Season 4, Episode 11- Crawl Space
“I don’t want to talk about it, to you or to anyone else. I’m done explaining myself.”- Walter White
The teaser in this episode features Jesse frantically driving Mike and Gus to a pre-prepared first aid station in a warehouse in the desert. The doctors there immediately treat Gus, hooking him up to a dialysis machine in an attempt to filter the toxins out of him. After Jesse drags a bleeding Mike into the tent, screaming for them to help, the head doctor replies that since Gus pays his salary, Gus will be treated first.
After Gus recovers, he and Jesse begin the long trip, on foot, back to New Mexico. They leave Mike with the medical team to recover, but not before it’s revealed that not only was treating Gus planned for, but Mike and Jesse as well. The doctors there have full medical records of all three of them. It makes sense that Gus planned for poisoning himself, but to see that he had a contingency in case Mike or Jesse got hurt shows that he cares for them, if no more than as viable assets. As they begin their trek, Jesse tells Gus to let Walter go. To fire him. When they get back to Albuquerque, they pay a visit to Hector, and Gus gives him Don Eladio’s necklace, taken from his body. Gus then tells him how his grandson, Joaquim, the only family he had left, was shot dead by Jesse, who is understandably perplexed by the virulence of Gus’ hatred. “The Salamanca name dies with you,” Gus tells him, before imploring him to look him in the eyes. The inference is that whenever Hector is ready to look Gus in the eyes will be when he is ready for Gus to kill him.
Just before we start to think that the entire episode will be about Jesse and Gus, we’re pulled into Walter’s world, where, after being stonewalled by Tyrus, he takes Hank up to the distribution plant, and they have themselves a good old stakeout. Hank inquires about Walter’s face, telling his brother in law that “if he’s in over his head, I’m *the* guy to come to.” Walt declines. The next day, Walt picks him up again, but this time, they aren’t going to the distribution plant. They’re going to an interesting little laundromat Hank dug up, one owned by Madrigal Electromotive. One that Hank thinks is a perfect spot to hide a meth lab. Just as they prepare to turn into the laundry, Walt pretends not to notice, and then turns into oncoming traffic in an attempt to derail Hank’s chase. Later, Walt apologizes, and Hank reveals that instead of having other people drive him around, he “caved” and ordered a Tahoe with hand controls. His investigation’s going to continue, no matter what. All Walter has done is remove himself from the equation, which should only make it easier for Hank to find just what he’s looking for.
The other storyline in this episode begins when Ted calls Skyler and tells her that he’s not going to pay off the IRS. He can’t take her money. Undeterred, she enlist Saul and his A-Team, Huell and Kuby. The two goons strongarm him into writing a check to the IRS, and, as Kuby relays their plans to get the check to UPS and keep him company for a couple days until it clears, Ted makes a run for the door, slipping a rug in the entrance way and slamming into his kitchen divider. Oranges pour out of a dish on the divider, echoing the Godfather. Cue the Benny Hill theme.
When he returns to the superlab to begin cooking again, he notices that someone else has been cooking in his absence. A smirking Tyrus tells him that they can’t afford to stop, not even for him, and Walt realizes that he has become expendable. With his tail between his legs, he visits Jesse’s house (interrupting him in the middle of entertaining Brock and Andrea), asking him for help, to which Jesse responds by reminding him that when Jesse asked for help, Walt claimed that he hoped Jesse ended up dead in a barrel. Jesse slams the door in his face, and as Walt ponders what to do next, Tyrus appears behind him and tasers him. The next morning, Tyrus removes his hood to reveal that they’ve brought him deep into the desert, where Gus arrives in all his fearsome glory. “You are done. Fired,” Gus says, warning him not to show his face at the laundromat or contact Jesse again. “Or else you’ll do what?” Walt asks, realizing that the only reason he isn’t dead is because Jesse won’t sign off on it (just as he says this, the shadow of a cloud rolls over the landscape, obscuring everyone in darkness. If that was intentional, it was cinematographic magic). Gus tells Walt that eventually, Jesse will agree to it, but until then, he has Hank to worry about. He tells Walt that if he interferes, he will kill his entire family. After Gus and Tyrus leave, Walt heads over to Saul’s office in a frenzy, begging Saul to help put him in contact with the man who can help him and his family disappear forever. Saul obliges, and they say their farewells, but not before Walt has Saul agree to place an anonymous call to the DEA to tell that Hank is being targeted by the Cartel.
