Season finale time! There’s so much I could say about this one, I’m just going to go back to what drew me to this show in the first place. I’ve been seeing around the Internet a lot of people complaining that Season 4 of Breaking Bad hasn’t brought the funny. Well, this week they tried to make up for the whole season in one episode.
Let’s get to it.
HOSPITAL PARKING GARAGE
Picking up from where we left off last week, the show begins a few moments after Gus’s sixth sense kicked in and told him not to get in his car, which turned out to be a wise move because Walt and Jesse had planted a bomb on it. And now, Walt sprints into the parking garage and slides under Gus’s car to retrieve his bomb.
…which he puts inside a shoulder bag and carries into the hospital with him. And it turns out the bomb is magnetized, because it sticks to the elevator door.
I’m pretty sure I saw a Three Stooges short that had something like this
Eventually he manages to extricate himself from the elevator and find Jesse, who’s still sitting outside the pediatric ICU waiting for an update on his and Walt’s plan. He looks like he’s pissing golf balls.
Walt delivers the bad news, casually mentioning he has a real bomb in his bag. Walt complains about Gus’s Spidey Sense, but Jesse gets hung up on the fact that Walt actuallty brought a bomb into a hospital.
But Walt keeps them on-point. Now that Gus surely knows they’re trying to kill him, he’ll pull out all the stops to make sure they’re dead. So they’ll just have to get to Gus first. Problem is, everywhere Gus might be holed up is wired with security cameras. Walt needs Jesse to think of somewhere Gus might go where he’d be out in the open.
But before he can do that, a couple Albuquerque police detectives show up. They have some questions for Jesse. Uh-oh.
ALBUQUERQUE POLICE STATION
After the credits, the two detectives have Jesse in an interrogation room where they’re beginning to sweat him. The surface mood is pleasant, in that way TV police officers act when they’re really focused on nailing someone. (I’ve never been interrogated by the po-po, though, so maybe they really do that in real life).
The detectives clarify that Jesse isn’t under arrest but still can’t leave, so his guard is immediately up. They want to know how Jesse knew Brock might be poisoned, and how he knew what poison Brock might have ingested. Jesse tries to act like he merely mentioned to Andrea the possibility that Brock might have been poisoned, but the cops don’t buy that explanation. He had specific warnings. Where did they come from?
Jesse stalls some more, so the detectives casually mention that this is going to be a federal case since poison is involved. Jesse’s heard enough. He asks for Saul.
But remember, Saul is trying to skip town because of his involvement with Walt and Jesse. Right now the only person in his office is his secretary, who’s busy shredding garbage huge bags full of his files. There’s a knock at the door. She hears it but tries to ignore it as it gets more insistent.
But the plate-glass door smashes, so she reaches for the pepper spray. She carefully enters the lobby. It’s Walt.
Walt demands to know where Saul is, being that this is an emergency, but the secretary is fixated on the fact that Walt just smashed the door, which means she’ll have to wait all day for someone to come to replace it. Walt gets frustrated with her mundane concerns, but then she lights into him for something more serious…Walt is the reason Saul is skipping town, and she’s out of work because of it.
Walt just needs a phone number, but the secretary sees the leverage she has over him, and she uses it. She demands Walt pay to replace the plate-glass window…and asks him for $20 grand. When Walt complains, she ups it to $25K.
THE WHITES’ NEIGHBORHOOD
Forcing Walt to make yet another withdrawal from the crawlspace. He speeds his car down the street towards his house. But then he stops a couple hundred yards away or so. Much like Gus sensed his car was rigged to explode, Walt senses danger ahead.
So…oh my god, I still can’t belive what Walt does here…Walt calls information and asks for the number of one of his neighbor’s, a sweet middle-aged woman named Becky Simmons. On the fly, Walt cooks up a story to tell her: Junior thinks he left the stove on, so can she go over and check? It’s obvious that Walt barely knows her, but Becky Simmons is neighborly enough to do him a solid.
Walt pulls out the binoculars. He watches Becky Simmons emerge from her house with her dog on a leash and walk across the street to his house. She goes inside.
And sure enough, two leather-jacketed thugs sneak out of the Whites’ back yard and saunter away. Walt was right!
