The Whites’ backyard is an honest space for Walt. It’s a place where the man doesn’t lie and doesn’t pretend to be anything he’s not. He’s asserted his petty manhood in a drinking contest with with own 15 year old son, he’s freaked out and burned drug money, he’s even seen the sky come crashing down around him. Last week saw Walt back in his old fortress of solitude near the pool, spinning his .38 snub, trying to decide what to do. The gun landed on him on two consecutive spins but a third spin had a different result entirely. At the time, I assumed it was simply pointing away from Walt, telling him to go on the offensive. But the reality suggests a course of action far, far more grim: Walt poisoned Brock.
This show has always delighted in taking Walt to dark places. In fact, it is Vince Gilligan’s stated goal to take these initially sympathetic characters and make their actions so horrifying that we question ourselves for still cheering them on. Does it work? We saw Walt’s body-count increase by five tonight. Five. Plus, he put his neighbor in danger when he asked her to go into his house and check to see if the stove was still on. Further, he endangered the lives of residents and employees at an old folks’ home. And I’m with him – literally unable to silence my excitement has he does what it takes in order to survive. But the only other moment of the episode I was unable to keep my reaction from verbally bubbling to the surface was that poolside revelation of the Lilly of the Valley. Bold, bold move on the writers’ parts.
What the hell else even happened? Actually, all this excitement surrounding the hour’s conclusion has me skipping over the absolute killer opening acts. The dramatic device of having a character communicate exclusively through ringing a bell is sheer genius. No other show on television would have the patience to let that old man ratchet up the tension with his one-letter-at-a-time messages. The Hector scenes drag on to some unknown conclusion that insists on staying out of reach. The fact that this bell-ringing dovetails with Walt’s master plan as the method of detonation for the bomb just seals this whole experience up as a masterful piece suspenseful, thematically unified piece of television.
There’s also the moment for which the episode gets its name: Face Off. It is fitting that Walt has to be the one to kill Gus, just as it is necessary that Fring’s final actions are to calmly walk out of a room and adjust his tie. In general, our last moments with ABQ’s late meth king-pin are just as they ought to be – calculated and measured, the final minutes with a menacing mother fucker who always keeps his cool. I am sad to see the character (and the ever capable Giancarlo Esposito) leave the show, but hot shit, that’s the way to go.
So where does this leave us for next year? The laundry meth lab goes up in smoke and the cartel and Fring’s organization are both quashed. Last week I talked about the battle for our characters’ souls, and while Walt has a self-declared victory tonight, it would appear that he’s only getting himself deeper and deeper in trouble. What happens when the DEA launches a full-scale investigation of Fring? They basically have to now, right? And what happens if Jesse ever finds out that Walt poisoned Brock? Plus, Mike is still out there – if he’s still stuck in Mexico waiting for Gus to send for him, he’s going to be pissed. AND TED. Still no resolution there. I assume he’s dead, but even if that’s the case, the dude clearly had family. And to top it all off, Walt still needs money. Without Fring’s economic structure in place, how will he and Jesse move their meth? The carwash is doing pretty well, actually – do they even need to keeping bringing in sky-high stacks, yo?
There’s a million different directions the show could go and they all hinge on deeply personal decisions by the characters. This thrills the ever-loving shit out of me. Breaking Bad has been my favorite show on TV since the first episode of its second season. It was a bold claim seven episodes into the series, but I can say 30-something episodes later that I must have been channeling some clairvoyant djinn when I made that claim. This year got off to a slow start, but it was always solid. This show makes the best possible argument for a slow-burn.
I’ve had a lot of fun writing about Breaking Bad this season. This is the first time I’ve tackled such an endeavor, and indeed it served as the backbone of my fledgeling blog. I’m sad to see it go on hiatus again, but I’m inspired by the momentum it achieved. I watch a lot of TV, some for this blog, some out of habit, and some as a professional curiosity. If you want to write television shows, you gotta know what’s on TV. Result? I watch a lot of shitty TV. So much, in fact, that I find myself saying outrageous things like “did you guys see New Girl? It’s actually pretty good” or “I’ll watch a few more episodes of Pan Am.“ Breaking Bad is in a class all its own – objectively genius and uniquely compelling. Oh that I could ever emulate this level of quality. Thanks so much for reading, but also thank you for watching this show. Thank you for harassing your friends, family and co-workers about watching this show. It deserves a bigger audience.
I’ll be watching zombie show, but I’m torn about doing write-ups like this. If anyone wants that, let me know. I live to serve. Otherwise, I’m playing my Terra Nova game on Monday nights, and I’m always game for a new series to write about. Thanks again.