Oct 03 2011

Unreal Breaking Bad Review: “End Times”

Published by at 12:00 pm under Reviews,Television

God damn, it’s good to be reminded why I love Breaking Bad again.

Through most of this season I lamented that the show was meandering around without a particular purpose in mind, but now, at the end, we finally have an exciting conclusion on our hands, and one that looks like it might live up to what we’ve come to expect from the series.

I was reminded last night of the very first episode of the show, where Walt is in such a place of despair and hopeless that he walks down the freeway in his underwear, gun in hand as sirens approach. There was a similar feeling as he was holed up in his house, clutching his gun and waiting for the inevitable.

But like the first episode, Walt’s desperation manages to turn itself around, this time thanks to a misstep from Gus that unravels all the work he’s put into grooming Jesse this season. He’s been physically manipulated (the staged robbery he fought off) and emotionally manipulated (Gus’s “I believe in you” reassurances), but now Gus miscalculated just one thing that threw off everything he was trying to achieve.

You dun goofed Gus.

I have mixed feelings about how this all went down. On one hand, it was cool to see that Gus had been planning this all along. The scene with Walt and Jesse in his house with the barrel of the gun pressed against Walt’s head was one of the most tense in the show’s history. Even if we knew there was no way that trigger was being pulled, the intensely emotional performances from Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston made it look like it was a real possibility. The way Walt explained things, the plan did sound rather brilliant, as Gus had finally devised a way to give Jesse cause to not only want Walt dead, but even take care of it himself. A genius maneuver indeed.

But wait…

Did Gus really think that Walt couldn’t explain himself out of this situation? Walt might have issues with Jesse, but Jesse knows Walt enough to know that he would never poison a little kid for petty revenge. Gus on the other hand? He totally would, a fact Walt himself brings up. In fact, the second I heard something happened to the kid, I thought it was Gus trying to teach Jesse a lesson (albeit an ill-conceived one) via his recent “appropriate response” comment, and I thought that’s where Jesse’s mind would jump as well. Also, with the two of them not speaking, what are the chances Walt would be able to get the Ricin away from Jesse so that Jesse believed that’s what happened?

What better way to reunite two people who hate each other than kill a kid one loves and blame the other for it?

This was just too risky for Gus. It makes for good TV I suppose, as it got our boys on the same team again, but it doesn’t really make a lot of sense when you think it through. I guess he had three options. Leave Walt alive, which would satisfy Jesse but there’s a very good chance Walt would flip to the DEA. He could overtly kill Walt, and have to deal with Jesse, but what’s he going to do, quit? Or there’s this third elaborate plan that involves attempting to kill someone Jesse truly loves and somehow pinning it on Walt who is A) not the revenge for revenge’s sake type and B) would never get a little kid hurt doing so. When that backfires, you now not only have no cooks to make the blue, but Jesse and Walt gunning for you, who have shown they can be creative when they need to. If Mike was around, I bet he would have told Gus he was being an idiot.

Part of my problem with the last few episodes, exciting as they have been, as they completely fly in the face of the characterization of Gus we’ve known so far. The man takes NO risks. He works as a manager of a chicken joint while driving an incredibly old car. He didn’t even want to associate with Walt because of Jesse being unstable at one point. But between his insanely risky cartel poisoning plan, and now this gamble to turn Jesse against Walt, he’s taking HUGE risks that are totally outside the character that’s been built up over the last two seasons.

Fortunately for Gus, one of his superpowers appears to be spidey sense which he uses figure out what’s going on. I’m still trying to process that last scene where he suddenly realizes he’s in danger despite no actual clues to that effect. I know Breaking Bad is a show of subtleties, so please explain to me if I missed something. Did Jesse say something suspicious? Was there something suspicious about the car or garage in particular? Because if all of a sudden Gus just happened to believe that someone planted a bomb on his car after a ten minute hospital visit, that’s kind of bullshit.

*sniff sniff* “I smell…treachery.”

