Breaking Bad Finale Review: “Face Off”

Well I came back from my weekend trip to find that my thirteen month old PC is more or less completely dead. Even after a reformatting (which caused me to lose every single thing on it), it still won’t boot, and I’m scrambling to try and resolve the situation so I can get back to writing.

As such, I was only able to snag a computer for about an hour today, and I thought that time was best spent on getting out my final thoughts on Breaking Bad, as last night was the season finale and a culmination of three months of reviews.

Spoilers follow below obviously, so if you don’t want to know which, if any players met their demise, go watch it for yourself before joining this conversation.

The war between Walt and Gus had its final showdown, and there was a very, very decisive winner. Walt cobbled together a plan out of nowhere that went off without a hitch, and eliminated every threat out there to him, Jesse and his family, with Gustavo Fring the roasted man of the hour.

Face..Off.. Get it?

Once Salamanca was brought up, it seemed pretty obvious how things would progress. They’d figure out a way to lure Gus to him, and then BANG, game over, which is exactly what ended up happening. Breaking Bad is known for its tense moments, but honestly it really felt like we knew what was coming for about twenty minutes before it all went down. Not that it wasn’t a good plan, but I wouldn’t quite call this an exceptionally “thrilling” conclusion either.

I’m torn on the decision to make Gus’s final moments on the goofy side, with him walking out of the explosion to straighten his tie one last time before it was revealed that he’d gone all Two-Face and his entire right side was skeletal form the blast. On one hand, it did make you think for a second that “oh my God, he actually cheated death AGAIN” and also it played into the show’s black comedy vibe that often gets lost. On the other, it was kind of something out of a Will-E Coyote cartoon, and might have been a little TOO goofy for the show.

For a season that portrayed him as largely paranoid, whimpering and pathetic, this finale was all Walt. From the bomb plan (which eliminated a bonus enemy, Salamenca, in the process), to his Rambo rescue of Jesse, to his spine-chilling “I won” line to Skyler on the phone, this might have been his most shining moment.


As it turns out, you guys were mostly right about his involvement with the kid’s poisoning. Yes, he did set up the whole thing to get Jesse on his side, but no, he didn’t REALLY poison the kid, at least not with Ricin. I don’t know exactly what those berries can do, but presumably they’re far less deadly than Ricin, and there was probably a lot less risk to the kid. What I want to know is how he managed to get the kid to randomly eat those berries? Eagle eye sleuths out there, was there a moment in a previous episode that implied this that we may have missed at the time? I can’t think of one offhand.

I liked the finale, but I can’t help but think Breaking Bad plays it safe sometimes. Yes, the plan was cool to watch unfold, but ALL the bad guys died with NO repercussions to Walt, Jesse or anyone? In four years it seems crazy that NO main characters have been killed off who haven’t been the duo’s enemies.

The surprisingly happy end leads to even more questions than a tragic one. With Gus dead, his team in tatters, the meth lab blown up, the cartel massacred, what the hell happens now? Do Walt and Jesse keep cooking despite all this, just to earn cash? Do they try to get out of the game for good, which would be the obviously smart play? This seemed almost like a SERIES finale, as pretty much every loose end was wrapped up. And with I believe only one more season of the show on deck, they’re essentially going to have to start from scratch with an entire new plotline as all the players from previous seasons are dead.

Who’s next?

Anyway, Breaking Bad is always enjoyable, even if it’s not perfect. I maintain that this season took WAY too long to spool up, but when the action kicked into gear, it certainly made for some memorable moments.

It’s been fun discussing the show with you all, and when it comes back, I’ll be here to review it once more. Until then, we have Dexter as our new weekly focus, and join me every Tuesday to discuss all that mayhem.


  • Tim

    I thought to myself last night that Walt has been systematically eliminating all of his competition since the beginning of the series. He plays it as if he’s hopeless and scared and its a them or me situation, which in most cases it is. But he has been wiping out his competition since the very beginning. He is just like the people he’s been getting rid of. In certain ways, think about how Walt’s life mirrors Gus’s.

    I don’t know where their heading with the story but I bet Hank plays a HUGE role in it next season. Gus and the meth lab blowing up will raise alot of questions for Hank. I don’t think his investigation is even close to over.

    Speaking of eliminating competition, I wonder if Jesse is going to have something to worry about at some point.

  • evilash

    You’ve forgotten about Mike. What will he do once he’s up and running? He know’s about Jesse’s ex, who Walter failed to help, I think he’d find that plant at Walter’s. Plus theres Gus’s computer with all the video recording, was that destroyed? There’s plenty of story left for the last 16 episodes, you just seem to be wanting action all the time, every episode has it’s build up and meaning’s – all part of telling a good story.

  • Frankincense

    All the enemies eliminated? Oh, how quickly you have forgotten the bad ass known simply as Mike. He’s still down in that Mexican hospital. The doctor had said he would need about a week to mend, which means he should be appearing in the season premier, unless we get a jump ahead in time.

