BREAKING BAD Recap: “End Times”

     October 2, 2011

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On last week’s Breaking Bad, we watched as—in the episode’s final moments—former chemistry teacher and current stressed-out meth-cook Walter White appeared to snap (Killing Joke-style) in the crawl space underneath his house.  After painting himself into yet another corner, it finally appeared that Walter was ready to skip town for good:  he got the number of a guy that could “disappear” him and his family, he sped home, and upon looking for the million-dollar nest egg he’d been building over the past year or so, he discovered that his wife had given the money away (to her former boss, no less).  As the credits rolled, Walt’s unhinged laughter echoed underneath an ominous, droning buzz on the soundtrack.  Where did the things go from there?  Read on for tonight’s Breaking Bad recap, my fellow junkies.

breaking-bad-end-times-bryan-cranston-tv-show-image-01First of all, let’s clear up a loose end from last week’s recap:  it would appear the Beneke—Skylar’s former boss and the guy who just sent a sizable chunk of Walter White’s fortune to the IRS—is, in fact, dead.  When the episode aired, I wasn’t convinced that he’d actually died during the spill he took inside his home:  though some of you were far more confident that the dude had bitten the dust, I was feeling a little more cautious, and willing to withhold judgement until this week’s episode.  Over the course of the past week, it was confirmed that Beneke is definitely dead, so…yeah, that’s settled.  Congrats to all who called it last week, and apologies to anyone who—like me—finds the death to be a little too convenient, a little too tidy (hey, every twist and turn can’t be a homerun, right?).

Secondly:  last week’s episode was one of the most tense, critically-praised, brilliantly performed episodes from this show’s fourth season—I think we’ll all agree on that.  I understand that more people were reading Breaking Bad recaps last week than they had since that savage season premiere, which leads me to believe that a whole bunch of Breaking Bad junkies were as electrified by last week’s installment as we were.

And so, I find myself wondering how many will be reading this week.  I mean, if last week’s episode was “incredibly tense” and “brilliant”, this week’s installment was off the charts:  things started off right where they’d left off, with Walt and Skylar packing their bags and the soundtrack buzzing in our ears.  After a tense conversation in Walt and Skylar’s bedroom, it was decided that Walt would wait out the storm on his own, while Skylar would head over to Hank and Marie’s (which was under constant protection from Hank’s buddies at the DEA).  Skylar wasn’t thrilled with Walt’s refusal to join them, didn’t even know how she’d explain his absence…but Walt’s come to realize that his wife’s just as disingenuous as he is, and when she asked how she’d explain the fact that he wasn’t at Hank and Marie’s, Walt offered a simple, “You’ll figure something out” (or something to that effect; don’t crucify me on the exact wording, sir).

breaking-bad-end-times-giancarlo-esposito-tv-show-image-01While Skylar, Walt Jr., and Walt’s infant daughter headed to the heavily-guarded home of Hank and Marie, Walt sat by his pool—surely the most iconic pool on dramatic television since the one Tony Soprano used to haunt on HBO’s dearly departed series—and awaited the inevitable:  Gus had made a threat against him, his family, and seemingly everyone else in his life, and Walt was content to sit with a gun (whose barrel always seemed to end up pointing in Walt’s direction) and wait for Gus to strike.

Oh, and I’ve got a question here.  See if I’m following this correctly:  Walt goes to Jesse’s, gets tazed.  Walt gets taken out into the desert by Gus, who tells him that if he ever comes near Jesse again, he’ll kill him and his entire family.  Walt then goes to Saul, has him call in a phony threat to Hank (supposedly attributed to the Mexican Cartel), and then heads home to get his “GTFO of Town” money.  He’s frantic after discovering the money missing, and he’s still frantic when he and Skylar are packing their bags shortly thereafter.  But Gus didn’t really threaten to kill Hank, Walt, and Walt’s family immediately:  he threatened to do so only if Walt continued to bother Dr. Pinkman.  Everyone else is freaking out because—for all they know—Walt’s BS story about the Cartel’s death threat is the real deal, but Walt knows that it’s BS, right?  So, why is he freaking out?  If he just stays away from Jesse—as Gus has demanded—shouldn’t everyone, y’know, remain alive?  Or is Walt just assuming that Gus will kill him, anyway?  Discuss.

Anyway, Hank convinced his old partner Steve to do a little “knock and talk” over at Gus’ sprawling laundry facility, and when Steve’s DEA buddy dragged that dog-sniffing dog outta the car, I was fairly convinced that we were about to see something truly spectacular go down inside that joint.  I’d forgotten, of course, about the air purifiers and every other safeguard that Gus and Gale had built into that super-lab, and—after taking a series of photos that Hank would later pour over in his kitchen—the DEA left, the lab undiscovered.  Down below, Jesse and Gus’ right-hand man rode out the search in silence, keeping their fingers crossed that the agents poking around above them wouldn’t discover the secret passage behind the industrial-sized washer/dryer.

breaking-bad-end-times-tv-show-image-01Things then calmed down, if only for a minute:  Skylar had a cigarette out on Hank’s patio (!!!), Walt sat alone in his home, cradling his gun;  and Jesse was kickin’ the flava in his living room…at least, he was, until a frantic phone call came in:  Brock—Jesse’s on-again, off-again girlfriend’s video-game-loving kid—had become suddenly, inexplicably ill, was in the emergency room, and the prognosis was not looking good.  Jesse rushed to the hospital and tried to calm the situation, but realized shortly thereafter that the “flu” symptoms Brock was exhibiting probably weren’t the flu at all.  In fact, after checking his pack of cigarettes for the Ricin-vial he’d been carrying around for the past few weeks (and discovering it missing), he realized that Brock had been poisoned.

