Episode Title: "Face Off"
Writer: Vince Gilligan
Director: Vince Gilligan
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
With Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) now ready and willing to run the Superlab on his own, Gus Frings (Giancarlo Esposito) felt empowered to fire Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and threaten his family if he interfered with the pending murder of Walt's brother-in-law, DEA Agent Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). Walt made plans to buy new identities for his family and disappear, but when he learned that his wife, Skyler White (Anna Gunn) had given a good deal of his drug money to her former boss (and former lover) Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins), the family's fate was seemingly sealed.
Walt shipped off Skyler, his son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) and their infant daughter to stay with Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt). Meanwhile, Brock, the young son of Jesse's girlfriend, Andrea suddenly became ill. When Jesse couldn't find the cigarette filled with Ricin, he told Andrea to alert the doctors and he confronted Walt in the belief that his former partner had poisoned Brock to get to him. However, Walt was able to convince Jesse that Gus must have become aware of the Ricin cigarette and poisoned Brock to get Jesse to sign off on Walt's murder. Enraged, Jesse agreed to let Walt help him kill Gus.
At the hospital, Gus's underling, Tyrus (Ray Campbell) came to escort Jesse to the Superlab, but Jesse refused to leave without speaking to Gus face-to-face. When Gus finally came, he showed compassion and allowed Jesse to remain at the hospital to await news on Brock. On a building overlooking the hospital parking lot, Walt waited for Gus to get in his car so he could ignite an explosive device beneath it. But Gus seemed to sense that something was wrong and he left his car behind as Walt watched in shock.
Minutes later, Walt races to Gus' car and removes his homemade bomb from beneath it before carrying it into the hospital in a diaper bag. He walks over to Jesse and warns him that Gus is on to them and he demands to know what he told Gus that tipped him off. He also asks Jesse if there is any place that Gus is vulnerable, but before Jesse can come up with an answer, he is taken away for questioning by two cops who want to know why Jesse believed that Ricin was responsible for Brock's condition. At the station, Jesse refuses to say more than he just saw it used on TV and he tells the cops to bring him his lawyer, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk).
Meanwhile, Walt breaks into Saul's office to find him, only to discover Saul's annoyed secretary, Francesca destroying documents for him. She blames Walt and Jesse for her pending unemployment and Walt desperately demands a phone number where he can reach Saul. Francesca blackmails him for $25,000 in exchange for the number, and when he realizes that she's serious, he drives home to get it. But it's not that easy. Realizing that Gus may have men inside waiting for him, Walt calls a neighbor and asks her to check something within the house, momentarily flushing two of Gus' goons out.
Walt sneaks inside and gets to the money in the crawl space, but the two men return and nearly catch him. Walt gets back out to his backyard and dives over the fence before they see him. At the police station, the two cops stonewall Jesse about Brock's condition until Saul arrives to kick them out. Saul berates Jesse for causing so much trouble, but Jesse tells him about Gus' trip to see Hector "Tio" Salamanca (Mark Margolis) in the nursing home. When the news is relayed to Walt, he realizes that Hector and Gus are enemies. Walt goes to the nursing home and makes an alliance with Hector to get their revenge on Gus.
At Hank's home, his DEA friend, Gomez lets him know that Hector and his nurse have come down to the DEA office and will only speak with him. But Hector only sends insulting messages to Hank, rather than give him anything on Gus or the cartel. As the agents wheel Hector back to a car, Tyrus reports to Gus that his nemesis has been talking with the DEA. At the police station, the cops reluctantly let Jesse go when the cause of Brock's illness appears to be something other than Ricin, But outside, Gus' goons attack him and load him into a van.