As he tries to process the fact that Gus is right on his trail, Walt gets a call from Becky Simmons. No trouble with the stove!
“See you at the next potluck, Becky! I promise I won’t willingly endanger your life again! (But I can’t promise anything about Skyler’s potato salad!)”
THE WHITES’ HOUSE
Having scared off the thugs, Walt now has a chance to sneak into his house. He fumbles his way through the backyard shrubbery, (more Slapstick Walt!), hurries inside, and lowers himself into the crawlspace.
…but over at the window, a couple pairs of legs walk past. The thugs are back! Walt yanks himself back up and pulls the door to the closet shut behind him just as the thugs re-enter the house. They heard the sound. One of them draws his gun and flings the closet door open, but Walt has vanished.
And apparently Gus doesn’t include “Trapdoors 101” as part of his henchman training program
Back out by the pool, the vent on the air duct pops off and Walt crawls out. They didn’t see him. He vaults himself over the stucco wall that borders his property and escapes into his neighbor’s yard.
ALBUQUERQUE POLICE STATION
Back at the interrogation room, Jesse realizes that the cops might know something about Brock’s condition, since he and Andrea have been incommunicado for about twelve hours. But when he asks him, the cops spot the leverage they have on him: since Jesse clearly cares about Brock, maybe he should do the right thing and tell them how he knew about ricin. Jesse refuses, so the cops indicate what the situation is: they’re waiting for the toxicology screen to come back, but if ricin is in Brock’s system, Jesse’s screwed.
But lucky for Jesse, Saul shows up now moment and interrupts the interrogation, shooing the cops away by scolding them for having no respect for the rule of law. (Ha!)
Once they have the room alone, Saul changes gears and makes it clear he’s not happy that he’s been brought out of hiding to save Walt and Jesse once again. (I’ll include the actual line here: “All I can say is if I ever get anal polyps I’ll know what to name them.”)
Then he tells Jesse the situation: since poison is involved he can’t spring Jesse from custody. Maybe that’s not so bad, since being in custody keeps Jesse away from Gus—and, he tells Jesse, that’s valuable, as Gus very nearly just got Walt.
Instead of freeing Jesse, Saul has come to repeat the question Walt asked Jesse earlier: what’s a location where Gus might be vulnerable?
AN UNFINISHED HOUSE SOMEWHERE
After the visit with Jesse, Saul meets up with Walt to give him the update. (I don’t know where this is taking place. Is it a random abandoned house, or has it been on the show before?)
The location Jesse has come up with is a retirement home called “Casa Tranquila”, where Tio Salamanca lives. Walt and Tio have had a pretty big run-in before, so he doesn’t need Saul to describe him. But he isn’t thrilled with the suggestion. How often can Walt count on Gus paying an old cartel associate a visit? It’s too rare and unpredictable.
…until Saul mentions that Gus visits Tio to torment him, and not to check on his health. Which means Tio is Gus’s enemy. Walt has an idea.
A couple dozen retirees are playing a bingo game. Tio sits off to the side, not participating, just staring at the TV. That’s where Walt finds him.
Tio remember exactly who Walt is—the guy who tried to poison his nephew Tuco and then had a hand in Tuco’s death, at the very least. Tio glares at him, with pure hatred.
But Walt just lays it on the table. He realizes Tio hates him, but he’s here to present an opportunity: revenge, if they work together.
Tio is alone in his room, looking like he’s steeling himself for the plan he’s about to initiate. We don’t know anything about the plan at this point, only that there likely is one.
Tio rings his bell for the nurse. She comes into his room assuming he needs to use the toilet, but realizes Tio needs something specific. (The image of a caregiver asking an ex-cartel murderer if he “has to go poopie” made me laugh out loud).
The nurse pulls out a transparent plastic sheet with all the letters of the alphabet on it in rows. This is how Tio communicates specific requests to her. (She goes down each row of letters until Tio rings his bell, then points to each one until he rings again, and gradually he spells out what he wants. Very Diving Bell and the Butterfly). Slowly, Tio selects the letters “D-E-A”.
…and the nurse doesn’t realize it’s an abbreviation. She thinks it’s a word.
