Breaking Bad – “Face Off” – review

October 11, 2011
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You folks probably recall how last week how I was bitching about the shakiness of the motivations behind the characters in poisoning mystery, how Jesse making the instant connection to Walt when Brock got sick was weak, Walt’s theory on Gus weak as well.  Well, it turns out that shit was so flimsy because it was all part of Walt’s Gus-level evil plan, a plan that he was making up on the fly but which has paid off handsomely – for now, at least.

So you’ve got Walt scrambling to get Jesse out of jail after the FBI gets word of his concerns about ricin  being involved in Brock’s illness, Walt having a great comic scene with Saul’s secretary (who I believe goes by “Honeytits,” we learned a while back).  The secretary gets Saul over to lock-up, Saul gets back to Walt about Fring having fun torturing Salamanca in his poopy pants wheelchair.  (God, how demeaning was the poor guy’s nurse?)  Then Salamanca gets a bunch of great scenes utilizing his alphabet chart, going in to the DEA to look like he’s giving up Fring.  Meanwhile, Jesse gets released when the doctors determine ricin had dick to do with Brock’s poisoning only to get nabbed right outside the police station and forced back to work.

Hank all the while is starting to figure out that something’s up with the amount of power going to the laundry, gets awfully close to uncovering the lab.  (Loved the scene of Hank plugging away at the computer while Marie, Walt Jr, and Skyler all freaked the fuck out about Walt not staying at Hank and Marie’s place.)

So Walt manages to pull off using the bomb on Fring and Tyrus (aren’t we all glad that Mike is comfortably resting south of the border now?) and even tying ol’ bell-ringing Hector in there, giving him a fucking sweet last hurrah.  (And that shitty CGI last shot of Gus?  This episode wasn’t called “Face Off” just cuz there’s a major confrontation…or because the writers, I don’t know, really like the John Woo movie, maybe?)  Anyhow, the bad guy’s dead, they blow up the lab (looking ridiculously cool the whole time, obviously) and they get out from under Gus free and clear.

And it was a great episode, not just because it was extremely satisfying in a “fuck yeah!” sense (which it was) or because it’s great to see Walt taking charge of his life again (he wasn’t rocking the Heisenberg hat but he did have a pretty fuckin’ flash green shirt on at the end), but because the last shot really brought home just how fucked up Walt has become.  He assures Skyler that “he won” and then we’re assured that yes, Walt was the one who poisoned Brock, who masterminded this whole thing to get Jesse’s help with killing Gus.  Yeah, he’s relieved Brock is alive and will recover, but he knew the risk when he dished it out.  Similarly, he also put his sweet old lady neighbor’s life on the line to get the money to pay off Saul’s secretary with likewise non-fatal results.  Oh, and in addition to putting two innocents in jeopardy this episode he also shot two bad guys and helped blow up three others.

Yes, our boy Walt has grown up – and not for the better.  He’s colder and more calculating and power mad than ever before.  Looking back at the season, one has to wonder how much Walt’s struggle was really about survival so much as about Walt not wanting anyone to have their hand up his ass, about him wanting to be the top dog.

But with Fring and company in the ground, Vince Gilligan has allowed for a final season next year where the people who deserve to bring Walt down have a streamlined opportunity.  People like Hank, who no doubt will wonder why, with Fring dead, where the blue meth continues to come from (if meth is even a part of next season, that is), or people like Jesse, who could kill Walt for either Brock’s poisoning or his old girlfriend’s OD – whichever shoe drops first.  Or maybe Walt’s brutality will frighten Skyler and she’ll turn him in.  Or maybe the Russian from the pine barrens will show up at the diner and…wait – wrong show.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves shit right there – what’d you guys think of the finale?  I wish they’d further explain how Walt managed to poison Brock, but it’s more satisfying to have the ball-punch ending than an over-explanatory one.  Maybe the first episode of season five will be like second episode of the first season where they double back and explain what happened in the pilot in greater detail through flashbacks…but probably not.  It was a pretty ballsy choice for them to withhold so much from us these last two episodes where the show has all been about process up ‘til now, showing your work like it’s your chemistry homework.

What’d you think of the season as a whole?  Did it stack up to seasons two and three?  What is the agreed upon heirarchy of the seasons, by the way – I keep hearing different opinions.  There’s no consensus like with The Wire where everybody says season four is the best (which is bullshit – Hamsterdam in season three trumps cute kids in four any fucking day). I think I like three best but for a while it was two.  (*pushes glasses up bridge of nose*)  Lemme know, broke baddies, and I’ll see you folks (*sigh*) a fucking year from now when we’re in the home stretch of the best show on television.

