'Breaking Bad': Smoking kills
October 3rd, 2011
10:35 AM ET

'Breaking Bad': Smoking kills

Sunday night’s installment of “Breaking Bad” had its moments of tightly wound drama and superb acting, but the episode still felt like the writers were suffering from a hangover after last week’s tour de force.

Not that we blame them - it’s tough to follow up a gem like “Crawl Space.” And as we know, the “Breaking Bad” crew always saves its best hand for season finales, meaning “End Times” was more of a setup episode.

It started with some tearful goodbyes as Walt’s family went into D.E.A. protective custody. Walt hung back at the house with his .38 snub, by the pool where season 2 ended, where the all-seeing teddy bear eye first emerged.

Fitting, since one of this season’s hallmarks has been its focus on being watched and watching the watchers (the past few months served up security cameras in the lab, Gale’s home videos, Hank’s stakeouts and the Cartel’s sniper scope, to name a few instances).

Last night advanced the surveillance theme with a DEA sweep, Gus’ CCTV feed, and Walt implying that Gus is the Sauron of Albuquerque. Several scenes elicited an overhanging, uneasy feeling that a shadowy figure was lurking in the distance. So when the episode ended with Walt watching Gus through binoculars, and Gus sensing he was being watched, it brought the espionage theme full-circle.

But who’s winning this spy game? That distinction would go to either Gus or Jesse. Gus certainly thought he was winning, and as a result he may have overplayed his hand. Meanwhile, Jesse’s unlikely rise within the organization came to a screeching halt once he learned his girlfriend’s son had apparently ingested Jesse’s ricin-infused cigarette. So let’s talk about that whole “Brock poisoning” thing, shall we?

My first instinct was that the kid snuck off with Jesse’s cigarettes and smoked the tainted one. Of course, conspiracy-mongers like Jesse and Walt could never accept such a story. Jesse immediately concluded Walt did it as some twisted way to get back at him for siding with Gus. Naturally, Jesse’s confrontation ended with him pointing a gun between Walt’s eyes.

But Walt talked him down (not that we actually thought Walt would die...after all, there’s one season left). Walt insisted that Gus (or his men) snatched the poisoned cigarette and used it on Brock, figuring that Jesse would then blame and kill Walt.

Aaron Paul treated us to some unbelievably intense acting as Jesse, but this chain of events fell a little flat for me (although it made for a strong anti-smoking PSA...). First, how long had Gus known about the poisoned cigarette? Wouldn’t he have immediately acted with some swift justice for Jesse and Walt?

But fine, let’s accept that Gus knew about the poison and chose to do nothing about it. Would he really base his whole Brock plan on the off chance that Jesse would A) realize it was from the poisoned cigarette and B) immediately blame Walt? That seems like a flimsy play.

Not to mention it’s an extremely short-sighted move for a strategist like Gus. Say Jesse kills Walt in a fit of rage - that’s a whole big mess for Gus to clean up. But even more egregious is the fact that Gus assumes Jesse will kill whoever is responsible, so what’s stopping Jesse from thinking it’s Gus? Perhaps that warning bell went off in Gus’ head at the end of the episode, and that’s why he turned back around in the parking garage.

All that said...I’m glad the writers did something to get the Dynamic Duo back together. When Walt offered the assist on Operation Pollo Muerto, I let out a cheer. So for now, order (if you can call it that) is restored: Jesse is avenging an innocent child, Walt is using his mad scientist skills to help, and they both are in the familiar territory of murdering for survival. Like Walt said, “no more prolonging the inevitable.”

With one episode remaining in the season, will they eliminate the supervillain? And what about the fates of Brock, Ted, Mike and Saul? Let it be known, if we never see Saul again, I may have a “Walt in the crawl space”-level meltdown.