In any case, Walt and Jesse will apparently have to think of a new plan, and now they’ve lost the element of surprise, which is what they had going for them. I believe next week is the grand finale, and if no one ends up dead, it’s going to be a disappointment. I think Gus will somehow die for sure, but it would be nice if the show had the balls to kill off a secondary character as well, which would mean probably a member of Walt’s family. Will they cross that line? For a show that’s constantly pushing the envelope, they sure don’t like killing major characters off.

I’m just happy that after an entire season, Walt and Jesse are fully cooperating again, and this time I don’t think Gus has any way to break them apart. Next week should be a tense finale, and if there’s some sort of giant cliffhanger, that’s going to be  rather upsetting. Just finish up this season’s story with a bang, and we’ll start anew next year for one last season of madness.

Update: And thanks to all of you, I am now convinced Walt might have actually done it. I am not smart enough to watch this show.





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27 responses so far

  • Will

    I actually am not sure Gus did poison Brock. As you said, he takes as little risks as possible and wouldn’t dare risk a second cook just to take out Walter. To be fair I’m not sure what happened then, but it would be brutally ironic if Brock did somehow get poisoned by accident and that’s what brings everything to a head.

    Also, am I the only one who has a sinking feeling Walter may have actually done it (I know he couldn’t have due to the logistics of his current situation, but it’s just a nagging feeling I couldn’t quite shake).

    What a great past few episodes we’ve gotten.

  • LyleEvans

    I didn’t think Gus’ “spidey sense” was that much of a stretch. With his background as someone important in Chile, along with his nickname, Gus has probably had threats against him in the past. He may not have even suspected a mortal threat. Hank bugged his car at one point this season and the DEA showed up to the laundromat. With all of that taken together, it’s not too much of a stretch for Gus to feel like he slipped up and now has to abandon his car.

  • Frankincense

    When I was first watching this, I thought Gus poisoned the kid as an overt message to Jesse. In the first episode of the season Jesse said “If Gus can’t kill us, he’ll make sure as shit we wished we were dead.”

    But then Gus didn’t take credit for it. After this episode ended, i started to wonder. Who was the one that benefited most from this poisoning? Why, it was ol’ Walter.

    He got Jesse back on his side, and came within a few feet of killing Gus. Would Walt poison an innocent child? To save his family he sure would.

    I’m starting to suspect that Jesse was right, that Saul’s bodyguard, Huell, lifted the cig and then they got the poison to the kid.

  • Eric

    Here’s my theory on Gus’s spidey sense. I think Jesse tipped his hand to Gus when he said that the kid had been poisoned. Gus is a smart man, and once he thought about it as he walked to his car he realized that Jesse had him figured out. Gus wasn’t leaving his car there, but going back to confront Jesse again.

  • Surly Canadian

    I thought the point of thr ricin was that it takes 3 or 4 days to take effect. Even though Brock is a small child by comparison, I’d still expect it to have taken a full 24 hours or maybe a bit longer before he started getting fluish. According to Jesse, he had the ricin that morning, so it only took 6-8 hours to make him sick?

    I was sure that he must have stolen the cigarette from Jesse the night before. The timeline doesn’t match up in my opinion for anytone to have given Brock the ricin the very day he got sick.

    I suppose if its inhaled through a cigarette, it would take effect much quicker, but that only makes me believe that it would make more sense for Brock to have taken the cigarette and smoke it himself.

    Wouldn’t be awesome if Jesse just lost track of the cigarette, Brock took it and Gus is sompletely innocent of Brock’s condition?

  • Jeff

    I think if Brock smoked the cigarette and poisoned himself then Gus would have no reason to be cautious when he was leaving the hospital. The fact that Jesse told Gus that Brock was poisoned seemed, to me, to tip off Gus that Jesse knew what was up and so places the blame on Gus. Could be wrong, just my thoughts. Also, at the end of the episode the camera kind of zoomed in on Walt’s glasses, not sure if it is significant, but maybe Gus saw the glare?

