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Breaking Bad Season 4: "Face Off"

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Monday, October 10 2011 and posted in Reviews

In an epic season finale, Walt White finds his freedom from Gus, only to take his place.

"I won."

Let's start at the end.  Walt and Jesse shaking hands on the hospital rooftop and going their separate ways, followed by Walt calling Skyler and telling her that it's all over.  He's disposed of Gus Fring, and they are no longer in any danger.  It's all over, and Walt is free.  But we need to see how we got to that point to really understand the whole story.

At the end of last week's episode, when Walt and Jesse narrowly fail at setting up Gus for a fall, they have to scramble to figure out what to do next.  Walt needs to think of some place where he can surprise Gus.  After all, they have this car bomb all ready to be used, it would be a waste not to.  When Jesse is taken in for questioning by the cops about why he was shouting about ricin in the hospital, he just calls Saul to ferry a message to Walt: Gus has a tendency to visit a rest home where he torments an old man in a wheelchair: Tio Hector Salamanca, the man who killed Gus' buddy all those years ago.  Hector, or course, hates Walt, but Walt figures he hates Gus just a bit more.  What comes next is a rounbabout series of seemingly unrelated events that lead us to the money shot of the episode.  Gus is led by the new allies to think that Hector is talking to the DEA (when, in fact he only went there to tell Hank to suck his dick, via a comically laborious process that requires his nurse to brandish an alphabet chart and for Hector to ring his bell when she gets to the letter he wants).  Gus goes to Hector to kill him, and we find exactly where Walt ultimately hides the car bomb: under Hector's wheelchair.  Goodbye Hector.  Goodbye Tyrus. 

At first we think that Gus is invincible.  He's able to walk out of the room seemingly intact, in left profile, adjusting his tie.  Then the camera tracks around to Gus' right side, where most of his soft tissue is blown away, revealing most of his skull.  Gus then tips over.  It may be the grisliest shot in recent television history.  Next week's premiere of The Walking Dead is going to have to try hard to come up with something so gross.  It's difficult to put into words just how disgusting the final fate of Gus is.  That really has been the best part about Breaking Bad in general.  It's difficult to describe why the show works so damn well because it makes great, great use of its imagery, and uses all of the elements of modern television to their greatest effect.  The shot of Gus bascially reduced to something out of a Terminator movie will be talked about and make all the headlines, as it should, but it also encapsulates why Breaking Bad is so successful on a technical level. 

After Jesse is let go by the police (it turns out Brock wasn't poisoned by ricin, but byep13-jesse-walt some local flora known as the lily of the valley; more on that later), he's forced back into the superlab to cook, now at gunpoint.  That is, until Walt shows up, kills off the guards and informs Jesse about Gus' death.  They get to work destroying the lab (a striking image, considering how hard they've worked for the last two seasons to keep it pristine and in proper working order) and walk off to their freedom.

So we end with Walt and Jesse on the hospital rooftop.  Well, almost.  After they leave, and Walt tells Skyler about all that's happened, the intrepid Breaking Bad cameras venture into the White family's backyard and settle on a potted plant near his pool.  That plant: a lily of the valley. 

The implications of that shot will have fans of the show debating until the next season premiere, but it looks a lot like Jesse was right, that Walt did somehow poison Brock after all, getting Jesse on his side by making him think that Gus did it.  Walt is now a guy who is ok with endangering children.  Walt can casually kill five people in this episode.  This is who Walt White is.  In order to rid himself of the scourge of Gus Fring, he had to become Gus Fring.  "Was this you," asks Skyler.  "What happened?"  Walt's reply: "I won."  Walt's journey is complete.  He is the villain of the show now.  So where do we go from here?

See you next year.

Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch

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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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