Walt runs into his house. His cough is coming back. He opens up the crawl space and starts gathering all the money he can. Something’s wrong. There’s not as much there as there should be. Skyler, terrified out of her mind, finds him, asking what the phone call he left her meant. Walt asks her where the rest of the money is, she tells him that she gave it to Ted, and something deep and primal inside Walt breaks. He starts to laugh at the absurdity of it all. At first, it’s a giggle, then almost a sob, but as Skyler leaves to answer the frantic message Marie is leaving on their answering machine, it’s an all-out cackle. As he passes out, lying in the dirt, the camera pulls upward, making the crawl space look more and more like a tomb. An finale like this could have been a satisfactory ending for the entire series, but we’ve still got two episodes left in this season and two seasons after that. One thing that is apparent is this: no matter what we see over the next two episodes, the Walter White that we met at the beginning of the series is now dead. That meek, pathetic also-ran of a man, with all his bland thoughts and regrets, is dead. What we see from now on is pure, unadulterated Heisenberg, pushed to his absolute limit by the primal need to survive. Gus Fring’s masterstroke has come and gone, and now he is on the verge of taking everything from Walter. He quite literally has nothing left to lose.
Season 4, Episode 12- End Times
“Then let me help.”- Walter White
End Times begins with a pair of black cars descending upon the White house. Is this Gus’ hit squad? Apparently not. It’s a DEA detail come to take Walt, Skyler and their children to Hank and Marie’s, where they have a full security detail set up. Walt refuses to go. He tells her that if he’s there, none of them will be safe, and that the consequences for his actions should fall on him alone. “No more prolonging the inevitable,” he says. He goes outside to see Skyler off, and hugs his daughter for what he thinks will be the final time. The credit sequence rolls. This episode, along with the finale, forms an effective two-part finale, so instead of recapping individual character storylines, I’m going to give a chronological summary of events.
Walt sits in his backyard, passing the time until armed men come to kill him. He spins his gun twice, and twice it ends up pointing back at his chest. He does it a third time, and it points to a plant sitting next to his table. He smirks bemusedly. While Marie and Junior complain about Walter’s absence, Hank convinces Gomez to check out the laundromat, convinced that the anonymous threat against his life is a smokescreen to get him to give up his pursuit of Gus Fring. Gomez manages to convince the manager of the Laundromat to let him look without a warrant, he brings the pictures back to Hank. After they leave, Jesse resumes the cook, and when he leaves, he gets an urgent summons from Saul. He heads over to Saul’s office, where Huell frisks him and Saul gives him his share of the money, telling him that he’s skipping town and Walter’s facing an imminent demise.
Since his scene next to the pool, no one has been able to contact Walt. As Jesse and Skyler wait to hear from him, Jesse gets a frantic call from Andrea, telling him that Brock is in the hospital. Jesse hurries over, and after Andrea tells him that the doctors don’t know what’s wrong with him, he heads outside to smoke. As he does, he realizes that his “lucky cigarette,” the one with the ricin capsule in it, is missing. Jesse sprints back inside and tells a confused Andrea that Brock may have been poisoned, and to tell the doctors that it’s Ricin. Then, Jesse heads over to Walt’s, where he finds his former partner barricaded and paranoid. Walt tells him what Gus has done, leaving his gun on an end table as he paces around the living room, telling Jesse that he doesn’t know how or when Gus is going to kill him, but he knows it will be soon. When he turns around, Jesse’s pointing the gun at him, asking him why he did it. Walt thinks he means the DEA, but that’s not what Jesse means. He thinks Walt poisoned Brock in an attempt to hurt Jesse one last time. Walt denies it, and Jesse knocks him down to the floor. Walt asks who, if anyone, would have anything to gain from poisoning a child, and that’s when he starts laughing again.