  • http://zoulogy.com/ Suppes

    1. I think the point of the series in the first six episodes or so was mostly character (Walt is trapped by Gus, Jesse and Hank are changed men, et cetera) before finally opening things up for Gus’s masterstroke against the cartel, which also helped him get Jesse on his side and then set-up Walt’s firing/ threatening. In all, patience is a virtue, a virtue that Gus knows well.

    2. Either Gus (through one of his henchmen) or Walt poisoned Brock, and right now my money might actually be on Walt.

    3. Next week is going to be crazy, but I think Gus has to die now.

    4. I still wavering on whether Gomez is a mole. There has to be some guy in the DEA working with Fring, right?

    All in all, great episode, great season, can’t wait for next week

  • the dude abides

    I think that Jesse said it was poison to gus is what tipped him off. Remember unless they know to look for it it wont show up.

  • Luke

    Why no Dexter review?

  • Stevo

    I am looking forward to the scene where Brock took out two cigarettes, one upside down and then right side up..put back the good one upside down (why Jesse thinks he still had it) and smokes the other one. Would answer why it took a few days to take effect.

    The poisoning of Brock is just another result of his actions, just like the plane crash, COW (casualties of Walt), but the poisoning is used to bring Walt and Jesse together and to finish off Gus, even though he had nothing to do with it.

    The Brock scene will be a cold opening next week or next season.

  • ant2206

    @Will Yeah I still reckon we might discover that Walt had in fact poisoned Brock.

    Think about the turning point in his character when he let Jesse’s girlfriend choke to death. Poisoning a kid is a big step up from that, but one entirely within the character (while still being a shock).

    And quite frankly, it’s about time Walt stood up and took action. He’s responded to every challenge so far in the series, there’s no WAY getting blindfolded and dragged out to the desert should leave him cowering on his kitchen floor. Man up, poison the kid already.

    Let’s end the series with Walt sitting in the Gus throne.

    Also: Hey has anyone actually seen Gus smoke? I can’t recall, but if he doesn’t, how would a ricin-laced cigarette have helped?

  • LEM

    The reason Gus suspected something was up at the end is because he knows he didn’t poison that kid. Walt poisoned that kid knowing he could convince Jesse it was Gus and use it to kill him but Gus being the smart guy he is figured it out just in time. The big WTF of the finale will be realizing Walt did it and is willing to go that far to survive.

  • Karrie

    I must not be very smart, either, Paul. I never would have suspected Walt either. Now I can’t wait to find out what really happened!

  • JohnC

    Walt’s glasses you damn fools! The lens flare from the sun gave Walt’s position away. It’s not really all that subtle (but given the confusion of this article and most of the comments, perhaps it was a bit subtle).
    Then you throw in Gus’s Chilean background (during the Pinochet era, no less), it’s not a stretch to believe that he sensed a trap of some sort. Maybe not a car bomb, but his was definitely suspicious.
    And Eric^, that does sound spot on (with Gus confronting Jesse).

    Paul, if Gus always played it super safe, he never would have hired Walt or Jesse. Nor would he have called off the 2 hitman brothers (Gale was more than capable as a chemist, given that he had 93% pure formula; Gus didn’t absolutely need Walt). He wouldn’t have given Hank a warning when fighting the brothers either.
    So I don’t see it as “massive” step outside of his characterization.
    He takes big risks, which nets him big rewards.

    Walt poisoning the kid would be jumping the shark in a big way. First off, he would have been in close proximity of him. Which is why I don’t believe it was Gus either. I honestly believe it was an accident, that, in turn, managed to trigger these events.
    That happens to be on par with the show’s mantra.

  • Landen

    Gus is on the board of administrators for the hospital. he says that.

    jessie says the kid is poisoned, the doctors dont know why.

