Last week, my Breaking Bad recap spent little time discussing the weeks events and instead shelled out some scrutiny. I wasn’t thrilled with the whole “Ricin” cigarette plot thread, and felt it transgressed the whole “Reality=Fiction” line this show so easily treads. For the first time, I felt as if the writers had manipulated the story into an easy out for the primary players.
I have always been emotionally invested in Walt and his escalating plight but I never imagined that he was capable of stooping to the levels of Gus. This is a man who threatened to murder Walt’s infant daughter. There was just no way, in my mind, that Walt would endanger an innocent boy’s life to spare his family. He was too good for that, too smart. He was a chemistry teacher, after all, spending most of his career in the presence of children. He would find another way. But then I watched the finale, and my worst fears were realized.
On that note, I must give credit where it is due. When I reflect on that statement, I realize that the genius Vince Gilligan and his staff of expert writers/producers have instilled me with a cognitive dissonance of sorts. Rather, Walt always seemed to be teetering on the brink of metamorphosis. This season, he completely ignored his wife, his children, and even his partner Jesse. He got in fights with multiple people, blew up his sons car, and even fed the DEA false information.
However, these things were a mere result of an almost infinite boiling point, a conduit through which to release the ever escalating pressure. He fought because if he didn’t, he would explode (same explanation for the car). Still, underneath this guise of violence and mayhem, I still wanted to see the Walt I’ve come to sympathize with.
Until this episode, he was a Walt who had acted irrationally all for the greater good. So therein lay my dueling stance on Walt: Is he fully morphing into a villain, or is he investing all he has into holding onto the last of his innocence? I chose the latter, despite the horrific sequence of events that played out this season. Then I discovered that Walt posioned Brock, effectively risking his life, just to bring himself closer to Gus and eventually murder him. Walt is 100%, indubitably as villainous as Gus.
Everyone foresaw Gus’ murder. This whole season has been a slow (but steady) ride up to this point, but it didn’t make it any less remarkable. In an interesting twist, Walt recruits the help of Tio (played brilliantly by Mark Margolis) to hatch out his plan. Quite simply, Walt takes the bomb and rigs it to Tio’s wheelchair. To activate the bomb, all Tio needs to do is ring his infamous bell.
The scene that plays out prior to this is reminiscent of a Sergio Leone western: Long pauses on stoic faces, stretches of deliberate walking, and a sweeping score. It was an obvious, but deft segue into the scene we could all see coming, but it could not have been handled any better. Tio and Gus share one last glance before the bomb goes off, their eyes sharing volumes that could never be articulate in words.
What follows is one of the strongest shots of the entire season. In what allegedly took 19 takes and months to develop, we witness the explosion from the hallway just outside Tio’s room. The door is blown from its hinges, denting the wall across the way. Smoke billows out of the room like a frivolous bubble bath, debris scattered in an array like a Jackson Pollack painting.
We see nothing as the dust settles, but then Gus emerges. He almost looks unharmed. Impossible. But then the camera slowly dollys in on him, revealing a man who has quite literally lost half of his face. Then he falls out of frame, and it is safe to assume that Gus is no more (Tyrus and Tio are dead too, to be sure). It makes sense now why they left the hyphen out of the title.
At first, I wasn’t completely blown away by this sequence (yes, that pun was intended). Upon reflection, though, I realize just how powerful his death really is. Tio was the only man that really affected Gus and made him vulnerable (Elucidated in that sinister scene where Gus confesses the murder of the entire cartel to the hapless, wheelchair bound man). Further, it’s not as if Tio set the bomb up himself, and Walt knows that Gus knows this. Therefore, Walt gets to kill the bad guy while Gus’ ultimate nemesis stands by idly, reveling in the kill and going out in a masterful flame of glory. Quite brilliant, I might add.
Then things get all cleaned up: Walt kills the rest of the henchman and recruits the help of Jesse to burn down the lab, effectively covering their tracks. Then Jesse and Walt make up, because Jesse realizes that Ricin was not the cause of Brock’s sickness. Rather, it was a poisonous flower indigenous to the region. The two men shake hands, and part for the season. Walt even makes a call to his wife, promising her that its over.
What washes over her, though, isn’t a sigh of relief. Instead, it’s a subtle yet incisive look of horror that washes over her. She watches the news, witnessing though the media the destruction and death at the hands of her husband. What kind of man has he become, and what has grown within him to become capable of doing such things?
No one knows besides Walt and a breathless audience that he was the one who poisoned the child, effectively setting alight this explosive finale. No one has any idea that Walt is no longer the sweet, charmed, innocent chemistry teacher who would do anything to support his family. No, not one bit. No one knows that Walt is the new bad guy in town.
Overall, I was ‘Berry’ pleased by this finale and it more than exceeded my expectations.
P.S. Pay attention when you rewatch the episode entitled “End Times”. When Walt spins the gun on the table, its barrel points straight to some offscreen plant (thank you, Eli Samler, for this shrewd observation)
P.P.S. No one knows about Ted yet, and Mike doesn’t know about Gus. What will Mike have to say about this next season?
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