“I have been waiting all day, waiting for Gus to send one of his men to kill me. And it’s you,” Walt cackles, telling Jesse that not only has Gus gotten Jesse’s approval, but he’s gotten Jesse to be the one to pull the trigger. He reasons that Gus has “known everything, all along,” and has orchestrated this entire plot. As Jesse starts to believe it, Walt tells him to go ahead and kill him, if he thinks his old partner capable of poisoning a child. He grabs the gun and pressed the barrel to his forehead, demanding that Jesse shoot him. Jesse can’t do it, and as he leaves to go exact vengeance upon Gus, one way or another, Walt asks to help. White and Pinkman are reunited again.
Their plan begins when Jesse returns to the hospital, spending the night. When Tyrus wakes his up the next morning, he refuses to leave, telling Gus’ top enforcer that if their boss has a problem with it, he can come tell him himself. When Tyrus leaves to call Gus, Jesse sneakily texts Walt, who is busy making something scienc-y in his kitchen: a bomb. When Gus pulls into the paring garage to talk Jesse down, Walt sneaks to his car and plants the bomb on it. Their plan goes flawlessly except for one thing: Jesse’s accusatory tone. It throws Gus off enough that when he returns to his car, his instincts tell him not to get in. As Walt watches from the roof of a building across the street, Gus turns around and walks away, electing to get a ride with one of his subordinates. The episode ends with Walt crushed, defeated, and thoroughly out of options. Much was made, after the episode’s initial airing last October, of Gus’ seemingly supernatural premonition not to get back into his car. In actuality, there’s nothing inhuman about it. Gus knows that Walter is actively moving against him. He knows that Jesse thinks someone poisoned Brock. He knows that his car had been left unattended. Something about it irks him, rubs him the wrong way. So he leaves. You don’t achieve the sort of success Gus has without having a finely-tuned sense of danger.
Season 4, Episode 13- Face Off
“I won.”- Walter White
The final episode of Season 4 begins almost immediately after the penultimate one ended. Walt races to Gus’ now abandoned car and successfully removes the homemade bomb he planted, bringing into the hospital in a diaper bag, eliciting quite the response from Jesse (“did you just bring a bomb into a hospital?”). As they discuss where, if anywhere, they can catch Gus off guard, two detectives from the APD approach Jesse and ask him to accompany them to the station. They want to discuss why, exactly, he was so adamant that Brock had been poisoned with Ricin, and while he does his best to feign ignorance (“I saw it on National Geographic”), he’s saved by the timely arrival of Saul. After they confer, Jesse is free to leave, since Brock’s tox screen came back negative for Ricin (which surprises Jesse). He barely makes it out of the police station before Gus’ men kidnap him and take him back to the superlab, where he remains for the majority of the episode.
Walt, meanwhile, heads over to Saul’s, having to first break his way in and then bribe Saul’s secretary into giving up her employer’s location. It’s the rare comedic scene in an episode like this, with Walt having to crawl his way out of the broken door after being shaken down by Saul’s secretary, who plays well off of the aloof Bryan Cranston. After this, he heads back to the White home, but not before his own danger sense kicks in. Worried that Gus’ men might be waiting to kill him should he step foot inside, he calls his next door neighbor, Becky Simmons (through a collect call, cleverly enough) and has her enter the house under the pretense of checking to see if Walt Jr left the oven on. The elderly Ms. Simmons (played by series creator Vince Gilligan’s mother), checks the house, and Walt sees two men leave through the back as she does. After having risked this woman’s life for something she has absolutely no stake in, Walt sneaks into the house and grabs all of the money he can from the crawl space, narrowly avoiding Gus’ goons as he makes his escape.