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Filed under: Breaking Bad • television • TV recaps

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. Peter

    They had no other choice. What are they going to do? The point is that Gus does have the spidey sense. He knew something was wrong because Jesse never mentioned Walt. I'm glad things ended the way they did so I can go out as Jesse for Halloween.
    Jesse Pinkman Halloween Costume

    October 19, 2011 at 2:47 am | Report abuse |
  2. winterwonderland

    i dont know much, but i think saul is jewish.

    October 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BadFan

    suspension of disbelief/belief, can't remember (apologies)

    October 4, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BadFan

    I am really impressed with the above summary, but Walt did not poison Brock – it is not in his character – he has a son that has a level of helplessness (that for the most part he has transcended this helplessness) and making Walt a kid-killer I think would warrant bi-polar disorder or some kind of "dream sequence" escape hatch for writers who worked themselves into a corner. But I don't think that is the case here - the writers on this show have to leave at least little to chance, to random events/fates/accidents that set other events in motion - kind of in the tradition of Greek tragedies and Shakespeare. This chance element in my mind comes in the form of a random illness (Brock) that sparks a chain reaction based on projected guilt and intense paranoia. This random element that moves the characters along (all outraged enough to head to some moral center, one hopes) helps viewers avoid that feeling that they're just being manipulated by the writers on a show for ratings and advertising cash - like when it takes five tedious seasons for a receptionist and salesman to finally get together - that was all a matter of whenever the writers and advertising converged at the most milk-able moment. For BBad to avoid viewer suspension-of-belief fatigue syndrome, "chance" has to enter the narrative, or we get cynical. I think all the theories articulated here are more articulate than mine, but the main message of this show is no one person has total control - all the more reason for some random element to come into play.

    October 4, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      Very well put. And I really hope the show is that smart. Sometimes though the pieces of the puzzle fit together too easily and conveniently it seems. The writers aren't perfect. One plot-hole in this season was the subplot with Skyler's ex-boss being audited by the IRS. Though Skyler cooked the books, an audit of a company does not lead to the audit of a bookkeeper's or any other employee's personal finances. The tax returns of significant shareholders and officers may be examined, but the IRS does not examine employees merely because of employer wrongdoing. Furthermore, Ted not paying the amount he owed would not expose her to increased risk of being audited. They don't just start up new audits on employees because they didn't get their money out of the first guy. But who cares, it was never the plan anyway to have Walt and family disappear forever, so I view the loss of $600K to Ted as a minor blemish in this spectacular show. On to the poisoning...
      (I will assume at this point that everyone has seen the season finale, and if not, SPOILER ALERT). Gilligan has said that the entire series is about the progressive moral decline of Walter White (or at least I've read that he has), so I THINK the intention was to have viewers believe he did it, but still leave it ambiguous. I want to believe that for once, it's all a coincidence, and the writers have intentionally misled us to believe he's really that diabolical. After all, though Walt has racked up quite a few kills, they were all bad guys. Is he really the bad guy or just a tragic character with a touch too much pride? I mean, he is still trying to protect Hank, and what other criminal in his position would do that? His gun pointed to the Lily of the Valley plant in the earlier episode so that viewers can make the connection now that the poison has been identified. But is that the "smoking gun"? It's meant to be a cliffhanger, not a condemnation, to keep interest until the next season. Perhaps the kid really did just get into some berries (which are common in the area as noted by Jesse) by himself and Walter used the situation to his advantage, to get Gus to the hospital. He could have simply discovered the poisoning before Jesse and then had the ricin cigarette removed from Jesse's pack by Saul's guy Huelle so that Jesse could be turned against Gus. "Chance favors the prepared mind". Walt knew it wasn't Gus (wouldn't be a shrewd move by Gus for several reasons), but was able to convince Jesse that it was, so he still used Jesse but it was in both of their best interests. It seems like smart writing to me.

      October 10, 2011 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  5. keith

    This plant is called "White Monkshood" and it's poisonous

    Also, watch the scene where Huell pats down Jesse. He touches his breast pocket (the place where most people store their smokes) and then immediately goes into Jesse's pockets about 5 times and then PUTS SOMETHING IN HIS POCKET

    Walt poisoned Brock. Walt knows he can easily make it seem like Gus did it, thus turning Jesse back to his side. My reaction at first was that Walt could never poison a child and Jesse is jumping to stupid conclusions. Imagine when we learn that Walter is not only as cold and calculating as Gus, but now equally ruthless.