CASA TRANQUILA PARKING LOT
Outside, Walt waits in the parking lot for the plan to begin. But then the phone rings.
It’s Junior. While Walt’s been running around town planting bombs on people’s cars and coming up with assassination plans with ex-cartel people, the rest of his family are still sitting around Hank and Marie’s house in DEA protective custody. When this all began last week Walt promised them he would join them shortly, and now they’re getting impatient.
First Junior accuses Walt of not taking the threat seriously. Walt just equivocates. Marie is watching Junior’s end of the conversation and when she can’t take it any longer she snatches the phone out of Junior’s hands and demands that Walt join them. That doesn’t work either. Marie looks over to Skyler for support, but only Skyler, knowing (at least some of) the truth, keeps mum. Walt will join them when he joins them.
Marie sarcastically urges Walt to sell a bunch of air fresheners and hangs up. Walt goes back to the task at hand, barely distracted by the interruption. Marie also sarcastically thanks Hank for not doing his part to budge Walt, but Hank is busy poring over the photos of Gus’s laundry center that Gomez took earlier.
OUTSIDE HANK AND MARIE’S
Meanwhile, Gomez pulls into the Schraders’ cul-de-sac. He confirms with the DEA guards that nothing has happened, then goes inside.
The moment he sees Gomez Hank wants to show him something he’s noticed in the photos: basically, Gus has twice the power than he needs to run a laundry center that size. Once again Hank is right, and once again Gomez dismisses him.
But actually, Gomez has something bigger to talk about. It looks like Tio finally managed to get through to his caregiver, because he’s told the DEA he has some information for them. The catch is, he’ll only give it to Hank.
It took Tio six months to tell the nurse all that
So, Hank could potentially have a lead in the Heisenberg case, but he’d have to leave protective custody to get it. Marie, Skyler, and Junior all interject. They think it’s a trap. Gomez disagees. Tio isn’t known to be a major player in the cartel any more, so they don’t think he’d be part of any assassination attempts.
But there’s another angle they have to consider…to Tio and the Cartel talking to the DEA is a mortal sin. The last time they tried to interrogate Tio, when they found him inside the house where Hank gunned down Tuco, Tio literally crapped his pants in front of them. So why the change of heart?
The family put their collective foot down. Hank is NOT leaving the house.
And cut to, Hank at a conference table in the DEA building. (I laughed. I like when they edit funny). He’s chucked the wheelchair in favor of a cane and he’s gotten rid of his soft neck brace entirely for the occasion.
Along with Hank are various DEA staffers and ASAC Merkert. Tio sits across the table from them. He’s ready to “talk” through his nurse. Hank asks him to give his statement.
Tio and his nurse begin their agonizingly slow spelling process again. Tio spells out the letters “S-U-C-K M-Y” before Hank and co. figure out what he’s saying. They aren’t laughing, but maybe Tio is just having a go at them. They ask him to start over.
The second time Tio spells out “F-U-C” before they stop him again. He smirks, proud of himself.
You know, even though it’s pretty safe to assume Tio has skinned alive the families and friends of people who crossed Don Eladio, I kinda love him.
Well damn. Next, the nurse is loading Tio onto the elevator, profusely apologizing for his misbehavior. Hank, Merkert, and Gomez all look disappointed. Did Tio just stab Walt in the back?
OUTSIDE THE DEA BUILDING
And who should be watching Tio emerge from the DEA building but Tyrus. He’s been stationed outside the DEA building the entire time because of Hank, so he’s seen everything. He calls up Gus to tell him the news, that Tio has just spoken with the DEA.
Tyrus watches the nurse load Tio onto a handicapped bus, then calls Gus and tells him the news. Has eyes on the DEA and Tio has paid them a visit.
Back at the retirement home the camera fades in on a family portrait of a younger Tio along with Tuco and the Cousins as young children. Even then Tuco looked like a murderous little shit.
Happy memories, from the day we went to an authentic Old West ghost town and Tio taught us how to murder tourists
Then the door opens and Tio’s nurse pushes him in. She is extremely cross with him for pulling a stunt like that. (Which, if you think about it, is kinda crazy for an old folks’ home tenant to be doing…major abuse of resources, having them drive you to the DEA just to fuck with them).
