October 3rd, 2011
10:35 AM ET
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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