    HAD the doctors told him that, gus would have known it, from being on the board. therefore, how would jessie know the kid was poisoned? He figured it out, or walt figured it out.

    either way, Gus knows, that jessie knows, that the child isnt merely sick. but jessies life has been sabotaged. more evidence of this is the sudden change of heart from gus regarding brock.

    yeahhe talks his way out of transparency by saying, the batch is surely ruined now, implying jessie going to work wouldnt change much, and to take the week to tend to his girlfriends son. but he had a pure change of heart, had jessie not said he was poisoned, or had he acted clueless the whole time, gus would have continued to ride his ass about getting to work.

    that is also how he figures to leave the car, he knows jessie knows he poisoned brock. retaliation is at hand. and he knows walt must have convinced him, as jessie isnt exactly Einstein. and now he knows they are somewhat on better terms

  • J. Kyle

    Give me a break! Walt DID NOT poison the kid. It goes completely against his character. And you could tell Gus just put it together himself as he was looking at the car.

  • Shiki

    Come on guys, you really think that Walt poisoned the kid?!?! I don’t think that he would do that and if he did, then when, how. I’m sure that the show would indicate that he would do such a thing. Either way, didn’t Gus say that Walt would be dealt with accordingly?

  • Shiner_Man

    If Walt did in fact poison Brock, why would he go through the trouble of getting Saul’s bodyguard to lift the cigarette off of Jessie? He could just make another batch. And why would he poison him with something that would kill the boy. Surely Walt could have whipped up a batch of a poison that wouldn’t kill the boy but would merely make it him very sick so that he got Jessie’s attention.

    I don’t see how they explain this poisoning in anyway that makes sense if Gus did it either. First, we’d have to explain how Gus knew about the ricin in Jessie’s cigarette pack. Okay, it’s plausible that he figured it out through all of his security cameras and what not.

    Secondly, why would Gus choose to take the cigarette out of the pack and use it to poison Brock? How would that point to Walt exactly? Walt and Jessie had no contact at all and there is no way Gus would know that Saul’s bodyguard would be patting Jessie down at some point during the day.

    As far as I’m concerned, none of this adds up.

    Also, I don’t think the Hank story line is gone yet. There was a very subtle shot of him staring at the specific machine in the laundromat that leads to the cook room. I wouldn’t count him out yet.

    My prediction is that Hank arrests Gus before Jessie and Walter can get to him and we’ll be seeing more of Gus in the next season.

  • Flip

    @ant2206, the cigarette acted as a container for the poison.

    @everyone, There is more than one batch of riacin in the world. However I’m still rather doubtful that Jessie has his shit together, despite being clean. It may very well be that Brock got a smoke from that pack earlier that day.

    I’d bug Jessie’s phone if I was Gus. The text he sent earlier would most certainly have piqued my interest but then I wouldn’t have bothered going out into the parking lot afterwards. However I’d return into the hospital simply to inquire about the poison furthermore.

    I doubt the doctors would say a kid is poisoned, if they don’t know what poison. Hard to prove and why would they run a tox-screen without any reason to assume he had been poisoned. Which they do, Jessie told them. Gus being a smart man of course realize this and is curious to why Jessie has poison laying around the house.

  • Ugo Strange

    Am I the only one who thinks Brock just wanted to smoke a cigarette and smoked the Ricin one by accident ? Not exactly far-fetched.

  • Frankincense

    I don’t think Brock could have smoked the cigarette to get poisoned. It wasn’t laced with ricin. Remember, the ricin was in a hard plastic capsule, almost halfway down the cigarette. A cigarette wouldn’t burn hot enough to melt it. Cigarettes don’t even burn hot enough to ignite gasoline.

  • Sean

    Yeah, i’m pretty sure the poison was in a little plastic container, inside the cigarette. and i think a kid would detect something like that and stop smoking cause it’s not working right.

    As for Gus or Walt doing the evil deed, I still believe it was Gus. He knew what it would do to Jesse, causing him to attack Walt.
    If Walt did it, i’m pretty sure the poison would take need a bit longer to take effect. Plus, this entire season, Walt has been a complete emotional wreck (tool), as he keep doing everything wrong this season. I also would like to think he didn’t try to kill a kid.

