In which, and excuse us for saying it this way, the shit hits the fan.
We have to start at the end, with that last shot of Walt in his crawl space under the house where his ill-gotten money should be, laughing maniacally and uncontrollably as his fate has pretty much been sealed. He will be killed because he cannot run away. What started with screaming gave way to despondent sobbing, which ultimately led to the laughter. Walt is down there because he is no longer useful to Gus Fring. Thus, as "Crawl Space" ends, we are treated to a shot of Walter White cracking up, framed by the opened doorway to his secret compartment. He's boxed in. The symbolism is on the nose, but effective. In fact, the last ten minutes or so of "Crawl Space" is certainly the most thrilling sequence of the season, if not the show. But not without everything that leads up to it.
We got to this place because of Mexico. Jesse stepped up in Gus' eyes by taking on the cook himself in last week's episode. That, along with gunning down Gaff and mounting a successful getaway (getting Gus and Mike the Cleaner to a hospital before too long, though the doctors don't exactly rush to treat Mike for his gunshot wound, instead fussing over their poisoned boss), have made Jesse into Gus' guy. Gus has all the faith in the world in Jesse now, which means he no longer needs Walt alive. Although Jesse wants nothing to do with Walt anymore, he also pleads with Gus not to kill Walt.
However, he can't do anything for him when Walt finds himself once again playing chauffeur to Hank. Hank is pretty much onto Gus at this point. He has Walt drive him around while he does surveillance on the Pollos Hermanos chicken farm, and even makes Walt drive him to the laundromat where the cook lab is hidden. Walt, relying on his quick-thinking, drives right into traffic to keep Hank from poking around in there. While Hank is laid up again, Walt is mobile within four days. However, he gets a most stunning crystallization of how expendable he is to the organization. He realizes that while he was in the hospital Jesse went ahead and cooked without him, and that if Jesse can take on the cooking himself then Walt is screwed. Not long after, he is captured by Tyrus and taken way out into the desert where he is confronted by Gus. Gus, in his menacing, threatening way, tells Walt that he's "done," and to stay away from Jesse. Walt, of course, puts together why he hasn't been killed yet. The only reason, at this point, for Gus to keep Walt alive is because Jesse doesn't want him dead. Walt knows that Jesse won't cook if Walt is killed; that there is still some part of Jesse that is looking out for Walt. Jesse hasn't been completely turned to Gus' side yet. As Walt is explaining all of this, the episode cuts to an extreme wide shot that displays the rolling clouds and changing sunlight of the scene. It's a gorgeous shot. Breaking Bad has always used its desert locations wonderfully, but this particular shot is truly stunning.
In any case, Gus knows he can't kill Walt, so he decides he's going to kill Hank instead. "Your brother-in-law is a problem you said you were going to solve. You have failed." What's more, if Walt tries to stop him, Skyler, Walt Jr., and the baby will all be killed. This is a threat Walt knows will be honored, so he goes bounding into Saul's office asking for the name of the person who can make Walt and his family disappear with new identities. Saul gives it to him (apparently, the guy's front is a vacuum cleaner sales and service business), and then anonymously tips off the DEA that Hank's life is in danger, as per Walt's demands (Saul refuses to mention Gus, so he instead says that Don Eladio's cartel is coming for Hank to finish what they started last year).
Or course, getting new identities isn't cheap. Saul estimates that it will cost half a million dollars, which Walt thinks he has, until he gets down in that crawl space and finds most of the money missing. Skyler has to come clean about giving over $600,000 to Smarmy Ted so that he'll pay off the IRS. She doesn't get to tell him everything, though. She doesn't get to tell Walt that Smarmy Ted is being really difficult about paying his back taxes. Instead, he leases a car, and finally decides to try to give the money back (which seems to actually be a cover for trying to shake Skyler down for more money). Frustrated, Skyler just calls Saul and tries to get him to solve the problem. Saul sends over his "A-team," which is comprised of man-mountain Hule and that other henchman with the red hair and beard (does that dude have a name?). What Skyler doesn't know is that they pressure Ted into writing out the check and stuffing the envelope before he tries to run away. He doesn't make it. He instead trips over his own rug and slams his head into a piece of furniture. He could have knocked himself out, but a bowl full of oranges falls on his prone body, and if we're going by the rules of oranges set forth by The Godfather, then Smarmy Ted must be dead (there's a hilarous moment when Saul is bitching out his "A-team" when Walt comes busting into the office. Thinking Walt is there about Smarmy Ted, he blurts out "How'd you hear?" Walt has no idea what he's talking about, and moves on to asking about getting new identities).
So everything comes to a head all at once in "Crawl Space." It's all so shocking and intense, really. The slow burn of the season really paid off with some pulse-pounding entertainment at the end of this episode. The Smarmy Ted audit storyline finally intersects with Walt's story. In fact, it causes him to lose his shit under that house, framed by a small, rectangular doorway. He's closed in from all sides now, and he's cracking up and kicking dirt. How does he get out of this one?
See you next week!
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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