Walt's meth-lab earnings through the car wash successfully. Walt convinces Jesse to kill Gus and concocts a ricin poison in the lab that Jesse then hides in one of his cigarettes. Jesse hesitates and doesn't poison Gus. The cartel offers Gus an ultimatum, which he rejects. Jesse returns to the 12-step group. Hank visits Gus' restaurant with Walt Jr. and obtains Gus' fingerprints from a cup.|
|41||8||"Hermanos"||Johan Renck||Sam Catlin & George Mastras||September 4, 2011||1.98|
|In a flashback, Gus visits Hector (a.k.a. Tio, Tuco's uncle) in a nursing home and informs him of the death of his nephews after their attempt to kill Hank. In the present, Gus is questioned by Hank and the DEA. Hank gets Walt to plant a tracking device on Gus' car. Walt tells Jesse to poison Gus as soon as possible. Gus visits Hector again. In another flashback, Gus and his business partner Max meet Hector in 1989 when they approach drug kingpin Don Eladio. Gus and Max offer to produce high-quality meth for Don Eladio, with Max as the cook and Gus as the businessman. At Don Eladio's instruction, Hector shoots and kills Max as a warning to Gus.|
|42||9||"Bug"||Terry McDonough||Moira Walley-Beckett & Thomas Schnauz||September 11, 2011||1.89|
|Ted tells Skyler that the IRS is auditing him. Hank's research uncovers Gus' depot, so Jesse is brought in to help clean and move all the product out of it. Gus calls the cartel, giving in to their demands and asks Jesse if he can cook Walt's formula. Walt and Jesse get into a major fight over their trust issues.|
|43||10||"Salud"||Michelle MacLaren||Peter Gould & Gennifer Hutchison||September 18, 2011||1.80|
|Skyler has Saul concoct a story about an inheritance to give Ted enough money to pay off his back taxes. Ted initially refuses to pay the IRS with the money. Jesse, Mike and Gus fly to the cartel's meth lab in Mexico. After a cook, Jesse is informed that he now belongs to the cartel. When Jesse, Mike, and Gus go to Don Eladio's estate to celebrate their alliance, Gus poisons Don Eladio and kills all of his men, but he himself is poisoned as well, and Mike is wounded in the shootout.|
|44||11||"Crawl Space"||Scott Winant||George Mastras & Sam Catlin||September 25, 2011||1.55|
|Gus survives the poison, while Mike recovers slower. Gus tells Jesse he can run the lab now, but Jesse tells him not to kill Walt. Ted refuses to pay the IRS with the money from Skyler, until Saul's henchmen intimidate him. Hoping to stop Hank's investigations on Gus, Walt deliberately gets Hank into a car "accident", but Hank is undeterred. Gus fires Walt and informs him that Hank will be killed, threatening to murder his entire family if he interferes. A desperate Walt prepares to have the family "disappear", but suffers a breakdown when he realizes he does not have enough money (because Skyler gave it to Ted). Marie calls Skyler to tell her that the DEA have received an anonymous tip (from Walt) that Hank is a target again, and he is under protection.|
|45||12||"End Times"||Vince Gilligan||Thomas Schnauz & Moira Walley-Beckett||October 2, 2011||1.73|
|Skyler, Walt Jr., and Holly go into DEA protection at Hank and Marie's insistence. Andrea calls Jesse to the hospital because her son Brock is in critical condition with a mysterious flu-like illness. Jesse finds the ricin vial missing and confronts Walt, suspecting he poisoned Brock. Walt convinces Jesse that Gus is doing the poisoning, and the two agree Gus must be killed. Walt attempts to kill Gus with a car bomb, but Gus is able to get away from his vehicle.|
|46||13||"Face Off"||Vince Gilligan||Vince Gilligan||October 9, 2011||1.90|
|Detectives question Jesse about Brock. Afterwards, Walt, Jesse and Saul realize that Gus may be vulnerable if he visits Hector at the nursing home. After Jesse is kidnapped by Gus' men, Walt visits Hector and smuggles him a suicide bomb for him to use to get revenge on Gus. When Gus visits to kill Hector, Hector detonates the bomb, killing himself, Gus' bodyguard, Tyrus, and finally Gus himself. Walt rescues Jesse, destroys the meth lab, and declares to Skyler that "I won".|
On June 14, 2010, AMC announced that Breaking Bad was renewed for a fourth, 13-episode season. The writers began brainstorming and writing for the season in early July 2010. At the 2011 Television Critics Association press tour, it was announced production on the season would begin January 13, 2011. Filming ended in mid-June of that year. Although the writing staff knew the fourth season would focus primarily on the ongoing feud between Walter White and Gus Fring, they did not specifically plan out the entire season before production began, but rather developed the story as the episodes progressed. This followed a pattern similar to that from the third season, and differed distinctly from the second season, where the entire storyline of the season was planned out in advance. Gilligan compared the fourth season to a "13-episode chess game" between Gus and Walt.