When he meets Saul at an abandoned building outside of town, Walt learns that Jesse thought of somewhere were Gus’ guard might be down: Casa Tranquila, the nursing home where Hector Salamanca lives. Walt is noncommittal until Saul mentions that Gus and Hector are enemies. Soon after, Walt pays a visit to Hector, who is mad with rage upon seeing one of the men he wants dead the most. Fortunately for Walt, he wants to see Gus dead even more, and they come to an agreement. It is then that they put their plan in motion. Hector signals a nurse, with whom he awkwardly tells her that he wants to talk to the DEA. He requests to see Hank personally, and, under a security detail, they meet at DEA headquarters. Hector, in one of the more painfully funny scenes in the show’s history, begins to tell Hank both “suck my” and “fuc” before ASAC Merkert ends the meeting. Hector is too much of an old gangster to ever tell the DEA anything, but Walt knows that Gus is watching his old nemesis, and when Tyrus sees him leaving the DEA, he immediately calls Gus. When Hector returns to his room at Casa Tranquila, Walt appears, having hidden in the bathroom, and asks if he’s ready to begin.
Soon after, Tyrus arrives and scoped out Hector’s room, not noticing Walt hiding just outside (despite the efforts of a very confused resident). Walt leaves afterwards Tyrus then returns to his car and informs Gus that everything is clear, also offering to kill Hector himself to avoid danger. Gus refuses, just like Walt knew he would, letting his desire for revenge cloud his judgment. Gus makes a final march into the nursing home, sitting in front of Hector and scolding him for talking to the DEA. While he prepares the syringe he is about to kill him with (either an untraceable poison or a lethal overdose of one of what is surely one of his many medicines), Gus offers his old nemesis one last chance to look him in the eye, which, surprisingly, Hector accepts. What is first a mocking sneer morphs into an expression of absolute hatred. Hector begins furiously ringing his trademark bell, which has been wired to the bomb Walt has strapped under his wheelchair. Just as Gus figures this out and screams in denial, the bomb explodes, wiping out all three men and blowing Hector’s door of its hinges. As an alarm goes off, a pair of nurses arrive and are shocked to see Gus stride out of the wreckage, seemingly unharmed. He begins to fix his tie. As the camera pans around, we see that in fact, half of his face has been blown off, and as the shock begins to wear off, Gus realizes it, too, and collapses. He is dead.
In an airport parking lot, Walter hears on his car radio that there has been a deadly explosion at a nursing home. He breathes a sigh of relief. After this, we catch up with Jesse, who is being forced, almost literally at gunpoint, to continue his cook. After someone buzzes in on the freight entrance, the man guarding him handcuffs Jesse to a pole. He answers the buzz, only to have Walt appear and shoot him in the face with his snub nose pistol. Walt strides across the superlab, dropping his gun in a manner not unlike how Gus dropped the bloody box cutter in the premiere. He releases Jesse and tells him that Gus is dead. The two of them torch the superlab using the chemicals there, and leave as the underground explosion rocks the Laundromat. We next see them on the roof of the hospital parking garage, where Jesse has just learned that Brock is going to be fine. Somehow, he ingested a flower called Lilly of the Valley, one that can be very deadly to anyone who does so. Walt is relieved, and reassures Jesse that even if Gus didn’t poison Brock, he still deserved to die. They shake hands. Just then, Skyler calls, having just seen the news that Gus Fring is dead. She wants to know if Walt had anything to do with it. “I won,” he replies, and as the Danger Mouse song begins to play, Walt glances over at Gus’ Los Pollos Hermanos chain, hanging from the rear view mirror of his Volvo. He smiles. The final shot of the season is a close up of the plant Walt’s gun landed on back in “End Times.” It is a Lilly of the Valley.
Whatever the ramifications of Walt having endangered a child to orchestrate this entire affair, one thing remains true: he is no longer a fundamentally good person. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing these recaps, almost as much as I’ve enjoyed rewatching what is perhaps the most morally challenged and intense show ever produced for American television. If this is your first time reading or your 14th, thank you for doing so. Season 5 of Breaking Bad debuts Sunday, July 15th at 10/9 central on AMC.