    I imagine he will be quite pissed to find everyone dead, and he’s smart enough to know how is responsible. My only question is whether Walt will be able to convince him that the Cartel is responsible, what with Tio being the one who blew Gus up.

  • John Chimpo

    If this were the series finale, I’d be satisfied. Having said that, there are still some unanswered questions to be addressed. Such as, where is the ricin cigarette? Where the hell is Mike? Will Walts actions(poisoning Brock) have any repercussions? If the DEA seizes Gus’ assets( and they will), will they come across Gus’ security feeds of the lab? Most importantly, what kind of “insurance” did Gus leave behind in the event of his untimely demise? A man as calculating as Gus is still as much of a threat to Walt dead as he is alive. Walts not out of the clear yet, but for now we should let him bask in his moment of victory.

  • Chak

    Well if there’s only one more season of Breaking Bad ahead of us, it might turn into a Walt vs Jesse thingy (if Jesse finds out who actually poisoned the kid) … and if not, i’m sure there’s another soon to be crushed bad guy waiting for our heroes.

  • shiner_man

    Didn’t Saul give Brock a piece of candy when he dropped off the money? What episode was that in? Was it before or after the scene with Walt spinning the gun?

    As for the missing ricin cigarette, yeah, I don’t know. If Saul did in fact give Brock the poison then it’s completely plausible that he had his bodyguard pick pocket it off of Jessie.

    Also, check out this picture:

  • rcunn87

    Was it just me or did anyone else think that they went with the terminator thing for about 5 seconds? I thought the skull looked almost metallic at first, but then I came to my senses. Man they would have been a curve ball. “Come with me if you want to Live”…

  • chelsea

    i loved this finale and am confused with your review… this show, as with dexter, has had a main conflict each season that is wrapped up neatly by the end. there are sometimes a couple loose ends, however it’s the rhythm for a solution to come in the season finale.

    as someone who has paid attention, it is clear that there will be another new conflict at the beginning of next season (as there always is) and i expect it to get wrapped up somehow by the end of the season.

  • pook

    the next season? jesse figures out walt poisoned the kid and comes after him.

  • ant2206

    What do you mean “all his enemies eliminated”? Let’s not forget the big one, who’s been there from the start, who he’s had far more close calls with than he did with Gus – Hank Schrader.

    I reckon Season 5 will be Hank learning the truth about Walt. Maybe Skylar lets something slip to Big Mouth Marie, she was pretty shaken at the end there having discovered Walt was responsible for the deaths of three people.

    Walt’s family has actually been fairly untouched when you think about it. The final season will be bringing it all back home.

  • Jack

    Well the last season is going to be all about Walt and the DEA. Think about it, there was that scene where Walt’s glasses are in the evidence bag at his pool with a bunch of Hazmad units going about. I think this story, from the very beginning, has been about one decision one man made that directly leads to his death. This isn’t a happy story, this episode didn’t serve to protect Walt, it has only delayed his own demise.

    Whether he dies at the end I don’t know, but I’m guessing that he does, just seems more fitting with the whole vibe of the show.

  • D-Money

    I have to say Paul, your reviews have gotten much better as the season went on. I was one of your chief nay-sayers when you started, but you definitely improved as the episodes came out.

    That being said, please don’t review this again next season. If you want to feature the show on a episode by episode basis make it more like your discussion articles. This show has two kinds of fans: the ones who view BB as a tv show and the ones who view this as a new entry into television history. This review in particular seems to pander to the first group while alienating the second group. This season was without a doubt one of the most risk-taking seasons of television in history and to not see that has hurt your reviews consistently. This show effectively kept people coming back to watch an increasingly dark and deviant main character who embodies everything we despise in humanity. This is not Dexter, a main character who is twisted and evil, but believes he’s doing good by killing distinctly bad people, this is a show about a man who doesn’t think twice about poisoning a child and is willing to hurt anyone to protect his pride (his family is in the back of his mind now: if he loved his family the way he says he does he wouldn’t do this to Skylar and would’nt do this to Junior).

    That being said there is so much left to do in Season 5 and so much introduced as new plotlines for next season that it will be very busy. Between finding out about Gus’s past (he’s coming back in a flashback next season check out the avclub or nytimes interviews), finding out about Walt’s mother and what happened between him and Gretchen that could fill an entire season. We’ve also got Mike coming back, the FBI checking out Jesse, Ted’s death, Walt’s cancer, Jr asking about why Walt called him Jesse, an increased police presence in ABQ after a bombing and a call-in threat on Hank, there are just so many things left to do.

    Again, you did a good job this season Paul, but please make this a discussion based weekly article as opposed to a review that is inevitably compared to the reviews of the and other professional tv reviewers.

  • JohnC

    Yes, Paul, please stop reviewing this show.
    I’m not one who thinks it to be revolutionary, but it does have a sadistic (and somewhat masochistic) charm not seen in very many tv shows.