Originally, mini episodes of four minutes in length were to be produced before the premiere of the fourth season, but these did not come to fruition. Actor Bryan Cranston commented that the season would debut in July 2011 in an interview with New York Magazine, he also said, regarding the premiere date, that "It was a decision from AMC that they wanted to position us in July... They want to attract as many eyeballs as possible, away from the heavy competition of the September, November [or] January start."
The fourth season of Breaking Bad received universal acclaim from critics, garnering a 96 out of 100 on Metacritic. The Boston Globe referred to the show as a "taut exercise in withheld disaster" and declared the show "riveting". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette labelled the series "smart and thought provoking that elevates the artistic achievements of the medium". Season four was listed by many critics as one of the best seasons of television in 2011. Time listed Walter White's "I am the one who knocks" line as one of the best television lines of 2011. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette listed it as the best series of 2011 while noting that, "Breaking Bad is that rare TV series that has never made a seriously damaging storytelling misstep." The A.V. Club's review of the finale summed it up as a "fantastically fitting end for a season that ran in slow motion, starting and continuing with so many crises begging for resolution week after week. Now the decks are cleared, but that doesn't mean anybody is home free. Nothing's ever easy on Breaking Bad." The reviewer continued to exalt the season, and proclaimed, "What a season of television — truly something none of us could ever have expected, or claimed we deserved." Best-selling author Noah Charney called it "the best show on television" and compared it to great works of literature for its three-dimensional characters and combination of action, drama, and dark comedy.
The fourth season received numerous awards and nominations, including 13 Primetime Emmy Award nominations. Aaron Paul won the only award for the series, winning for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. Its nominations included Outstanding Drama Series, Bryan Cranston for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, Giancarlo Esposito for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series, Anna Gunn for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series, Mark Margolis for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series, Vince Gilligan for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series ("Face Off"), Michael Slovis for Outstanding Cinematography for a One Hour Series ("Face Off"), and Kelley Dixon and Skip MacDonald each for Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series ("End Times" and "Face Off"). "Face Off" was also nominated for Outstanding Sound Editing, Outstanding Sound Mixing, and Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role.
Bryan Cranston received his second consecutive Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actor in a Drama Series. Cranston was also nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Drama Series for the Screen Actors Guild Award, with the series nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series.
Vince Gilligan received his first nomination for a Directors Guild of America Award for Outstanding Directing – Drama Series for "Face Off". The series earned three nominations for the Writers Guild of America Awards, winning two; Best Drama Series and Best Episodic Drama ("Box Cutter").
At the 28th TCA Awards, the series was nominated for three awards, including Program of the Year, Outstanding Achievement in Drama, and Individual Achievement in Drama (Cranston). It went on to win Outstanding Achievement in Drama.
For the 2nd Critics' Choice Television Awards, the series received five nominations for Best Drama Series, Best Actor in a Drama Series (Cranston), Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul), and Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Anna Gunn), winning two; Best Actor in a Drama Series (Cranston) and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (Esposito).
The series also received two Satellite Award nominations for Best Drama Series and Best Actor in a Drama Series (Cranston), along with six Saturn Award nominations, including Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series, Best Actor on Television (Cranston), Best Supporting Actor on Television (Esposito and Paul), and Best Guest Performer on Television (Steven Bauer and Mark Margolis), winning three; Best Syndicated/Cable Television Series, Best Actor on Television (Cranston), and Best Supporting Actor on Television (Paul).
Kelley Dixon and Skip MacDonald were each nominated for an Eddie Award for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Commercial Television. Dixon was nominated for "End Times" and MacDonald was nominated for "Face Off". MacDonald went on to win the award.