It’s the Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale, entitled “Face Off”. Yes, really. But can this episode possibly go down as the greatest filmed thing ever to be titled “Face/Off”??? Nicolas Cage says “I don’t think so, and also I can eat a peach for hours.”
The Finale opens with Walt and Jesse at the hospital immediately following last week’s failed Gus-bombing attempt (trying to kill a major character in a non-Season Finale is an automatic recipe for disaster), with Walt pressuring Jesse to think of any surveillance-free location where they can possibly lure Gus to finish the job. Jesse’s like, “I don’t know, the yellow shirt factory?” They agree and lure Gus to the yellow shirt factory and blow him up then spend 50 minutes high-fiving Walt’s baby. Crazy finale!
Nope – There’s only one location Jesse can think of, and it’ll involve striking a deal with that little bellcat himself, Hector Salamanca:
Walt attempts to track down Saul by breaking (BAD! Titular line! Last one of those this season, I swear) the glass door into his office and pleading with his secretary for Saul’s number. After giving the secretary $1700 to replace the glass, she slyly tells him “I think it might cost more in the neighborhood of…$20,000?” and Walt doesn’t get what she’s doing for SO LONG. Approximately 60% of this episode consisted of Walt not understanding that lady’s bribe lingo and Hector’s nurse reading the alphabet.
Walt goes home to grab the money and in an extremely
wow what an asshole skillful move, he calls his elderly neighbor and asks her to go next door to check “if those two goons in my house waiting to murder me might’ve left the gas on.” This buys him enough time to slip in, grab the cash from his laughy hiding place, slide out through the window, and meet up with Saul. Saul informs him about Jesse’s one lead: That Gus does on occasion visit a nursing home to torment Hector, and Walt decides to pay Hector a visit to formulate a plan to rid themselves of their clairvoyant adversary:
Jesse is interrogated by two Albuquerque police officers after suspiciously guessing that Brock had been poisoned with ricin (“I saw it on Breaking Bad!” 4th Wall shatters, Jesse walks free), while Hank, Marie, Skyler, and Walter Jr. remain under DEA supervision. Steve “The Inverse Bloodhound” Gomez arrives at Hank’s house with a lead of his own: Hector Salamanca wants to talk to the DEA, but will only specifically talk to Hank. Uhhohhh, specifically Hank? Sounds like Die Hard With A Vengeance – might a racist sandwich board be in Hank’s near future?
Hank ignores Marie (“Women!” – Beer Commercial) and goes down to the station to hear Hector’s testimony, but Hector only gets through parts of two phrases: “SUCK MY” and “FUC”. You should’ve let him finish, Hank! He was about to tell you “Suck my meth fumes out of my giant meth lab with your air purifier, is what Gustavo Fring said to that shady German manufacturer. F*ck yeah Gustavo Fring has a lot of meth down there!”
Hector is wheeled back home but catches the eye of the spying Tyrus, who informs Gus about Hector’s informing (well if THAT ain’t the pot informing the kettle that it has information about it being black!) Tyrus tells Gus that it might be smarter if Gus lets him take care of Hector, but Gus has been in a big-time killing-by-hand dry spell since his Season Opener puppetry, and in a rare moment of Gus’ passion getting the best of his invincible judgment, he tells Tyrus that he wants to finish Hector off himself:
Tyrus travels to the retirement home and scopes out Hector’s room for bugs and for Walt standing there and finds neither, and informs Gus that it’s clear. Yeah, clear of NOT-BOMBS! (Quiet, Walt, you’ll blow this.)
Gus strolls into the retirement home inconspicuously:
Gus enters Hector’s room and begins blasting him for breaking the mob rules, saying “What kind of MAN goes to the DEA? No man, is who. Does that. Hm. This sounds less badass than usual. Can I start over? Ahhh, I already got this syringey stuff ready, I’ll just go ahead and kill you.”
Hector just sits there, decrepit like a fox:
Gus sits across from Hector face-to-face, prepares a syringe full of “make it look like an accident kill juice”, and tells Hector one last time, “Are you not going to look at my face?” Just when you expect Walt to jump out and shoot Gus, Hector starts frantically dinging his bell, and seconds later, the room and Twitter simultaneously explode:
What? WHATATTTTTTTT?????? !!!!!!! ? How ?/???? How do we even react to this?
Their plan was to have HECTOR BLOW HIMSELF UP IN A SUICIDE MISSION USING A BELL-ACTIVATED WHEELCHAIR BOMB THAT TURNED HALF OF GUS’ FACE INTO A SKELETON FACE AND HIS LAST ACT WAS TO ADJUST HIS TIE SLIGHTLY BEFORE REALIZING HE WAS HALF SKELETON AND DYING. That was equal parts completely effing ridiculous and completely effing awesome, ending up in some parallel dimension beyond my ability to rationally evaluate how I actually felt about it.