    You seem to forget that angle and it shows.

    -You ask for more action and quicker pacing when the show has been vehemently against pushing the accelerator towards the finale. And even then the pacing very well controlled.

    -Asking trivial questions that are entirely inconsequential, given the context. Who cares how Brock was poisoned, if indeed it was even Heisenberg? The use of the Lily of the Valley was brilliant, but it is also a common plant. Perhaps he wasn’t intentionally poisoned (although it is unlikely).

    -Forgetting main plot point connections. Hank is paralyzed, his family close to being in shambles because of Heisenberg/Walt’s decisions, respectively. Plus offing the principle cast for shock value is a laughable trope at best, something I’m glad the BB has restrained from doing.
    On top of that, sometimes living in fear, anguish, and powerlessness is a fate worse than death. Walt has certainly put most of his family through sort emotional trauma through the run of the series.

    I like this website and some your work here, but the reviews and your fortification of opinion with evidence are somewhat dismal. Idk if it’s your quick assumption style of writing/analyzation, or just ridiculously simple factual inaccuracies (Caddy/Mercedes anyone?), but it really just irks me.

    I think you could be a great writer Paul, but you haven’t removed yourself from your opinion (objective detachment, is what I’m trying to say).
    Also, most professional writing is done for certain demographics and audiences. Your writing is best described as scatter shot; it lacks focus, almost as if your trying to appease everyone.
    Find your niche and sharpen your focus, and I’m sure you’ll achieve the professional status that you’ve working towards.

    If it’s worth anything to you, I do like your work on Forbes.

  • Henry

    No repercussions for Walt and Jesse? There’s a final season where it’ll probably be dealing with the ultimate DOWNFALL of Walt (and maybe Jesse).

    All this stuff is going to come full circle, Hank’s finding out and all the legal troubles that portends, Jr finding out as well, and Skyler not only coming to grips with that but as well Ted’s death(?) and all his IRS baggage.

    And how much more can Jessie take, honestly? He’s been Walt’s whipping boy the entire series, manipulated and twisted into becoming what he is now. Jane’s passing and this poison berry thing is going to come back, in one way or another.

    You say Walt’s enemies are all gone, how he’s the only one left standing? True, but now he’s gotta deal with his inner demons. The final season’s going to be an inward focusing season, more so than all others previous.

    Walt has a lot to answer for.

  • cool guy

    have you tried replacing the CMOS battery in your computer?

  • Jamie

    So the guy who’s spidey sense warns him to abandoned his car in the hospital, is the same guy who walks into the old peoples’ home to his certain, and some might say obvious, death?


    p.s Did we ever learn how he knew his car was rigged?

  • Grey

    ^^ I think it makes more sense in retrospect. Now we know Walt poisoned Brock, when Jessie told Gus that Brock was poisoned in the chapel, Gus would have realised either Walt or the Cartel were on the offensive trying to punish Jessie (and himself), and so would be much more cautious

  • People take FREE BLOG reviews of TELEVISION shows WAY to seriously. Geez people, let’s see you do it every single week and make it completely perfect for each and every audience member. This is a FUN site, stop trying to make it something it is not, and should not be.

  • Rogan

    I agree with Mandy. This, along with Pajiba, are two of the most fun sites out there IMO.

  • Rosstopher

    Lighten up people, its just an opinion, and prolly a better informed one anyways

  • Odog

    What? Dude? “This seemed almost like a SERIES finale, as pretty much every loose end was wrapped up.” DUDE? The Series Finale is going to be Jesse VS Walt with some Mike and Hank in it! And dont forget Ted! 😀

  • Vincent

    The fact that gus walked out of the room and neatened his tie, could have been choosen to give us a huntch that he survives. The radio and television news said 3 dead people, but that was still unconfirmed. I would really not be surprised if Gus recovers in the next season, both ways stay an option.

  • BananaMoon

    I agree with Mandy! I can’t believe people give such a crap about a blog. If you don’t like his reviews, don’t f*cking read them! This isn’t a some academic site picking apart TV shows and movies. Get a life D-money and JohnC! Sheesh!

  • ant2206

    Paul – I dig your reviews, even when I disagree with them. That’s half the point of it all, right? Please carry on next season.

  • The Dead Burger

    I like your reviews of this show, even if you see it in a different light than some of us.

    I would like to point out that Gus’s death is truth in television – you can see that he’s not totally obliterated, and it always takes a few seconds for the body to power down. It was a homemade pipe bomb, not a plastic explosive or anything professional, so the blast radius was likely fairly small. It may have looked goofy, but judging by the damage done to his face, Gus wouldn’t have died immediately.

    Plus, a friend recently pointed out something rather brilliant to me – chickens are famed for being able to live a few minutes after being decapitated. Los Pollos Hermanos? Eh? Eh? BB has never shied away from abstraction, so I think that does have some role in this.