26
Sep
2011
Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 11
Crawl Space
Jordan
OH. MY. GOD. After ratcheting up the tension last week, Breaking Bad took us further than we have ever gone before in one breakneck hour of television. Every scene in "Crawl Space," nearly every moment in the entire episode took tensions higher and higher until there was nothing left to do but break down completely, laughing maniacally at the chaos and the madness of the world. This whole series has been about Walter White breaking bad, yet for the first time tonight, I feel like we might have watched the most significant moment in that transformation take place. Tonight we may have seen Walter White finally transformed into a villain.

I may be over-reaching a bit there, and only the next two weeks will tell if we have witnessed the birth of a brand new Walter White, but I can tell you that the slow, subtle, methodical and thematically resonant side of Breaking Bad was on pause tonight. The small moments of brilliance the show has been giving us all season were replaced tonight by big, huge moments of action, moments of significance and moments of transformation. "Crawl Space" is not the perfect episode of Breaking Bad (my ideal would have a bit more of the subtlety and at least one of the stellar monologues we talked about last week), but its pretty damn close. Its a huge, sweeping episode that kept me on the edge of my seat for longer than any in the past, and that contained moments that will stick with me for a very long time.

We open with Gus Fring's Mexico Medical Team rushing to save Gus and Mike from the wounds they sustained last week. For a moment, it looks like Mike might be left by the wayside for Gus' treatment, and there was always a chance something shocking might happen here, but this was only the beginning. From there, we see Skyler's confrontation with Ted, which gets pretty intense considering how little I care about him. Watching Skyler grow cold and scream made me realize how much we've seen her change over this season (and this series) and what a darker person she's become. Both of these were excellent scenes, but both were mere preludes of what was to come.

Then there's Hank's stake out. Of course he doesn't find anything at the farm, but on day two, he wants to check out the laundry. Knowing full well that he can't pull his car into the place he cooks meth with a DEA Agent riding shotgun, Walter thinks fast (or, honestly, not at all) and causes a serious car accident that sends he and Hank to the hospital. This was all pretty bad, but the consequences, well, they' re quite a lot worse. While Walter is hospitalized after the car accident, Jesse cooks without him, demonstrating once and for all what Gus already knew: that Walt is expendable and that Jesse could take his place. When Walt realizes this, he rushes to Jesse's, where he is turned away coldly...and then tazed by Tyrus.

We next see Walt out in the desert with a bag on his head. Though I knew things wouldn't end here, I couldn't help but think "This is what we've come to. This is what the end will look like for Walter White." Of course, this was just a warning from Gus. Walt is "fired" and told to stay away from Jesse, the laundry, and the meth business. He is also told, in no uncertain terms, that he will be killed as soon as Jesse comes around to the idea. Oh, and that Hank is on the chopping block now, since Walter failed to put him off the case.

This scene, as intense and perfectly played as it was on its face, showed us how far everything has unraveled. When Jesse killed Gale, Walt knew that Gus would keep him and Jesse alive. Now that Jesse is the cook, Gus will listen to his wishes for the moment and keep Walt alive. But with Walt out and Jesse's hatred of Hank still burning in his chest, there's no one looking out for him, and Gus is going after him.

From here, the rest of the episode is an absolute tornado, as Walt blows into Saul's office, asking for the man who can make he and his family disappear, and begging Saul to call the DEA and tip them off about Hank. Then he races home, dives down into the crawl space and discovers that Skyler gave most of their money to Ted. There's no safety net for Walter White, not even after all this time. Walter got into the meth game to build himself something to leave his family behind. Now he has nothing to show for all of his work, and knows his whole family may be killed for his actions. And so we end with Walter White, laughing maniacally, rolling around in the dirt and the dust below his house, bruised and freshly tazed, looking up through the crawl space as the soundtrack drones and the very walls of the house above him seem to shake as if they may crumble down around him. It is a stunning, perfectly executed and deeply memorable shot, and it encapsulates where we find Walter White perfectly.

This may have been a recap heavy review, but with all that went on tonight, it would be impossible for it to be any other way. There was less subtlety to analyze than usual, but only because everything the show had built up was exploding around us for 45 straight minutes. Ted died. Hank might be next. and Walt and his family are targets of a man who never lets a vendetta go, a man who killed dozens of cartel, only to go back to Hector and let him know he had murdered the very last of his family, completing his vengeance for the murder of Maximilio. Gustavo Fring, and the mighty forces he commands are coming at the White family, and Walter has nothing, not even the money he has sold his soul for, to protect him.

Grade: A

Notes:

-I said above that Ted died. That's certainly what it looked like to me, but I guess technically we don't know that for sure. Either way, things are a lot worse on that front. Something tells me we haven't seen the last of these troubles.

-"There are many good ways south. Unfortunately only one way north." Is it just me, or does this sound as much like a comment on morality as it does a comment on border crossings?

-"He was the only family you had left. Now the Salamanca name dies with you."

-"This job can get boring as hell. Until it's not." Take that, anyone who has complained about this season's pacing!

-"Frozen yogurt does taste the same. It tastes exactly the same." "I feel sorry for your taste buds."

-"Does the laundry have to be dirty?" "Nope."

-"You gotta help me. Please." Walter begging still always gets to me. Bryan Cranston plays desperation so well, its amazing.

-"I will kill your wife. I will kill your son. I will kill your infant daughter." Jesus Christ. This confrontation was pretty much what I'd been waiting for all season.

-"Can't say its been a pleasure..."

-"Thank you, Saul."

-"Skyler, WHERE IS THE MONEY?"

-"When is this going to end?"
Tags: Breaking Bad
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