September 26th, 2011
12:07 PM ET
The final act of last night’s episode of “Breaking Bad” gave us dramatic television perfected, as multiple plot points converged in an 11-minute cyclone of goosebump-inducing dread and tension (and superb acting and cinematography).
Recapping it won’t do it justice, but I have a duty to you loyal readers. So let’s start at the beginning, where various storylines both moved forward and served as fodder for the episode’s concluding spectacle.
First, after Gus turned the Cartel’s pool party into a mass murder scene, Jesse rushed the semi-poisoned kingpin and his bullet-riddled sidekick to a personalized port-a-hospital in the middle of the Mexican desert.
Gus recovered his health about as quickly as a video game character and was soon trudging back to America. He and Jesse weren’t ten steps into the journey before he promoted Jesse to lead meth cook. Pinkman accepted, under the condition that Gus merely fire Walt instead of flat-out killing him.
As for Skyler’s little predicament, she was forced to use her Saul lifeline to get Ted to pay his back taxes with Walt’s “gambling” money. Saul sent two thugs to do the whole “threaten Ted without explicitly threatening him” shtick, and it worked. Ted signed the check for the IRS, but there was just one SLIGHT hiccup – Ted tried to escape the henchmen and as he sprinted away, he fell and appeared to fatally break his neck.
Yes, the Ted/IRS thread had become a nuisance...however! There was always a light at the end of the tunnel, for we knew we’d eventually get to see what happened when Walt learned his money was going to Ted. We were willing to tolerate some nonsense on the path to that moment. When the moment actually arrived last night, the reveal was so powerful and executed so efficiently that all is now forgiven in that Skyler subplot. It was all just a means to an incredible end.
So let’s rehash how it went down. Since Jesse could now cook solo, Walt knew his existence was no longer necessary to Gus. He begged Jesse for help but was turned away, and before the rejection could even register, Walt was being shocked with a cattle prod and dropped in the desert with a bag over his head.
Gus emerged from a black car and officially fired Walt, and it became clear he was only alive per the request of Jesse. Gus proceeded to inform Walt that he was going to take care of the Hank problem himself, and if Walt were to interfere, Gus would kill Walt’s family.
This led to a trademark “Frantic Walt” sequence: he raced to Saul’s office and, in a pair of last requests, asked that the greasy lawyer make an anonymous tip regarding Hank’s impending hit, and asked for the Deluxe Vanishing Package. This would take the entire White family off the grid with new identities. Only thing is, it would cost around $600,000.
No problem, Walt had that – and more – gathering dust in the crawl space! So he went home and burrowed down under the floorboards and rifled through the vac-packs of money. He saw more clothes than cash, at which point Skyler informed him the money went to Ted Beneke. Upon realizing that his family’s fate had just been (vacuum) sealed because his earnings went to his wife’s man on the side, Walt cracked. He let out a rage-filled shriek and a few whimpers before cackling maniacally, the sound of a man who has lost all.
In the middle of Walt’s most epic breakdown, we heard Marie leaving a hysterical voicemail about Hank being targeted again, as Walt’s cackling continued in the background. Hank’s rogue investigation of Gus, Jesse’s rise, Skyler’s attempts to clear Ted’s debt, and Walt’s feud with Gus, it all came to a head in this chilling crescendo. There was no cathartic release, just pressure building on all sides. So with the camera trucking up toward the ceiling and a menacing David Lynch-ian ambient noise reaching a fever pitch, we saw Walt on his back in the crawl space with a vacant stare.
He had hit rock bottom, and in a nifty piece of symbolism, it happened at the very bottom of his home, a man trapped underneath a hulking construct of his own making. So with two episodes left in the season, will Walt crawl up from the depths like a pesky little roach?
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