At least now we know why the episode was called “Face Off” -
Walt listens to news of the explosion on the local classic rock and explosion-news radio station (“This is the biggest tragedy in Albuquerque since that equally ridiculous but unrelated plane collision!”), and in a moment very telling of his character, Walt seems completely and genuinely relieved — he’s not grinning because he outsmarted Gus, he’s not reveling in his own criminal proficiency, he’s just genuinely happy to be alive. He’s gone very very far out of his way to blur that line between “I’m just doing this for my family / to survive” and straight-up impulsive criminal behavior over the past two seasons, but the renewed Gus threat of the last couple weeks clearly ripped him back towards the former.
Walt drives past Gus’ car one final time, and the camera focuses in one one last symbolic look at Gus’ Pollos logo:
While he’s on a roll, Walt speeds over to the superlab, kills the two goons supervising Jesse at gunpoint, and shocks Jesse with his unexpected arrival:
Walt and Jesse mutually agree to burn the meth lab to the ground, just 8 million years before Gomez was about to find it:
In the episode’s strongest scene (besides #FACEGATE), Walt and Jesse meet face-to-face on the roof, and Jesse informs Walt that the doctors told him ricin actually wasn’t involved in Brock’s sickness, but that it was most likely “Lily of the Valley”, a sweet-tasting but toxic plant common in their part of New Mexico:
Jesse notes that Gus didn’t poison Brock, but very quickly and consciously adds “But he had to go, didn’t he?” and Walt responds yes. Jesse, after suffering through the crushing aftermath of the Gale murder, is already pre-excusing himself for the inevitable guilt he knows he’ll face after killing Gus; he knows that Gus didn’t poison Brock, even though that was the chief act that turned him against Gus, but rather than acknowledge his false pretenses or begin to ponder the even more terrifying possibility that Walt completely used him, he’s much more content to intentionally numb himself with a simple rationale rather than open up a new can of guiltworms (the worst kind of worm).
Whether or not Jesse actually believes Walt that “Gus had to go,” he believes that he believes it, and being alive in the short-term is enough Season 4 closure for him:
When Jesse leaves, Walt verrrrry suspiciously exhales, then calls Skyler to be like “Oh yeah, you guys still characters? Cool. Well, I beat Gus.”
In the final shot of Season 4, our suspicions RE: The depths of Walt’s systemic malevolence are confirmed. As some people theorized after last week’s gun-spinning scene, the plant that poisoned Brock did come from Walt’s backyard (but how did Walt steal Jesse’s cigarette? Did Saul’s bodyguard grab it during the frisk?):
That slightly on-the-nose final shot aside, this concludes one of if not the best season of television in history, and at the very least, a season of television that firmly cements Breaking Bad’s place alongside Sopranos and The Wire on the short list of shows we’ll always have to mention early in any “greatest shows of all time” discussions.
As for where Breaking Bad can possibly go for its final season, let’s take a quick inventory –
Loose Ends Tied Up:
- Gus killed
- Cartel essentially disbanded
- Hank’s Gus suspicions confirmed and ‘Heisenberg’ case likely put to rest
- Hanks’ life no longer in danger
- Walt still has lots of money and an easy method of legitimizing it
Loose Ends Still Dangling And Waiting To Catch Fire From That Burning Meth Lab:
- Hank still potentially suspicious about Walt; connections between Gus and Walt/Jesse may arise
- Deadly secrets between Walt and Jesse still remain (Jesse never found out about Walt letting his girlfriend die, and now the Brock poisoning)
- Some form of revenge from Gus’ surviving cohorts? What role will Mike play?
- What happens to the meth empire now with Gus and the cartel both gone?
- What really happened at Walter’s last cancer screening?
- Will Walter Jr. bang Carla the principal?
- Will Skinny Pete remain skinny?
- Will Jesse finally see the vaginas in the Georgia O’Keefe paintings?
So that’s it! Thirteen episodes, thirteen crushing “Executive Producer: Vince Gilligan” screens, an entire cartel poisoned, a wacky neck-breaking mishap, a Mortal Kombat Fatality, sudden Hank awesomeness, two posthumous Gale releases (Lab Notes and Karaoke Vid), a Skyler Sex plan, a bunch of minerals, and most of all, a future Best Supporting Actor Emmy snub for everyone’s favorite Do The Right Thing character turned vicious druglord:
I think we can all agree – this season was so good, instead of calling it Breaking BAD, they should’ve called it GOODING Bad!
Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale Thoughts? Season 4 thoughts as a whole? Predictions for Season 5? Leave ‘em all in the comments!
Also, thanks to everyone for the kind words on the recaps this season – I really enjoy doing them and my Waltlike ego absolutely requires nonstop compliments, so your positive feedback has been much appreciated and necessary to my survival. T-HANK-s! See you next season (or on the Boardwalk Empire or Walking Dead Recaps)!