Tuesday, September 27, 2011

"Breaking Bad" - "Crawl Space"

Spoilers for an unforgettable "Breaking Bad" after the jump:

Remember when I was reviewing "Louie" earlier this year and saying that it might have taken "Breaking Bad's" place as the best show on television? Well, let's just forget I ever said that. These past few episodes have featured one stunning development after another, to the point where (much like in season 3) I'm not sure how the series keeps managing to top itself. Fresh on the heels of last week's darkly riveting conclusion, "Crawl Space" builds to an equally intense finish that's arguably even more effective due to the fact that there's no way anyone could have seen it coming.

Equally amazing is how it ties together so many of the separate stories the show's been telling over the past few weeks. For instance, I'm hard-pressed to imagine anyone who thought for a second that Skyler's problem with Ted would wind up tying so directly into Walt's problems with Gus, or that both of them would combine with Hank's investigation to produce a startling and intense climax that might be the best in "Breaking Bad's" history. And considering said history ("One Minute", "Half Measures", "Salud"), that's kind of hard to believe, which of course makes the achievement all the more impressive.

Before all of this mayhem could take place, though, Jesse and Gus had to come back from Mexico. They did so rather quickly, with the help of a doctor friend/employee of Gus's. Jesse can only marvel at the depth of Gus's planning, which includes stocking blood that matches the types of Gus, Mike, and Jesse as well as researching things such as allergies. Mike's wounds are such that he has to stay behind, leaving Gus and Jesse alone. At one point Gus suggests that Jesse has proved himself capable of running the lab, to which Jesse replies that he won't cook if Walt gets hurt. That's kind of amazing considering Jesse's current attitude towards Walt, and speaks to the depth of their experiences together. They may be on the outs, but Jesse stops short of letting Walt get killed.

It may not matter, though, because at the same time all of this is happening Walt's still trying to stall Hank's investigation. Out of options at one point, he steers a car into oncoming traffic. That Hank still  doesn't suspect a thing after this is hard to believe, but in this case I don't really care. There are bigger things to consider, among them Gus's eventual decision to wash his hands of both Walt and Hank in very different ways.

That scene in the desert is remarkable in spite of some highly questionable camerawork. The decision to pull back to a long shot as Walt is making a foolhardy display of bravado to Gus strikes me as a mistake, since we're unable to see the nuances of Byran Cranston's acting. It's a small detail, sure, but one that stands out due to the fact that the show almost always gets these little touches just right. Fortunately it's only used for a few seconds, and we return to a more intimate style as Gus delivers a terrifying speech promising to kill Walt's entire family if he interferes in the assassination of Hank. Whoa is right. And we still haven't reached that unforgettable conclusion.

No, to get to that point we first need to talk about Skyler's Ted-related issues, which she tries to solve by having Saul send a couple of guys to rough him up. It says a lot about just how much crazy stuff is going on in "Crawl Space" that Ted winding up dead in a freak accident barely even merits mention. But that's the honest truth. What winds up mattering more (at least to Skyler and Walt) is that Skyler gave him the money. So when Walt goes to Saul for the name of his "disappear" guy and tells him to make the call to the DEA, he assumes there's money to pay the guy: cash it turns out he doesn't have. And that's where the episode ends, with Walt lying in the crawl space... laughing. Just laughing. Whether it's as a means of coping or simply a reaction to the absurdity of it all I'm not sure.

What I am sure about is that this was another stellar episode. Sorry, "Louie", but if "Breaking Bad's" fourth season sticks the landing in its final two installments, you're going to have to settle for (at best) second place. No shame in that, though. There's nothing, nothing on TV that can compete with this series right now. Once again... wow.

Grade: A

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