Breaking Bad: Face Off—The Season Finale

Bryan Cranston as Walt White in Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale Face Off
Walt White takes it to the limit in Breaking Bad’s season four finale.
Well, after a season (more, really) of Walter White making bad decision after failed plan after poor life choice, he came through with a genius plan. And as he said, he won.

Breaking Bad has ended its penultimate season with a bang. Sorry, but it’s true. After weeks of pushing Walt to the margins, he once again took center stage for a final showdown with Gus, albeit one in which they never saw each other.

I was glad there was no face to face, no “I expect you to die, Mr. Bond” moment. Gus had his last say with Walt in the desert a few weeks ago. What else needs to be said after you threaten to kill someone’s wife, teenage son and infant daughter?

Written and directed by show creator Vince Gilligan, last night’s episode, “Face Off” (itself a play on words as bad as my “with a bang” joke above) brought the season to a true finality which makes you wonder where the final season could possibly go. Somehow I don’t think it’s going to be 13 episodes of Walter and Skyler running their car wash.

Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring with his
Taking face off literally.
Let me echo what I said last week that Giancarlo Esposito is a lock for an Emmy nomination and seriously should win. Gus’ sixth sense was on display again this week. Fat lot of good it did him this time around though.

And kudos to veteran character actor Mark Margolis for making a mute, wheelchair-bound, septuagenarian into one of the most important and deadly cogs in the machinery this year. Bringing his character Hector Salamanca back into the mess this season made the writers seem like evil geniuses who have had a devilish plan all along.

And speaking of, did you catch it? It took a while for it to sink in with me, and this is why I look forward to revisiting the entire series some day. The final shot of the season teases what will surely be the main conflict next year. Could it be Walt who was behind the poisoning of little Brock? And was that hastily thrown together to have some sort of launching pad for another season after things with Gus were so cleanly tied up?

Heck no. Astute viewers will recognize the Lily of the Valley plant in Walt’s backyard, and the possible source of Brock’s poisoning, as the same plant Walter sat beside as he spun his revolver on the table in last week’s episode, trying to decide what to do about the tight(er) spot he’d gotten himself into. After the gun pointed at him twice, it next ended up pointing to the plant. Not so we would notice at first, but when that final shot this week moved in tight on the suspect potted plant, it all became clear that Walt has not been as helpless and floundering as we may have thought.

Gus has always been two steps ahead of Walt, but it seems Walt may have taken two or three giant leaps ahead of Gus for the end game. And both men used clever manipulation of Jesse for their own means.

I certainly think Jesse is due for a major coming out party next year. He’s proven himself capable to Walt in cooking meth, to Gus in loyalty and his cooking skills. Now Jesse only needs to prove to himself that he no longer needs Walt and we have the makings of a serious high noon showdown for the former teacher and student.

Of course I have a beef that Mike did not make an appearance last night. He’s still in a Mexican hospital tent recovering from gunshot wounds. I just miss the guy is all. My fingers are crossed that he’ll return and play as pivotal a role as Hector Salamanca did this year. The looming specter of Hank and the DEA discovering Walt’s secret is not going to go away just because Gus Fring is no longer in the picture. A spectacle like Walter orchestrated will not go uninvestigated.

Plus, there is the growing realization for Skyler that the man she married is long-gone down the rabbit hole of a life of crime. Moneyblind, she was able to put aside what she thought Walter may have done in the name of his family, but now she cannot deny that the man she is married to is a killer. Meth cook? That she could deal with. This? Maybe not.

Whatever happens I am eager to see the conclusion to one of my all-time favorite shows, crime or otherwise. I think we can all safely say it is also the darkest thing on TV. I don’t know who to root for anymore, all I do know is that I’m not rooting for any of the good guys. Even Walt’s son with cerebral palsy, a sympathetic character if ever there was one. Sometimes I want him to just shut the hell up before he spills the beans for his Dad. What’s wrong with me? The deeper and darker Walt goes, the more I want him to come out the other side, Jesse in tow. If he brings his family with him, sure that’s a bonus, but really they are secondary.

Walt’s DEA-agent brother-in-law Hank? He could die in a hail of bullets and all I’d care about would be if he figured out Walt’s secret yet. Take his wife too. Expendable.

I’m not proud of any of this. It makes me wonder, have I broken bad?

At least I know who to blame.


  1. Cathy Zhu Chen

    Giancarlo Esposito is pure genius in his portrayal of Gus Fring. He can transition from wholesome and modest business owner in understated Los Pollos Hermanos manager uniform to black-suited, cold-blooded, boxcutter-brandishing drug kingpin in just a few scenes. We see Walter White make that same transition–over four seasons.

    The character I love the most is Saul Goodman with his tacky, tasteless neon pastel wardrobe (which he somehow manages to pull off.) The way he stopped those two detectives from abusing the authority of the State (i.e. detaining Jesse just so they can fish around for information) is pretty awesome in my book.

    Didn’t notice the Lily of the Valley in the spin-the-revolver scene until you mentioned it but it’s a big clue. Also the relief that washed over his face when Jesse told him the kid is going to make it is super suspicious. The moral of the story is–don’t mess with Mr. White! (but of course, you just know the DEA and IRS are going to in the last season. The ending is probably going to be really, really cathartic.) Can’t wait!

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