Now, when Jesse sped over to Walt’s house, we have to assume that he wasn’t in his right frame of mind, and so we should probably forgive him the scene that followed:  after Walt let him in and poured his heart out about the threats Gus had made the afternoon prior, Jesse picked up the gun and pointed it in Walt’s face.  Again, the soundtrack was used to great effect in this scene, ratcheting up the tension until the whole thing was borderline unbearable.  Apparently, Jesse had decided that Walt had poisoned Brock (yeah, I know) to get back at Jesse for siding with Gus, and Jesse had arrived to kill Walt for this heinous act.  Of course Walt had nothing to do with Brock’s poisoning, though, so we got another variation on the “Someone holds a gun in Walt’s face while Walt talks his way out of eating a bullet scene” (which, by the way, never makes for an uninteresting scene).

Walt’s explanation for Brock’s poisoning?  Why, someone—probably Gus’ henchman—had probably lifted it outta Jesse’s smokes while he was in the lab, took it over to wherever Brock was at, and dumped it into…his juice box?  His Kid Cuisine?  A Lunchables?  The details aren’t really important:  all that mattered was, Gus has proven himself capable of harming children in the past, Walt would never do something like that himself, and Jesse had to be convinced as much.  In the end, of course Walt was able to make Jesse see eye-to-eye with him.

Another sidenote here:  assuming that Walt is correct—that Gus knew about the poison, had it stolen, somehow took it to wherever Brock was at (might he not have been in school that afternoon?  And if not, how did whoever-transported-it get it into the house?), put it in his food/beverage, and pulled it all off in an attempt to get Jesse riled up at Walt (enough so to want to kill him)—isn’t that a little hard to swallow?  I mean, even for Gus?  Maybe I’m just calling shenanigans where there are no shenanigans, but that seems like quite a stretch, even by Gilligan standards.  Am I crazy here, or do you guys find this hard to believe, as well?  Also:  wouldn’t the nurses and doctors in the ER have sat up and taken notice when a shrieking, sweating Jesse bolted into the room to tell the kid’s mother that he’d been poisoned with Ricin?  Isn’t that specific enough to cast some suspicions on Jesse himself?  Again, the mind can’t help but pick at the details a bit.

breaking-bad-end-times-aaron-paul-bryan-cranston-tv-show-image-01Meanwhile, Jesse and Walt had decided that—once and for all—they were gonna take Gus out, and so a(n offscreen) plan was formed.  We weren’t privy to the details of this plan, but judging by Jesse’s behavior the following day and the amateur bombmaking going on in Walt’s kitchen, we can probably assume that the whole “luring Gus to the hospital so Walt could plug a bomb into the underside of his car” thing was plotted out in that missing scene.  Upon arriving at the hospital, Gus tried to coerce Jesse into returning to work, but when that proved impossible, he relented and assured Jesse that he could return to work “when (he’s) ready”.  Meanwhile, outside, across the street, and on top of another building, Walt sat with his finger on the trigger of the bomb he’d planted under Gus’ car.

It was here that we got yet another beyond-tense scene:  Gus exited the hospital, made his way through the parking garage, and just before getting to his car…he paused.  Something didn’t feel right, and Gus wandered over to the railing to look out over the ABQ skyline:  was someone watching him, waiting for him to get into that SUV?  Gus seems to have a sixth sense that keeps him alive, one that we simply shouldn’t find all that surprising anymore.  Of course Gus was going to sense something was off.  Of course he wasn’t’ going to get into the car.  Of course Walt’s plan wasn’t going to work:  this dude’s unstoppable, and it’s going to require something a little more elaborate than a car bomb to take Gus out.

From where I’m sitting, I’m thinking that we might just get to see that next week.  This week’s installment is the season’s penultimate episode, and next week’s ep—titled “Face Off”—looks like it’s going to be one for the books.  All season long, series creator Vince Gilligan has been slowly turning up the heat on every character on this series, and we’ve seen that heat roil over from a simmer to a boil in the past few weeks.  There’s every reason to believe that season four will end with a big bang, and I cannot wait to see whether or not I’m right about that.

But what do you guys think?  Sound off in the comments section below with your thoughts on tonight’s installment, and feel free to offer up your predictions for the fourth season finale:  wanna place bets on who’s going to survive to see season five?  Think Brock’s gonna bite it, or will he be saved by the doctors?  Think that Hank’ll notice something strange in those pics from the laundry, or will he have to go there and poke around himself to figure it all out?  Or will he be taken out before that can happen?  We wanna know, so hit the box below to offer up your predictions.

Stay tuned for next week’s big season-finale recap, folks:  it’s sure to be a doozy.

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