    If Gus actually poisoned Brock I will be fairly disappointed in the writers for once. Walter is not a good man. He is a murderer.

    also, read this:

    http://blogs.amctv.com/breaking-bad/talk/2011/10/chekhovs-gun-po-1.php

    I think Walt has to surpass Gus's level of diabolism. I can see Walt killing a kid to protect his own kids. Jane was someone's kid. Walt is the one who knocks...

    October 4, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. R DANGER

    In the last episode of BB we left Walt laying on the very bottom of his house, suggesting that he has indeed hit rock bottom. In the end of this episode we find Walt on top of a roof and on top of his game, as he devises a plan to finally put an end to Da Chicken Man and as Walt waited for Gus and his cronies to enter the car, he made one tiny mistake, as he watched, Walt left his glasses on top of his head making a glare that Gus could see as he walk towards his car, allowing him to ask the question, this is just too easy. So that slight mistake allowed Gus to escape death and makes us ask the question, what the hell happens from here!

    October 3, 2011 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Mark

    The Reason Gustavo did not approach the car is the answer to the question as to whether or not it was really Gus who poisoned Brock. Gustavo did NOT poison Brock. It was Walter who poisoned Brock. When Jesse told Gus that a poison was responsible for Brock being sick the wheels started spinning in Gus' head and as he approached the car realized that WALT had set this whole chain of events in motion and that since planting a device was on his car was nothing new to Walt, he could easily have planted a bomb on the car.

    CONSIDER THIS:

    1. ONLY WALTER KNEW ABOUT THE RICIN.
    2. GUS HAD NOTHING TO GAIN FROM SETTING JESSE OFF AND INTERRUPTING THE COOK.
    3. IF GUS HAD KNOWN ABOUT THE RICIN HE WOULD HAVE KNOWN ABOUT IT BEFORE THE TRIP TO MEXICO AND WOULD NOT HAVE BECOME GUS' GO-TO-GUY.

    Walter is in survival mode and will and at this point is willing to do anything in order to take GUS out and protect his family. My feeling is Walter took the cigarette but did NOT use the same pill on Brock. He probably manufactured a weaker version of the pill in order to make BROCK sick but not kill him.

    Taking the pill from Jesse's cigarette box was necessary in order to implicate himself so that when Jesse came to confront him he could manipulate Jesse into thinking it was Gustavo, thereby convincing Jesse of his plan to lure Gus to the hospital in order to take him out.

    October 3, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. tednancy

    Breaking Bad is not a political show, and never has been. It is, however, a smart show that does not underestimate the intelligence of its audience. Perhaps that is why "Observer" doesn't get it.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. Hank

    Observer – If you are trying to politicize this show, you're showing how stupid you are. Don't be that guy.. Everybody hates that guy..

    October 3, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • 4815162342

      Nah- he's just a D-bag that comments like that on everything.

      October 3, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mike

    I watch it too.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
  11. elm

    Smoking A.I.D.S. infected weenees kills. But we wont hear about that.

    October 3, 2011 at 11:17 am | Report abuse |
  12. Piper

    Me

    October 3, 2011 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Waris

      / Surprisingly! It is like you understand my mind! You seem to know so much about this, just like you wrote the book in it or sethmoing. I think that you can do with some pics to drive the content home a bit, but other than that, this is informative blog post. A good read. I’ll definitely revisit again.

      March 17, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
  13. Observer

    Liberal drug pushing garbage. Who watches this propaganda?

    First!

    October 3, 2011 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Pliny

      It's nice to know that you consider this a 'liberal' waste of your time.

      It's also nice to know that you, presumably a 'conservative', think that being 'first' to post is a valid use of your time.

      You clueless idiot.

      October 3, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |

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