She leaves. Slowly, the bathroom door opens, and out steps Walt. He has one question for Tio: “Any second thoughts?” Tio keeps silent, which is as good as saying “no”. So that scene at the DEA was part of the plan! Walt closes the door to the hallway so their plan can continue.
OUTSIDE CASA TRANQUILA
But outside, a car pulls up. It’s Tyrus. He scopes out the parking lot. Satisfied, he heads inside.
Tyrus walks down the hall toward Tio’s room. Is Walt still inside?!
Tyrus enters Tio’s room. No Walt. Tio is facing away from the door and Tyrus doesn’t announce himself, so when Tyrus pulls out an electronic detection device, (for bugs? Explosives? I don’t know), and scans the room, Tio is kept in suspense.
Tyrus spots the medallion Mike took off Don Eladio’s body, the one Gus gave Tio last week as part of his gloating. He makes his way over to the bathroom—Walt’s only other hiding place—and opens it. No Walt there, either.
But as he closes the bathroom door, Tyrus hears a voice saying “Hello!” outside the window. He perks up, goes over to investigate.
And outside, we see Walt pressed up against the building just outside Tio’s room. An elderly woman next to Tyrus’s room has spotted Walt and is calling out to him, just to be friendly.
See what happens, Walt? You can use the elderly for your twisted ends, like you did with Mrs. Simmons, but they can use you for their ends, too. (Like, um, socializing. You get what I’m saying)
Walt tries to shush her. Back in Tio’s room, Tyrus looks like he might suspect something. He turns and walks out of Tio’s room. Walt makes a break for it, jumping in his car and peeling out from behind some Casa Tranquila dumpsters.
Back at Jesse’s storyline…Jesse is still stewing in an APD interrogation room when the taller, balder detective arrives with some news. Jesse is free to go. Because, it turns out…there wasn’t any ricin in Brock’s system.
The detective gently reminds Jesse that he should probably act a little more surprised by this, but it’s hard for Jesse to hide the fact that his mind is blown. If not ricin, then what did poison Brock? Was he even poisoned?
OUTSIDE THE APD STATION
Jesse runs out of the police station—even if Brock wasn’t poisoned with ricin, Jesse still needs to be at the hospital. But he doesn’t have a ride, so he decides to call a cab, and as he tries to hail one he pulls out his phone and calls Andrea, getting her voicemail and leaving a message asking her to call him back.
But as he finishes his call, a man parked in a minivan by the curb calls out for Jesse’s attention. Jesse looks up, and a second guy, one of Gus’s men, sneaks up behind him, tasers him, and loads him inside.
Tyrus is sitting in the Casa Tranquila parking lot. He calls Gus, first to tell him that Jesse has been collected, and then to report on Tio. Tyrus is satisfied the room is clean and Tio is unguarded.
Hearing this, Gus seems to be taking a moment to make up his mind, then decides that yes, he’ll be coming to Casa Tranquila himself. Tyrus offers to take care of Gus’s business with Tio alone, but Gus declines. It’s too personal for that. Gus hangs up.
He thinks about it some more, but finally, he shuts off his laptop and its multiple surveillance camera feeds, then gets up and starts changing out of his Los Pollos outfit.
CASA TRANQUILA, LATER
A short while later, a car pulls up next to Tyrus in the Casa Tranquila lot. It’s Gus, with a driver. Some jangly, Western-y music kicks in with a pounding beat. Gus nods, and Tyrus gets out and walks into Casa Tranquila ahead of him.
Then we get a looooooong shot of Gus as he prepares to get out himself. Unsurprisingly they leave it open to interpretation, but to me, Gus is just thinking about the fact that he’s finally going to kill Tio for real. He always thought he would savor it, but that’s not the case. Who knew killing an invalid in a wheelchair would be so tough?
But finally, the phone rings and Tyrus gives him the green light. Gus takes a deep breath, orders his driver to stay behind with the car, and finally gets out.
Tyrus stands over Tio, who is still facing away from the door so that he can’t see who enters and exits. Even so, when the door opens and Gus comes in, Tio knows who it is.
It’s worth saying every time: that dude playing Tio can fuckin’ act
Tyrus wheels Tio around to face Gus. But Tio, like he always has, refuses to look Gus in the eye.
