3
Oct
2011
Breaking Bad: Season 4, Episode 12
End Times
Jordan
Watch that Thirty-Eight Snub. Watch it as it spins around and points to Walter. Watch as it happens a second time. And watch as it spins a third time, pointing away from our Mr. White. The spin of that gun was just random, after all. Watch where it gets pointed. Watch who holds the gun. Watch who holds the power. Walter keeps it close, though he never has control. All he has is a vague hope that he'll get a few shots off before death catches up to him. And when Jesse picks it up, he manages to leave a (wrenching) imprint of the barrel on Walter's forehead. Yet the gun doesn't give Jesse power, not really. The gun (as we'll get back to in a moment) is cold comfort in a world that feels like its coming apart at the seams.

Breaking Bad has a particular talent for cold opens that I have commented on several times before. It has a way to give us exactly what we need at the start of an episode, even if we don't know it. Sometimes we get obscure, foreboding messages of what is to come (like the crawl of death in the season three opener or the floating debris that plagues us in just the right episodes of season two). Sometimes we get blackly comic action scenes (like Mike's trip in the refrigerated truck). Sometimes we get flashbacks that fill us in on the details (how Tortuga met his end, or how Jesse got the RV, for example). And sometimes, we get a quiet revelation that things have gone farther than Walter ever imagined. Sometimes we just get to see him say goodbye to his infant daughter for what he believes will be the last time.

If season four of this show has been all about slowly shifting allegiances, tonight was about getting Walter and Jesse back on track and allying them against Gus for one last crazy run at freedom. It was subtle, at first, but it started early. Jesse is forced to keep quiet while Gomez searches the laundry. He is forced, in another example of Tyrus' petty cruelty, to step over to get the phone. He is driven out to his car in the middle of the desert. He is called by Saul and told that, in spite of his warning to Gus to leave Walt alone, the entire White family has been threatened. Jesse is the cook now, and that means he has to suffer all the indignities Walter has been putting up with all season. Yet when Brock takes ill and Jesse has reason to believe it is ricin poisoning that afflicts his surrogate son (can we call Brock that?), he goes gunning for the one man he believes is responsible: his former surrogate father, Walter White.

That gun (see, we're getting back to it) hasn't helped Walter get over his terror, and when Jesse arrives, he is using the coffee table to barricade the front door, keeping blankets over all the windows. And the gun won't help Jesse clear up what happened to Brock. To Jesse's mind, Walt poisoned Brock to hurt Jesse one last time before he shuffled off this mortal coil. Though Jesse's theory (that Huell stole the cigarette while patting him down) is kind of ridiculous, I don't know that Jesse's ultimate conclusion is wrong. Sure, Walt tells a great story about how Gus would have poisoned Brock to turn Jesse against Walt, but that doesn't seem much more plausible to me than Jesse's original theory. Gus was clearly working on turning Jesse earlier in the episode, but we know Gustavo Fring to be a patient man (look at the decades he waited to exact his revenge on Hector). Gus is not the type to act impulsively, and the poisoning of Brock does not feel like his work. It does, however, feel like something a desperate Walt might have done to convince Jesse to turn against Gus again (though honestly, its also possible that Brock wasn't poisoned at all. That was never confirmed tonight, and it would fit perfectly with Breaking Bad's nihilistic view of the universe as a random and chaotic place if Brock's illness was completely unrelated to the situation at hand).

After threatening to kill Walt for a little while, Jesse concedes that he has a point, and the band gets back together. I was very excited by this prospect, which actually surprised me. Considering all the shit these two have put each other through, their estrangement seemed perfectly natural to me. Maybe I'm just a big softie, but seeing Jesse and Walt back on the same side, with the same goal in mind made me very happy. Walt's plea for Jesse to just get out and not go after Gus is clearly disingenuous (and part of his act to convince Jesse to get back on his side, if you ascribe to the theory that Walt did poison Brock), yet it did remind me of those happier days back in season two when Walt really did think of Jesse like a son.

The two devise a very clever plan, in which Jesse refuses to leave Brock's side, forcing Gus to come to the hospital to talk it out with him (which they could have predicted, considering Gus' reaction when Walter was at the hospital last season for Hank), at which point Walt will plant a bomb (which he made with science, because we haven't seen any chemistry genius in a while, and that is still Walt's thing). But, lest we get our hopes up, their plan is quickly felled by Gus' preternatural instinct for danger and ability to read the field before him. It was obvious that after all this, Gustavo Fring would not be felled by a car bomb Walter set off from across the street, yet watching Gus just know was chilling nevertheless. Things have not gotten any better for Walter White. Not yet anyway. But, whether for the right reasons or because of some deeply troubling subterfuge, Walt has Jesse back on his side, and Gus in his sights (even if he does have to use binoculars still for the moment). Tonight, the .38 snub was a symbol of impotence, the impotence that has plagued Walt all season. I don't honestly know if that metaphor will hold true next week. I don't honestly know what will happen next. But that fact excites me, and I am very, very ready for the season finale.

Grade: A

Notes:

-"There's gotta be another way." "There isn't. There was, but now there isn't."

-"I have lived under the threat of death for a year now. Because of that, I've made choices. I alone should suffer the consequences. And the consequences...they're coming."

-"Why didn't you put him in the car?" "Because this isn't Nazi Germany?"

-"Honey tits. I say its endearing."

-"They're here. The end times, kid. End times."
Tags: Breaking Bad
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