Episode Title: "End Times"
Writers: Thomas Schnauz & Moira Walley-Beckett
Director: Vince Gilligan
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
Fresh from his triumph over Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) and the cartel, Gus Frings (Giancarlo Esposito) escorted Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) back to the U.S. and they left the injured Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) in Mexico to recover from his wounds. Gus told Jesse that he was finally ready to take over the Superlab, but Jesse would only agree to keep cooking meth for him if Gus left Walter White (Bryan Cranston) alive. Nevertheless, Gus had Walt brought out to the dessert where he fired Walt and threatened the lives of his family if he interfered with Gus' plans to have Walt's borther-in-law, DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) killed for getting too close to his operations.
Meanwhile, Walt's wife Skyler White (Anna Gunn) tried to force her former boss (and former lover) Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) into accepting her ill-gained money to pay off the IRS. Unwilling to take no for an answer, Skyler asked Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) to send his men to intimidate Ted into complying. But Ted panicked and seemingly killed himself in a freak accident. Thus, when Walt went to retrieve the money needed for the entire family to disappear, he learned that Skyler had given a large portion of it to Ted. With the walls of his life closing in around him, Walt seemed to suffer a nervous breakdown and he began laughing uncontrollably.
DEA agents pull up outside of the White residence to bring them to Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt). Walt makes sure that Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), Skyler and their infant daughter are going to be safe under guard at Hank's home, but he refuses to leave and says that he will face the consequences of his actions alone. To smooth over any suspicions from Hank, Walt calls him and says that he has to stay and run the car wash but adds that he will join them later. Walt then gives an emotional goodbye to his wife and daughter before the DEA agents pull away. Left alone, Walt goes to the backyard and waits for someone to kill him.
At Hank's home, Marie and Walter Jr. are livid that Walt isn't joining them and they blame Skyler for driving him away. Hank sees through the so-called cartel threat as a smokescreen for the real threat from Gus and he reiterates his belief that he was getting close to exposing Gus' drug empire. Hank goads his DEA colleague, Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) into conducting an informal investigation of Gus' industrial laundry plant; which alarms the workers there and Jesse, who is trapped in the lab until the DEA agents leave. Gus calls Jesse to try once again to get him to sign off on Walt's death. Gus tells Jesse that Walt is responsible for the unwanted attention and that he will make "an appropriate response."
After the DEA agents leave, Jesse gets the call to continue the cook. Hours later, Jesse is dropped off by his car and he gets several frantic phone messages from Saul. Going to see Saul in person, he finds the lawyer frantically packing his office to skip town. Saul gives Jesse his drug money and tells him that Walt was taken out to the desert and his family was threatened by Gus personally. At Hank's place, he goes over the photos from Gomez's tour of the laundry facility but he doesn't spot anything suspicious. At home, Jesse gets a frantic call from his girlfriend, Andrea about her son, Brock. Arriving at the hospital, Andrea tells Jesse that Brock's condition has been deteriorating since the morning. Outside, Jesse goes for a smoke… only to find that his poison filled Ricin cigarette is missing.
Jesse informs Andrea to let the doctors know what to treat Brock for, possibly losing her heart in the process. Jesse rushes to Walt's home and finds that his former partner has barricaded himself inside. Jesse gets Walt to let him in and he listens as Walt goes on and on about his time coming to an end while he checks the windows for Gus' men outside. Jesse picks up Walt's gun and accuses him of poisoning Brock as a way to get back at him. Walt admits tipping off the DEA about the threat to Hank's life, but he barely even knows who Brock is. Jesse angrily refuses to back down and says that he and Walt were the only two people who knew about the poisoned cigarette.
However, Walt points out that Gus had cameras everywhere in the Superlab and could have easily learned about it and sent Tyrus (Ray Campbell) to steal the cigarette and poison Brock to motivate Jesse into signing off on Walt's death. Walt challenges Jesse to pull the trigger if he really believes that he could poison a child. Jesse comes close, but ultimately relents and decides to kill Gus instead. Walt stops him from leaving and insists that he let him help. Returning to the hospital, Jesse tries to see Brock but Andrea has him barred from Brock's ICU room. Jesse goes out to the waiting area and he sleeps until Tyrus wakes him and tries to drag him off to finish the cook at the Superlab.
Jesse angrily refuses to leave unless Gus comes down to the hospital and tells him himself. Once Tyrus is gone, Jesse sends a text to Walt, who is experimenting with a detonator in his kitchen while building a bomb. Sometime later at the hospital, Gus arrives with a bodyguard and meets Jesse at the hospital church. He tries to get Jesse to come back to work and he even suggests that he can get Brock the best doctors. Jesse says that Brock was poisoned but they don't know how. Gus relents in a seemingly gracious gesture and he allows Jesse to stay at the hospital as long as he needs.
From several buildings away, Walt watches as Gus and his entourage move towards his car; which is presumably rigged to explode. But before Gus reaches the vehicle, he inexplicably stops and seems to sense that something is amiss. He stares in Walt's general direction, but doesn't seem to see him. Regardless, he turns and leaves without getting into the car; much to Walt's frustration.
I think the biggest problem anyone had with this episode is the "spider sense" that Gus seems to have at the very end. It was a very frustrating moment and a bit of a stretch that Gus would be so paranoid. And if Gus was worried about a possible attempt on his life, why not leave a guard watching his car?
The in-story explanation may be that Jesse tipped his hand by revealing that Brock had been poisoned. If Gus really was behind the attempt on Brock's life, he would have to notice Jesse's choice of phrasing. To really sell his belief that Walt was responsible and get Gus to buy the lie, maybe Jesse should have just said that Walt poisoned Brock and given Gus permission to have Walt killed. There's also a simpler explanation for what happened to Brock: maybe the kid just took the cigarette out of Jesse's box and tried to smoke it himself. That seems more likely than either Walt or Gus targeting him.
From a dramatic standpoint, it's obvious why Gus and company weren't killed off at the end. That would have been too easy and it would have robbed the season finale of a great source of tension. Walt and Jesse just lost their best chance to eliminate Gus, so what can they possibly do now?
Mike has been out of action for most of the last two episodes, and I wouldn't be shocked if he returns just in time to play a role in the season finale. The big question is will Mike side with Walt and Jesse or remain loyal to Gus? Keep in mind, Mike was clearly unnerved when Gus murdered his fellow employee, Victor with a box cutter earlier in the season and he almost seemed ready to turn on him then. Maybe being left behind in Mexico has caused him to rethink his allegiance in the interim.
Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul gave their usual fantastic performances as Walt and Jesse, particularly in their confrontation at gun point. Both actors raised their game for a beautifully intense scene that resurrected the charred remains of Jesse and Walt's friendship. They may not be family, but these men are practically bound by blood. And it's hard to imagine this series without their long running partnership.
One way or another, this seems to be the end of the long running storyline with Gus. Giancarlo Esposito has made Gus into an exceptionally compelling villain, but there doesn't seem to be much ground left to cover with him. On the other hand, Jesse and Walt still have a lot of potential stories heading into the final season of the series. And at some point, the truth about Walt's double life has to come out to Hank and the rest of his family. And that would finally give Walt an opponent that he can't out maneuver or kill. Either way, there's more drama ahead.
I want to read your predictions for the season finale of "Breaking Bad," so feel free to speculate in the comment section below!
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.