Breaking Bad, Ep. 4.11: “Crawl Space”

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Breaking Bad Season 4, Episode 11: “Crawl Space”
Written by Sam Catlin and George Mastras
Directed by Scott Winant
Airs Sundays, 10pm ET on AMC

Let’s talk about antiheroes. We all know that when HBO unleashed The Sopranos, the idea that an entire series could be oriented around an inherently despicable figure was not necessarily an accepted one. Now, it’s almost a requirement that our protagonists carry a deep, dark secret or two around with them – at the very least. Breaking Bad used to have an antihero – Walter White, meek chemist turned criminal mastermind. But then something happened. Walt was quickly revealed to have no charisma, instead simply possessing a strong survival instinct in hand with the abiity to debase himself in new and exciting ways. He inspired either too much disgust or too much pity (or both) to qualify for the “hero” part.

But as Gus Fring has shows us, the allure of the antihero is strong enough to seriously distort the way we process character. Over the last couple of episodes, we’ve grown to appreciate the way in which Gus rose up from obscurity and insult, only to wipe out his old foes in one well-calibrated move. Through it all he remained cunning, mysterious, and, yes, cool. And yet there is his last scene in “Crawl Space,” the show’s second stellar episode in as many weeks, in which he reminds us how he got where he is: “I will kill your wife. I will kill your son. I will kill your infant daughter.” It’s not that Gus has changed; it’s that the show remains remarkably good at tweaking our perpection of its characters on a dime. (See also Walt’s deeply pitiable breakdown last week.) Whether that perceptual shift means it’s now open season on Gus – and hey, Mike is in recovery – remains to be seen.

Vince Gilligan has worked dilligently to make sure his show has a visual flair, soundtrack, and sensibility that is relatively unique (not to mention unified), but “Crawl Space” features a couple of strong moments that feel indebted to fairly clear influences. As predicted, Ted Beneke meets…well, a well-earned fate of some kind (his hands are still twitching the last time we see him, but all things considered, the prognosis isn’t looking good), but the way in which it happens – with Ted being bested by his rug whilst ineffectually fleeing from Saul’s “a-team” – felt like a nod to The Sopranos in its macabre humor, of a sort we’ve not seen on this show in some time. Meanwhile, the incredible closing sequence, and especially the sight of a demented Walt cackling at the sight of his missing money – felt lifted in spirit from a Coens neo-noir.

Where on Earth is all this headed? Walt is now utterly isolated, possibly even from Skyler thanks to the Ted reveal. Gus has no use for him. Jesse made sure to protect him, but only out of stubborn loyalty. Even Saul, quite understandably, is fed up with him. He has noaccess to Jesse or the lab, and apparently not enough funds to pay the “disappearer.” In Season 3, the show got extremely good at painting Walt and Jesse into corners, only to contrive inventive ways out. Season 4 has seen Gilligan and his writers repeat the trick, only on a much larger scale – and so we find Walt at his literal lowest, the point from which there’s nowhere to go but up. But one suspects that route isn’t a pretty one, even if it does restore him to the status of a “genuine” antihero.

Simon Howell

10 Comments
  1. Mario in Philly says

    I was wondering about Skyler selling off the car wash, but didn’t she have trouble buying it? Meaning she would then have trouble selling it?

    Besides story, the directing is always amazing to watch. In particular, I loved the last shot of Walt lying on his back and our view of him is through the floor opening, showing him once again boxed into a space that is getting smaller and smaller. It’s like the best of indie-master movie-TV all at once!

  2. Tyo says

    I can’t imagine how making a deal with Hank would allow for another season. Guy in witness protection cooking meth? Our doing anything interesting? Idk.

  3. Julian says

    In response to Walt’s determination to get his family the hell out of there, he had to warn Hank immediately. In order to do that, he had to plan his exit strategy to get the hell out of there.

  4. Radwan Masri says

    That was a very sad episode for me. They made us love Walt throughout the show; they also made us like Jesse & Gus at some point; later in this one to start resenting and hating both, Gus & Jesse “or at least for me”. Yeah I agree Walt has to make Season 5, the twists are going to be mind blowing, I really CANNOT predict anything at this point. I simply switch off “mentally” and just WATCH. Anything could happen. I hope this will not end in a disappointing fashion!!

  5. j says

    Wouldn’t killing Jesse solve the problem? just saying.

  6. Kate Kulzick says

    Well, we know Walt has to make it to the next season, so yeah (re:Gus not making it to season 5). Don’t get me wrong, the last scene of the episode was fantastic. It just cements my frustration with Walt and his continual endangerment of his family. He’s good at worming his way out of trouble for himself. He’s terrible at protecting anyone else. Plus the fact that Gus has to spell out to Walt that he’ll hurt his family is yet another example of his utter selfishness and ego-centrism. *Of course* Gus would come after his family. That shouldn’t be a surprise.

  7. Kate Kulzick says

    I’m confused as to why there is an immediate problem. As Walt said, and Gus confirmed, he can’t move against Walt right now. Gus has offered to leave him alone if he keeps his nose out of things. Seems pretty straight forward- shut up, stay out of trouble, and figure out an escape plan. If nothing else, with a little time, they could liquidate the car wash- then there’d be enough cash for the vacuum guy. More than anything else, I’m astonished as to why Skylar isn’t putting Walt on a freaking bus. He’s the threat to their family. They’d be in no danger if he were gone (only perhaps a tangential one from Hank’s investigation).

    1. Simon Howell says

      Pretty sure when someone very powerful tells you they’re going to kill your entire family, and means it, that’s an immediate problem, regardless of the supposed timeline or conditions. I’ll be shocked if Gus makes it out alive this season – threatening infants is usually a pretty good way to ensure yr demise.

  8. tmack says

    So…how does Walt get himself out of this mess? Better act fast. Gus is not going to leave a “disgruntled ex-employee” rolling around like a loose cannon. I doubt Gus will leave him to his own devices for very long. Will he try to make a deal with Hank and get a free witness protection pass for his family? He realizes that his ENTIRE family is now before the firing squad. I can’t imagine a tighter corner to be in.

    One of the best episodes, hands down. However…Ted should have been offed some other way, the nincompoop. Who doesn’t take free money to pay off the IRS anyway? I’m sure Skyler’s wondering “how could I have effed this weenie?” I almost suspected that Skyler was going to pull out a gun and not Ted’s checkbook. Infuriating.

    You are right. I find my character loyalties whipsawed from episode to episode. Jessie? Be kinder to Walt. Gus? I understand how he was damaged, still… Walt? Grow a spine, man. What would Heisenberg do? Skyler? Why couldn’t you have kept your nose out of it?

    1. Simon Howell says

      I think the possibility of Walt making a deal with Hank is a very strong one.

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