Breaking Bad – “End Times” (Episode 4.12)

TV Reviews
Breaking Bad – “End Times” (Episode 4.12)

“Skyler, I have lived under the threat of death for a year now, and because of that, I’ve made choices. Listen to me. I alone, should suffer the consequence of those choices. No one else. And those consequences, they are coming. No more prolonging the inevitable.” Last week’s Breaking Bad saw our protagonist Walter White at the end of a noose. All of his strategies failed, all his options had exhausted. With “End Times,” we see the aftermath. The progression of Walter White from “Half Measure” to now has been an interesting one. In a way, it’s almost been stagnant this season. The scariest part is still not knowing where this will lead Walt. Gus’s plan to completely alienate and frustrate Walt at every single turn has knocked him back down to earth. And just like first season when Walt found out he had cancer, he’s gradually begun to accept the inevitable. “End Times” above all else is the calm before the oncoming storm.

Walt’s confession to Skyler at the beginning of the episode was interesting. Because up to this point, almost every single decision he has made has been out of his own self-interest. Walt still might not be ready to admit that his decisions have been for himself, but at least he tries to own their consequences alone. Yet, to the writer’s credit, his declarations always remain somewhat dubious. As we saw in “Salud,” Walt is able to express what seems to be his true feelings to his son, but then just like that, he’s able to make excuses to push it away. So when Walt shows courage to Skyler, it’s hard to know how true he’ll be. Will he just find another way to escape by the skin of his teeth?

The episode’s pacing allowed space for the looming tension. For much of the episode, Walter is missing. His family is worried, and Jesse is on edge, knowing that “appropriate” punishment is coming to Walter. When Gomez of the DEA finally checks out the Laundromat on the behest of Hank, Gus uses this opportunity to tell Jesse that this was Walt’s doing. Of course Jesse understands that Gus is ready to pull the trigger. Frantic calls from Saul brings him to Saul’s office, where our favorite sleazy (but loyal) lawyer is packing up and getting out of town. Saul then lets loose to Jesse that Walt’s entire family was threatened by Gus.

Before he can even think of Walt, Jesse gets a call from the hospital from his girlfriend. Rushing over there, he’s told that Brock has “flu-like” symptoms. Distraught, he goes to wait outside and take a smoke to relieve the stress, when he realizes that his poisonous cigarette is missing. Aaron Paul gives a phenomenal performance here, as he completely loses it at the hospital. He knows the minute he can’t find that cigarette, Brock was poisoned. He’s not sure who to direct his anger at first, but he knows only one other man knew about that cigarette, Mr. White.

Similar to the end of “Bug,” Walt and Jesse have another confrontation, this time in Walt’s house. Completely on edge, Walt has his entire house boarded up with a gun by his side. When Jesse finally shows up at his doorstep, Walt says, “Everything, it’s all coming to an end. Do you even know what’s happening? The full scope of what’s happening?” Walt is trying to sell Jesse on the extreme gravity of the situation. Unlike the fight in “Bug,” there’s much more going on here. As Walt turn his back on Jesse, Jesse picks up the gun and points it at Walt. Easily one of the most emotional scenes in the series, Jesse accuses Walt of poisoning Brock. On a much deeper level, Jesse feels this move was to get back at him, rather than a strategic move: “You did this to rip my heart out before you die.” The father/son relationship has always existed between these two, and it’s really starting to come out. You can tell Jesse cares just as deeply for Walter as he hates him for his lack of compassion and affirmation. The scene escalates into a gripping moment where Walt is on his back and Jesse is shoving the pistol into his face yelling at him to just tell the truth for once. The scene’s quiet air ends with the pulsating heartbeat from “Crawl Space” returning. Walt just falls over laughing: “This entire day I was waiting for one of Gus’s men to come and kill me, and…it was…you”. Walter then convincingly argues that he would never harm a child, unlike Gus who has already condoned it. And after all, how would Walt have gotten the cigarette from Jesse? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Gus to have done this, so that Jesse would finally be okay with Walter being killed? All of this hits Jesse, and he realizes that, of course, it was Gus.

After weeks of separation, Jesse and Walt are back together again as a team. Back at the hospital, Jesse refuses to leave to cook the days batch. He tells Tyrus (Gus’ henchmen) that Gus will have to come talk to him himself if he wants him to leave. After Gus meets up with Jesse in the church of the hospital, Walt sets up across the parking lot on an adjacent rooftop, where he has a detonator for the pipe bomb he has placed under Gus’s car. After some back and forth, Jesse finally reveals to Gus that Brock has been poisoned, and refuses to leave. Gus, seemingly surprised by Jesse’s story, tells him to take off for as long as he needs. As Gus walks back to the parking lot, Walt anxiously waits for him to get close enough to the car so that he can detonate the bomb. But Gus knows something is up, and stops and looks around. After feeling the situation isn’t right, he decides to bail without his car. Walt in complete disbelief, has tears welled up in his eyes. You can tell that for him, every single move made at this point, really could be his last.

In a foreboding scene earlier in the episode, Walt sits around his pool spinning his gun. As he spins it, twice the gun points at at him. But on the third spin, it points outward and Walt has this look of determination on his face. At this point the question has to be asked: Did Walt poison Brock? Not only did Walt disappear after the pool scene in the morning, no one could reach him all day. Why wasn’t he picking up the phone when it was people he knew? Especially Jesse, who at this point was his last hope. Wouldn’t it make more sense for Gus to act the way he did at the hospital, if he had no idea what happened to Brock? He would be in a state of confusion and anger as to why Jesse was not showing up to work. If Gus did, in fact poison Brock, he would have expected to have to show up at the hospital, and wouldn’t really feel all that suspicious walking back to his car. Of course, this is speculation. There are multiple things to counter this, like the fact that Jesse had the cigarette in his pocket in the morning. How and where would Walt have grabbed it? But see, this is why Breaking Bad is so brilliant. The fact that we could even entertain the idea that Walt could do this to Jesse, means all bets are off when it comes to these two men (Gus and Walter) and their fight for survival. If Walt really did pull this off, it would be the smartest—and most vile—thing he has done all season. It would be Walt finally learning the game from Gus, thinking two steps ahead.

So, the question to then ask going into the finale is this: Is Walt just doing what he needs to survive, or did he finally evolve and become like Gus? In the case that it’s the latter, then what a tragedy would it be that both Gus and Walt have used Jesse as a puppet. It would be the ultimate betrayal from Walt, and might just be the thing we needed as an audience to truly believe the man has became evil going into the final season.

“End Times” was internally tense. Compared to last season’s penultimate episode “Half Measure,” this episode focused more on getting the characters in a place where they’re capable of making choices that could change everything. There wasn’t a lot of action, yet it was just as brilliantly executed. The beginning of the season started with a showdown between Walter White and Gustavo Fring, and the end of the season has come full circle. Gus has clearly been beating Walter every step of the way, but with Walt no longer having any other choice but to fight, who knows what he will do to survive. Walt said, “there is no longer prolonging the inevitable,” but we learned long ago that Walt will do whatever he can to try.

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