Gus starts off. He challenges Tio’s manhood for talking to the DEA. In Gus’s eyes, Tio’s honor is gone. Tyrus takes a glasses case out of his pocket. Inside that is a syringe.
Gus grabs a chair and drags it across the floor until it’s directly in front of Tio, where he sits. Gus lets Tio know exactly what the stakes are: Tio is going to leave this world as “a crippled little rata”. Tyrus fills the syringe with whatever they’re about to give Tio and hands it to Gus.
Gus sees that Tio still isn’t looking at him, and gives him one last chance to do so. Tio still looks away. But right when Gus leans forward to give the injection, Tio turns his eyes to him. Tio looks genuinely sorrowful. Gus is stunned.
But then Tio’s expression turns to rage. He slams on his bell, over and over and over. Tyrus and Gus are perplexed, but then…Gus notices that the bell is attached to a wire…and the wire is attached to Walt’s bomb.
Fuuuuuuuuuuck. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
But wait. After the doors are blown off Tio’s room…Gus fucking WALKS OUT:
He starts adjusting his tie. The camera slowly pans around to a frontal shot:
For fucking serious
And Gus goes down.
THE ALBUQUERQUE AIRPORT
Over at the airport, the long-term parking lot is full of cars. The camera picks up one of them. It’s Walt’s car. He’s sitting alone, listening to the radio. The drive-time afternoon radio crew interrupts with a breaking story. Bomb at Casa Tranquila. Three people dead.
But we’ve still got Jesse being held captive. Right now he’s down in the lab, forced to continue the cook. Another of Gus’s roughnecks is watching over him. Jesse spots a screwdriver on the table nearby, and the thug suggests he rethink that strategy.
Back to work. They hear the buzzer on the freight elevator. The guard hands Jesse a set of handcuffs and orders him to chain himself to a vat while he checks out the situation. He walks over to the elevator and opens the door, and it’s another guard. Jesse’s thug is annoyed the guy didn’t just use the stairs…but then Walt steps out, with his .38. Jesse hears three shots. Being all chained to a vat without a weapon has him pretty screwed.
BuBut then he sees who it is. Walt casually walks up to Jesse and tells him, simply, that Gus is dead, and they have work to do.
Walt and Jesse don hazmat suits, pick up some axes, and begin destroying the lab. They rupture the vats of methlamine, creating a huge pool of chemicals that seeps toward some wiring they’ve left exposed.
Upstairs, Gus and Jesse walk out of the Superlab and warn the laundry employees they’d better get lost. The ground below them rumbles. The lab catches fire, and any evidence of their time at the Superlab is destroyed.
THE HOSPITAL PARKING GARAGE
And that’s that. Our anti-heroes have done it! Gus is vanquished, they’ve covered their tracks, and their loved ones are safe—yup, including Brock. Jesse has since learned that the kid’s gonna pull through. Walt looks as relieved as Jesse is to hear this.
The doctors are still ruling out ricin, Jesse tells him. They think instead that Brock ingested something called lily of the valley, which is a common plant with poisonous red berries. Kids eat them by accident all the time. Looks like there wasn’t anything nefarious about this.
Jesse wonders if this means that, since Gus definitely didn’t poison Brock, he still had to be taken out. Walt tells him it does. Damn right.
Walt extends his hand, and they shake. Their business has concluded, at least for a while. Jesse goes back inside to be with Andrea, leaving Walt alone.
On the top of the parking garage, Walt picks up his phone and calls Skyler. She and the rest of the family are glued to the TV watching news of the Casa Tranquila bombing and Gus’s death. She picks up and steps away to take his call.
She’s relieved to hear that Walt is OK and the family is safe, and still shocked over the news. But when she realizes Walt already knows about the bombing, she perks up. Did he have something to do with it? Walt simply tells her that he won and hangs up.
THE WHITES’ HOUSE
As Walt rides off into the sunset, the show cuts over to his backyard. Nobody is around. We slowly zoom in on a potted plant, with a label. Lily of the valley.
“Hey audience! I got your “sympathetic protagonist” right here!”