Some time later, Tyrus checks Hector's room for bugs and leaves to report an all clear for Gus, who elects to take care of things personally. Walt emerges inside Hector's room and asks him if he has any second thoughts. Finally, Gus arrives and he goes to Hector's room to kill him with Tyrus in tow. Gus taunts him one last time before preparing a fatal injection, but Hector manages a look of triumph before using his bell and activating Walt's bomb; which tears apart the room. Gus staggers out with half of his face missing and he falls over dead. At the Superlab, Jesse is forced to cook under guard until Walt arrives and kills two of Gus' men. He tells Jesse that Gus is dead and together they destroy the Superlab to eliminate all traces of their presence.
Hours later in the hospital parking lot, Jesse emerges from the building and lets Walt know that Brock will survive. According to the doctors, Brock was somehow poisoned by berries from a plant called "Lilly of the Valley" and that Gus wasn't responsible. Regardless, both men are glad that he is dead and they shake hands before parting. Walt calls Skyler at Hank's home, where Gus' death alongside a cartel official has vindicated his theory. Walt calmly tells Skyler that he won before he drives past Gus' empty car and silently gloats. Back in Walt's backyard, we see that he has "Lilly of the Valley" growing in a pot… which implies that he poisoned Brock to get Jesse to turn on Gus.
It's hard to choose which moment is going to define this episode: the scene where Gus is missing half of his face or the revelation that Walt sunk even lower than Gus and poisoned Brock in a desperate gambit to get Jesse back on his side. Although it's not explicitly stated, the implication is clear and it explains why Walt was so relieved when he learned that Brock would pull through. It's obvious why Walt did it, but it's not clear how he did it, considering that he barely knew Brock or Andrea. The only explanation that makes sense is that he had help from Saul, who knew where they lived. But is Saul capable of going along with that as well? And what happened to the Ricin cigarette?
Just when we thought Walt couldn't become more amoral, he topped himself twice in this episode. The first time by manipulating his neighbor into walking straight into danger and the second time by what he did to Brock. Walt even shoots Gus' men so callously that he barely resembles the relatively good man he used to be. Clearly, Walt's ruthlessness now rivals Gus' and his hubris doesn't seem to have subsided. He tells his wife that he "won," as if he did it all himself. But there has to be some major blowback over this and it's hard to believe that Gus' organization wouldn't be looking into the man their boss wanted dead.
By the end of this episode, Jesse and Walt were finally on good terms again even if their partnership isn't what it was. But if there was anything that could turn Jesse against Walt for good, it would be if he ever learned what really happened to Brock. And then there's the wild card: Mike, who was last seen recovering from a gunshot in Mexico. He's bound to be pissed about the loss of his boss. However, it was a great swerve to make Hector into Walt's surprise ally. I think we all expected an alliance between Walt and Mike, but who could have predicted this?
"Breaking Bad" built this finale up in the brief scenes all season between Gus and Hector; which made their final encounter all the more memorable. That's also an impressive use of the story elements. Almost nothing is wasted on this show and even the loose ends are tantalizing. Walt doesn't even know that Ted is dead yet and Hank has to suspect something is up with him given the way that Walt caused a major accident rather than pull into Gus' laundry complex. The news report only confirmed two deaths in the explosion; which implies that Tyrus may have survived.
There were even some great comedic moments, especially when Walt initially failed to grasp that Francesca was blackmailing him. I kept expecting him to threaten her for the number, but instead he caved and got the money she wanted. I think Walt has become too accustomed to using his drug money to buy his way out of trouble. But with Gus gone and the Superlab destroyed, he's bound to be a lot more careful with his money in the final season.
More than anything else, this episode brought a chapter of the series to a successful and satisfying conclusion. Gus will go down as one of the greatest TV villains in recent memory and it's stunning to think that he only had three scenes with Walt in the entire year. This episode wisely kept them apart; which seemed to be a more realistic way to avoid what would have been Walt's certain death. Gus' demise had a slightly cartoonish feel, but I didn't mind. It was also a sequence I had to rewind almost immediately to confirm what I had just seen.
I have no idea what's going to happen in season five of "Breaking Bad," but I can't wait to see what Walt does next.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.