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Nerd of Noir

I love crime/noir fiction, comics and movies. I think my opinions are web-worthy. Then again, what asshole doesn't think that their opinions deserve a blog?

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5 Responses to Breaking Bad – “Face Off” – review

  1. Nathan Pettigrew on October 11, 2011 at 3:57 pm

    There’s one loose end that someone else pointed out to me -the laptop that Gus looked at every day from his office to make sure Gus and Jesse were working. He has both Jesse and Walt recorded in the super lab -so they blew up the lab but not the Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant, and after two explosions -one killing Gus and one at the laundromat that was under suspicion, you can bet the DEA are going to raid Gus’ office and confiscate that laptop. That’s what would happen in real life anyway, and then Jesse and Walt are screwed. It’ll be like Gale’s super lab notes. So they have to address that next season or else it’s one gaping plot hole in all of this. The only way to come out from under that situation is if Mike gets to it first, but then I’d imagine the DEA would move in right away, or unless Gus recorded daily and also erased daily, to cover his own ass -which would be the Gus thing to do. But they have to address that.

    Otherwise, right -I had no problems with Walt poisoning Brock -but HOW he did it is still the question and I would like to see addressed.

    Knowing that Gus was going to die, and having it spoiled online with everyone guessing that it was really Walt who poisoned Brock, the Season 4 Finale held no surprises for me. But I did like it and watching it was fun. It was also a fair representation of Season 4 as a whole -meaning slow the first half, and then nothing But motion in the second half.

    I’ll concede to Season 4 kicking some serious ass as well -especially in that second half with episodes 7 through 13. Once things picked up, it never slowed down. But now that it’s over, for me, Season 3 was better. There was constant tension from beginning to end on so many levels, between Skylar vs. Walt in the beginning, between Hank closing in on Walt and Jesse and all the way to the point where he had them cornered in the RV, and then of course those freakin’ twins running around -all of that was in the first half of the season before we even got to Gus and his true power being fully revealed after it was too late and Walt and Jesse were under his thumb. You also had all those scenes between Gus and Walt, and then wondering at any moment if Jesse would find out about Jane. It was chaotic, full of tension and confrontations from all sides. Constant pressure from beginning to end.

    That’s not to say that I think the show’s becoming less than it was -I don’t think that’s the case at all. It’s just that Season 3 is better to me and my personal favorite, but this show is still very much the best on TV as far as I’m concerned -and I”m very excited about Season 5.

  2. Patti Abbott on October 11, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Walt had got to die in Season Five, be it the big C, the cartel, the cops, Jesse, something. He has become too evil to survive. For me, there was not a single wasted scene this season. Not a moment that didn’t go somewhere. How many shows set the bar this high and then sail over it. Bravo!

  3. Thomas Burchfield on October 11, 2011 at 9:54 pm

    Ah, but Gus, evil genius that he was/is, may likely have arranged to have his computer somehow put out of reach or self-destruct should anything happen to him, like getting arrested. I’m also anticipating the Return of Mike (a very Angry and Vengeful Mike.)

    I was half-expecting Skyler to buy it, especially with that agonizing tease when she stepped out on Hank’s patio for a smoke, with all those hills around the house, perfect vantage points for a sniper.

    Otherwise I’m pretty open to what’s going to happen next season.

    Hard to pick a favorite season. We watched the first three in a great grand rush, so it seems like all one season to me. I have to say, I think it plays a little better on DVD w/ no commercials. It seems to bring out the show’s cinematic qualities to better effect.

    No doubt, though, best TV show going.

  4. Nathan Pettigrew on October 12, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I don’t know about Mike -he’ll be angry because he’s out of a job, but I’m not so sure how vengeful he’ll be because unlike Walt, he’s Professional. That’s always been his MO -be it getting an ear blown off or getting shot or watching his boss slice another man’s throat -he remains professional and I would imagine that as long as Walt and Jesse can somehow compensate for his job loss, he won’t be out to avenge Gus -’cause it wasn’t personal for him, it was a job.

  5. Keith Allingham on November 1, 2011 at 3:27 pm

    I think that season 4 was bigger, better, more spectacular and noisier with lots of twists. I couldn’t stop watching. However, season 3 may actually have been better. It was certainly darker, and (being on Walt’s side) more depressing and desperate. There were times in season 3 that I actually thought about not watching anymore because it depressed me so much at times– almost, anyway. Can’t wait for the final season! (It’s GOT to be the last season; he can’t go on forever!)