Man, oh man what a finale, and what a season. That’s about everything I could ask for in one episode. Plenty of crazy, unfuckingforeseeable stuff, AND it was hilarious. They really outdid themselves. I’ll start out with stuff I liked from this individual episode…
-Slapstick Walt! Amazing!
-I also laughed out loud when Saul’s secretary griped about having to get the stupid glass door fixed while Walt was clearly in the middle of a shitstorm, but it does fit into one of the themes of the show. Partly Breaking Bad has been about how putting people into dire economic straits will force them to do things they didn’t think they were capable of. As she makes a point of telling Walt, the secretary’s just lost a job. Do you think she would have even contemplated extorting a client for $25K before Saul skipped town?
-I also loved how Walt didn’t immediately grasp what the secretary was getting at when she told him it would cost $20 G’s to fix the plate glass window, and he disputed it. (“No reputable vendor would charge that”—ha!) As cunning and manipulative as Walt’s become, he’s still a little lacking in the people skills department.
-Normally I don’t like trying to tie things in fiction directly to broader stuff going on in society, but this time I’ll go for it. When Saul and Walt met to discuss where to find Gus, to me the location looked like a half-completed house that got abandoned during construction. Maybe that was a nod to the housing collapse the last couple years.
-I admit it, I was positive Brock was poisoned by ricin and not something else, and I was sure it was an accident. To everyone who thought otherwise, well done.
-And as for Gus’s death…there’s nothing I can say that would describe what that was like, so I’ll just replicate my exact thoughts watching the scene:
“Holy shit, the bomb is under Tio’s chair. Holy shit, the bomb actually exploded! Holy SHIT, Gus is unscathed! Wait, no, HOLY SHIT, half his face is gone and he’s gonna be disfigured next season! (And, holy shit, they CGI-ed the muscles in Gus’s empty eye socket to move in conjunction with Giancarlo Esposito’s remaining eye) HOLY FUCKING SHIT GUS IS DEAD!!!!!
Holy…shit. Walt killed Gus. Walter White killed Gustavo Fring. Walter White actually killed Gustavo Fring.
Time to wrap up. Like with any individual episode, the entire season wrapup could go on for pages because so much went on. For me, I took three big things away from Season 4…
-Kudos to those who predicted that Walt would become Gus over the course of the season, because that was our big storyline. I three spots in this episode alone where Walt displayed Gus-like behavior: when he sensed danger while pulling up to his house, when he executed that wildly elaborate assassination plot, and when he harmed a child for his own ends. Gus has done all of those things. Did you notice how at the end of this week Walt told Skyler “I won” instead of “We won”? I would be SHOCKED if Walt didn’t become ABQ’s next meth kingpin.
-I’ve really identified with Walt in Season 4 in particular, more so than I have in past seasons. While the show’s been about Walt undergoing a transformation, in another way it’s also been about him getting fired. I’ve been let go from jobs once or five times, and the show absolutely nails that sense of paranoia you get when you first suspect you might be about to get the ax. You and your employer have to act like nothing is wrong, but you know something is up, and your employer probably knows you know. For me, the doomsday scenario is getting laid off. For Walt it’s having his whole family murdered. But I can totally relate. Walt and I are pretty much the same.
-The show’s always been about the unintended consequences of Walt’s one decision to start cooking, but the one big specific consequence I noticed was how everyone’s very personalities changed. I hope you’re not sick of me pointing this next one out, but to me Season 4 saw nearly every character become a manipulator of others at some point, from Skyler, who had to join Walt in protecting the big secret, to Junior getting a Dodge Challenger out of his Dad’s guilt, to Marie pretending to be someone else and going on fantasy open-house visits, to Hank using his mineral collection as cover to investigate Gus, and even to Gomez when he had to talk his way into the laundry without a warrant. Jesse’s the only person who ever came clean about his manipulations when he confessed to the support group that he’d only started coming in the first place so he could sell them meth.
I could go on and on, so I better wrap up. For me, while it’s fun to recap a show you get to tear apart, it’s even more fun to recap a show you genuinely like. I hope my fandom didn’t get in the way too much. And I hope you guys had fun. I’ve had a blast.
I’ll be back next week for my second season of The Walking Dead coverage. Hope you check it out! As always, thanks for reading.