    But it doesn’t matter. The writer’s will get lazy, and not answer it next episode. They’ll see how this season pans out, then take who they think is best, by reading forums and whatnot, then come to a conclusion. It’s how they write all their shit on this show: jazz.
    Which is fine, yet somewhat awful. Sort of gives the last scene of the episode this bad taste, cause it could have been so much more, yet they had this (somewhat) deus ex machina of thought.

  • Ian

    People have talked about Gus’ ‘spidey sense’ but if you listen carefully with the volume up (I’ve watched the same part over and over again just to make sure) you’ll hear two high-pitched beeps after the actioney music stops at that part. It’s somewhat hard to differentiate at first, but you can tell that it’s not part of the music.

    My problem with that scene however is why Walt chooses to make the bomb beep at all.

  • Mark

    Gilligan has stated that ‘all’ will be revealed in next week’s episode. I don’t know if Brock was poisoned accidentally or by Walter or Gus (I’m leaning towards Walt), but I’m positive that in this episode there are intentional scripted moments and bits of information withheld to make us doubt exactly what has happened.

    When Walter is spinning the gun, the third spin is CLEARLY meant to indicate to Walt some other avenue of fighting back than taking his own life or letting himself be killed. The Insider podcast talks a lot about this shot and the special and visual effects that went into creating it – especially the fact that on the last spin, when the camera pans to what Walt is looking at (a potted plant), they had to digitally replace the table with a CG table in order to obscure the special effects mechanism that stops the gun where they want it to stop. This was a very important shot for Gilligan.

    After this scene, Walt dissapears for the entire day until Jesse visits him at night – not answering his phone when Marie or Skylar or Jesse call. Why not? If he’s just barricaded in the house, why not reassure his wife that all is well? Why not answer the phone to his partner (to find out what he wants)? Or why not a quick shot for the audience of him pacing nervously and not answering his phone? These are intentional moments inserted in the script to let us know that Walter is not responding to phone calls for some reason. What is he doing?

    I don’t know for sure that Walt is behind Brock’s poisoning, but I DO know the following: we (the audience) are supposed to figure out that Walter SEEMS to have come up with a plan and then been up to something during these unaccounted-for hours. I think, based on the previous quality of the writing on this show, that whatever Walt was doing will be revealed in the finale – I have a feeling that it might be more complicated than just poisoning Brock.

    But I absolutely DON’T think that Gus poisoned Brock – that would be such an uncharacteristically sloppy move on his part that could backfire (why might not Jesse suspect him after watching him poison many people just days earlier in Mexico?). It doesn’t make good sense – and I can’t believe the writers would sign off on it. It has to be either Walt or a coincidence/accident which is being used by Walt.

  • brando

    Yeah…. lots to think about.

    However I bet Mike will be back with a bang next week.

  • Ryan

    As far as Gus somehow knowing something was up with his car, someone in the comments section of AMC’s website said that the Los Pollos Hermanos thing hanging from the mirror tipped him off. It’s normally not hanging there, and Gus always has someone in hiding watching out for him at all times. (Remember when Walt tried to approach Gus at his home?) So somehow this person put it up on his mirror because that’s the warning sign they use. Not sure if its true but food for thought.

    If Walt poisoned Brock, here’s how I think he did it: Saul’s bodyguard switches the cigarettes in Jesse’s pocket with a clean pack. Walt knows a lot about different chemicals, so he uses some kind of formula to simulate flu symptoms but that won’t actually kill. Jesse thinks it’s the ricen because it’s missing from his pack. Walt explains to Jesse that only Gus allows children to be harmed, boom Jesse is back on his side.

    My prediction, Gus dies. Next season Walt takes his place and the whole season revolves around the tension between Hank and the DEA discovering Walt’s secret. Think how epic that will be, that tension being drawn out in every season and finally coming to a head in the very last episode.

  • J. Kyle

    Welp, I was wrong

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