An episode to absolutely rattle you.
"They're here. The end times."
"I don't like my heat so hot, if you catch my drift."
Pity poor Walt White. Left to wait in his house alone, anticipating assassins coming for him, he sits by his pool, spinning his gun around on a table. Everytime he does so, the gun stops spinning and happens to point right at him.
This type of tension has become kind of a trademark of Breaking Bad. Every season has basically acted as a slow build-up of pressure that squeezes in from all sides to a point where it's almost unbearable. There are so many things Breaking Bad does well in terms of tone, but the end of the season is always so draining because of how effectively it heightens drama and leans hard on the sense of latent expectation established throughout the season.
By the time "End Times" gets to the point where Jesse is in Walt's house pointing a gun to his head, your heart is pounding almost uncontrollably. Rationally, we all know that Jesse isn't going to kill Walt, and yet emotionally we're frightened that that's exactly what we're about to see. This season has finely established that nobody is safe, and that Walt White has no means of escaping the fate Gus Fring has chosen for him. Gus has the resources and the utter ruthlessness, while Walt only has his quick thinking and his motor-mouthed sense of logic and reasoning, which is the only thing that saves him from an enraged and hysterical Jesse. Walt, as per usual, is able to parse the unknowns of a situation and put things together when he's about to get killed. When Brock, the young son of Jesse's girlfriend Andrea, lands in the hosptial with mysterious symptoms, Jesse realizes that his ricin-laced cigarette is missing, and immediately suspects that Walt has stolen it and used it to poison Brock. It doesn't make any sense, but Jesse's exceptionally upset and looking for vengeance. The cosmic joke of it all isn't lost on Walt: "I've been waiting for Gus to send one of his men to kill me, and it's you!" Walt points out, after another bout of hysterical laughter, that there's only one person they know who would endanger a child to get what he wants: Gus. As Walt sees it, Gus is the one who somehow poisoned Brock to get Jesse to kill Walt himself. This gets Jesse to put down the gun and start thinking.
Earlier in the episode, when Hank convinces Agent Steve Gomez to go check out the laundromat, Gus tries to make the point to Jesse that Walt needs to die. When Jesse rebuffs, Gus simply tells him that Walt will be dealt with "appropriately." Solving the problem by manipulating Jesse to kill Walt himself would be an appropriate course of action in Gus' world.
And so, in letting reason uncloud his mind, Jesse is back on Walt's side and the tension dissipates. We can all breathe a sigh of relief. This scene, the centerpiece of the episode, is incredible on its own, but only after watching an entire season of episodes of Gus driving a wedge between Jesse and Walt is its power is fully realized. The way it resovles itself really accomplishes a lot. Seeing Walt and Jesse plotting together again really makes us feel like we're in a position of power again. Our two leads are reunited and all feels right with the world.
This is deceptive, because their reunion only leads to more tension later. Jesse plants himself at the hospital, refusing to go back to work. "I'm not leaving here," he tells Tyrus, who's come to retrieve him from the hospital lobby, "and if my employer has a problem with that, he can tell me himself, not his errand boy." His anger is real, but there's more to it than that. It brings the big boss down to the hospital himself, which gives Walt an opportunity to plant a homemade car bomb on Gus' vehicle. After Gus tells Jesse that he can come back to work "when you are ready to return...next week (tacit confirmation that he's the one who poisoned the boy, otherwise how does he know how long it will take for him to recover?)," he and his goons head back out to the car in the parking structure. Once again, more heart-pounding tension, as Walt is on a rooftop across the street, just waiting for the right time to hit the button on the detonator. It's another stunningly tense scene that, again, makes you wonder if what it looks like will happen, will happen. But, as with Jesse shooting Walt, it doesn't happen. Gus, somehow, knows that something is up, and he sternly takes a look around. Does he see Walt across the street? No, of course not. Yet, he turns around and walks away. He never gets in the car. The episode ends with a shot of Walt lying dejected on that rooftop knowing that that was his only shot at Gus. He had a chance to finally kill him, and it didn't come together. Gus has apparently put it together in his mind everything what's happened, that Jesse and Walt are allies once again.
"End Times" is an episode that, through longer takes and wider shots (not to mention swelling minimalist music), goes forth with a sense of impending dread in each moment; dread which builds as time goes on. At one point, Skyler is leaning on a railing looking out into the world, wondering how things got to this point. It's a shot that's recalled later when Gus is in the parking structure looking out and he's piecing together that his car is wired to explode. The shot composition and editing in the episode is excellent, and structurally, the episode is fantastic. Best of all, it continues to utilize the latent expectation to build to what is almost sure to be a jaw-dropping season finale next week.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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