Entertainment Magazine

Review #3059: Breaking Bad 4.13: “Face Off”

Posted on the 11 October 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Henry T.

Written and Directed by Vince Gilligan

I’m the first to admit that I backed the wrong horse in this battle. I wrote in last episode’s review that Gus was going to win when facing off (no pun intended) against Walter White. What I should have realized was that being the true kingpin in the drug game often has a short shelf life. That, and Walt has a remarkable ability for self-preservation, taking gambles and risks in the long con to beat all long cons. A lot has had to go right for Walt in order to get into the position he’s in at the end of this episode, and this season as well, and it did. Walt made his play, he won, and now, he may just be awaiting death. The warning signs are there, but Walt will ignore them in all his stubborn glory for as long as he can as he enjoys his new reign over the drug trade as Heisenberg.

Review #3059: Breaking Bad 4.13: “Face Off”

I’ve been saying all season that Walt had been pushed into the background to explore the stories of other characters. The season finale flips that script, putting all of the supporting characters in Walt’s life except for Jesse (though you could argue he’s a co-lead with Walt) and Gus within one confined space in Hank and Marie’s house. Walt’s family doesn’t do much in this hour but fret about the fact that Walt is seemingly out on his own doing random things while Gus is hunting him. Hank is only called into the DEA office to take the statement of Don Salamanca, and that doesn’t turn out to be as fruitful to Hank’s case as anyone would have thought.

The conversation is just a shell game, one part of Walt’s long con to get Gus into the open so that he can plant his bomb somehow. It’s ironic that Marie thinks the conversation with Don Salamanca was a ploy to bring Hank into the open when it actually is supposed to get Gus to come out. Not to say that the conversation is a total waste. Don Salamanca has such contempt for Hank and the DEA that he amusingly screws around with them one last time. The question was, did Don Salamanca intend the “Suck my fuc –” message to be one complete statement or two separate ones since the head of the DEA asked them to start again? It doesn’t matter now since we will never likely see Don Salamanca again. The threat of Gus is out of the way now so the Whites and Schraeders should be safe for the time being. Hank will still try to investigate Heisenberg, but with Gus eliminated as a suspect, he will turn his sights to hunting Walt. It just didn’t happen in this episode with so many of the characters integral to the show’s story sidelined for half of it.

So it turns out that the key scene from “End Times” was not the confession by Walt to Jesse at gunpoint and the eventual team up to take down Gus. It was the beginning, where Walt looked suicidal and his revolver pointed right at him when he spun it. He spun it again, and it pointed to a potted lily of the valley flower. So Walt poisoned Brock with it. It doesn’t surprise me that Walt would stoop this low to keep himself alive. After all, he allowed for Jane to choke on her own vomit in season two rather than continue to be blackmailed by her. All in the name of self preservation and keeping his family intact. It was just a surprise that the seemingly innocuous plant played such an integral part of Walt’s plan. As it turns out, Gus was indeed taken aback that Jesse mentioned Brock had been poisoned and it explains a bit why he coolly walked away from his booby-trapped car in the previous episode. He never did poison the boy!

The key piece of information he gets from Jesse in this episode is that Gus knows Don Salamanca and has been taunting him all season. It figures that Walt would find some way to work this into his advantage. So an “enemy of my enemy is my friend” situation develops. Frankly, I was just waiting for the bomb to eventually go off. I loved the music that accompanied Gus’ entrance into Casa Tranquila (ironic name if ever there was one after what happened in this episode) because it had a purely modern Western feel to it, which I think is befitting of the series as a whole. The shock was in showing the aftermath of the bomb, as half of Gus’ face is disgustingly blown off, Two-Face from “The Dark Knight”-style. I’m surprised that somehow got past the network censors. But Gus’ death does gain some measure of mythic, if a little preposterous, status.

The transformation into Heisenberg/Scarface is now complete for Walter White. A final 16-episode season is in the works and I think the majority of it will be spent looking into Heisenberg’s rule and eventual downfall. Walt is a much more dangerous and unpredictable person when he’s in Heisenberg mode. He may have won in this moment, but he might do well to look at Gus to see how long that win will last. Gus decimated the Cartel and his rule was viable for maybe a month’s time, if that. With the meth superlab now destroyed, how will Walt and Jesse engineer their cook?

Hank will be understandably disappointed that he didn’t find the superlab before it was blown up, but I don’t think that means the end of his dogged pursuit. While Walt has won this battle, I’m not sure he’s going to win this war. Watching this show from the beginning until now, I’m still reasonably sure this all ends with Walt in shackles or with his death. It’s just a matter of what will catch up to him first. It won’t be by Gus’ hand, though there are plenty of other candidates to do that job. The last shreds of his humanity have been stripped with the events of this finale, perhaps never to return. One chapter of the series has been closed, another opened just a bit. It has been another masterful job this season by Vince Gilligan and everyone involved in the production of this series. Here’s hoping they keep it going to the end.

Grade: 9/10

(Season 4 Final Average: 8.4)

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