Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Breaking Bad" - "End Times"

Spoilers for another stunning "Breaking Bad" after the jump:

This week's "Breaking Bad" was in many ways rather predictable. Walt's only choice at this point is to murder Gus, and seeing as the show has been renewed for a final season it seems inevitable that he's going to succeed even if the attempt to blow up Gus's car failed. On this series, though, it's possible things will go in a completely different direction in next week's finale. Still, we knew a lot of what was going to happen here, and I think it was also a pretty safe bet that Walt and Jesse were going to reach some sort of a tentative reconciliation. Walt needs Jesse to help kill Gus. The question is: does Jesse need him? Probably, but we're not sure. And that tiny shred of doubt is where the suspense comes from.

Another thing that keeps the episode from feeling too predictable is the way in which all this happens. Even if you pretty much knew that Jesse and Walt weren't going to remain on the outs for good, I doubt anyone expected their reconciliation to come out of Brock being poisoned. When that happened, I thought it was just a terrible mistake on Jesse's part, caused by the cigarettes being left out where the boy could get them. Jesse of course suspects Walt, leading to a confrontation that's arguably even more intense and riveting as their fight in "Bug".

What's so amazing about "Breaking Bad" is just how tense this scene is, despite the fact that Jesse can't actually kill Walt. We know this, and yet somehow the show still manages to put us on the edge of our seats with touches like Walt pressing the gun to his own head and urging Jesse to do it. This is not just psychology. Part of Walt wants that trigger squeezed, and yet another part of him is searching for a way to get Jesse back on his side. Which of course he does by putting two and two together and reasoning that Gus must have been the one who had Brock poisoned. After all, what would Walt have to gain by committing such an act? And so Jesse is convinced to team up with his old partner once again... not to make meth this time, but to kill their boss. Wow.

The actual murder attempt was equally intense, even if it leaves me with a few key questions such as whether Gus saw Walt or whether he has some sort of sixth sense that led him to walk away from the car. The shots of Gus calmly staring out at his surroundings juxtaposed with Walt urging him to walk towards the car combine to create unbelievable levels of suspense, before Gus makes his decision. Again, the question is just how much he knows or has figured out. If he knows Walt was out there, that could spell trouble for Jesse. But there's no way he can kill them both, is there? Who would run the lab? So many angles to consider, especially for a drama that really only has a half-dozen truly key characters.

And there's still Hank to consider. Sending Steve to check out the laundry (which predictably turned up nothing) was his only major move this week, but it's clear from the way he was obsessively cycling through the photos that he still believes something is there. He's not going to stop until he finds what he's looking for, or until someone either scares him off or kills him. It's unlikely that he'll figure too prominently in the finale, though. As with season three, this season's conclusion promises to be all about Gus vs. his two disgruntled employees. The murder of Gale postponed this battle for a while, but it would appear it's finally here. Can this end with anything other than Gus's death? I don't see how, but then that's why we watch the show.

Other Thoughts

- Last week's reviews (of both this show and the two NBC comedies I cover) were thrown together kind of hastily, so I didn't even include this section. It's back for good now, since there are always stray pieces of info that need to get talked about yet don't always fit neatly into the review.

- This hour was devoted almost exclusively to the trio of Walt, Jesse, and Gus. As such, the only major Skyler scene was during the suitably intense cold open. But there was a beautiful shot of Anna Gunn's face as she smoked on the porch, and the look of weariness on her face was haunting. She has been just superb this season.

- We obviously can't rule out the possibility that Jesse did indeed set the cigarettes down where Brock could get them. I don't buy it, though. Walt's explanation is initially a bit hard to accept, but to me it makes more sense than Brock choosing the exact right cigarette by accident while leaving the others alone.

- Jesse's run through the hospital must have doubled my heart rate. I credit that to the frantic way it was filmed, which successfully recreated Jesse's sense of panic in the viewer.

- At this point I really hope they don't split up the final season. Waiting for it is going to be hard enough, so AMC should reward us by airing all 16 episodes in a row. But I'm getting ahead of myself, since this season isn't quite over yet.

- Mike's still missing. Doesn't he have to figure into this somehow, at some point? As we well know, this is a show in which loose ends tend to find their way into the main plot.

Grade: A

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