Breaking Bad, Ep. 4.12: ‘End Times’

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Breaking Bad, Season 4, Episode 12: “End Times”
Written by Moira Walley-Beckett and Thomas Schnauz
Directed by Vince Gilligan

As though he’s been reading Breaking Bad threads online, Walter White has had a few moments of honesty this season, even if most of them are in some way self-serving. This week, in shooing Walt Jr., Holly and Skyler out of the White house in order to make sure he’s left to face what he thinks is his imminent demise without endangering them, he has a big one: “I’ve made choices…I alone should suffer the consequences of those choices. No one else.” Of course, in the context of those choices (such as, you know, manufacturing tons of addictive chemical poison), the basic premise is more than a little shaky, but after the seasons of nastiness towards Skyler, it was nice to hear a total admission of guilt and responsibility. And yet it rings just a little truer when Jesse is forced to admit to Gus that Walt is, yes, “a dick.”

And yet he’s the dick that Jesse just can’t bring himself to sign off on whacking, and that reluctance which sets off a chain of events that was a little difficult to accept. With Gomez and his partner(s) searching the laundry upstairs (following a very funny, very elaborate ruse on Gomez’s part to gain access), Gus is quick to point out to Jesse that this intrusion is clearly Walt’s doing, and when Jesse refuses to give the go-ahead, Gus makes it clear that there will be an “appropriate response.” So far, so Gus. But then Jesse’s girlfriend’s kid, Brock, turns out to have flu-like symptoms – much like someone who’s been poisoned with, say, ricin.

There are two major possibilities here, and neither is particularly satisfying  The more convoluted possibility – and the one the show seems to come down on – is that Gus is responsible for the poisoning, as part of a plan to turn Jesse against Walt and get him to do the dispatching. (The fact that JEsse makes this insanely illogical assumption is even more jarring since we’ve spent so little time with him in the last few episodes, and in that time he’s seemed to have gotten his shit together, relatively speaking.) The other, more sensible (but still very dodgy) possibility is that Jesse just slipped up and left the cigarette somewhere, making it simply a tragic, incredibly-poorly-timed accident. The former option seems laughably complicated and risky even by Gus standards, especially since it’s far more logical to assume Gus is responsible than Walt, despite Walt and Jesse’s admittedly testy relationship. It’s difficult to pass complete judgment on this plot point since it’s not clear which option Gilligan and his writers have gone with (or if there’s some other, major WTF possibility that’s gone unmentioned), but right now it feels a bit cheap, whichever way it breaks.

Still, “End Times” has some very strong moments. (This is still Breaking Bad we’re talking about here, and showrunner Gilligan takes a relatively rare crack at directing tonight.) Walt and Jesse’s confrontation, despite Jesse’s bizarre leaps in logic, is tense and sad, with the indentation of Walt’s gun on his own forehead simply the latest in his ever-accumulating collection of facial obstructions  The hour gets a lot of mileage, too, from Walt’s increasing mania, which might serve as another indicator that his doctor’s visits might not be going as well as he has indicated to others. He cracks up again when he pieces together Gus’s (supposed) plan, and his mad-professor moves with the homemade cell-phone-triggered explosive device feels like a movie from Walt’s wilier days (say, Season 2). His episode-ending “standoff” with Gus is beautifully staged, too. Even more than usual, something is not quite right in Walt – and in this last run of plotting, too. Here’s hoping the doubtless-exciting finale can iron that out.

Simon Howell

8 Comments
  1. Sarah Wood says

    Your reviews really suck all the life and fun out of this series. You’re constantly writing in this smug tone of yours that you’re so certain of where the series of headed. Stop being such a smug little cocksucker.

    You spend your life gorging yourself on high quality TV and film. But what are you giving back to the world? Besides this self-satisified bullshit?

    1. Simon Howell says

      I’d like to think I give the show (and everything else I enjoy) its fair share of love when it’s warranted. If you want unchecked adulation show, might I suggest a BB message board? I’ll leave the personal attacks to you; wouldn’t want to saturate the market.

      I can say I have no idea where the show is going, though, and if it seems like I write like I think I do, it’s unintentional.

  2. Sven says

    Skylar is a total cunt and I cannot count the days until she gets killed off.

  3. tmack says

    My 2 cents–

    1. Right now, I can’t buy the fact that Brock has been poisoned. It seems rather (as Combo would say) “hopeful, bro” that Gus would poison a child on the chance that Jesse would blame Walt and kill him. Not that I’d put it past him if his survival depended on it, but why risk alienating his only cook? Jesse is not the brightest star in the sky and the cause of Brock’s illness could be e-coli.

    2. Is Walt demonic enough to poison a child hoping it would bring Jesse back to him? I didn’t get this sense either. It appeared that Walt was really confused when Jesse accused him of something (did Walt fear that he had somehow figured out Jane’s death?). Again, this theory seems rather hopeful.

    3. Perhaps it won’t matter what has caused Brock’s condition–the damage has been done and the chain of events has been ignited. Jesse does go back to Walt. Gus sees that Jesse blames him for the boy’s illness. As he walks back to his car, his intuition formed from a lifetime of crime and survival among wolves begins to flash–I’ve learned to pay attention to those flashes myself. Your unconscious works on information you’ve stored over a lifetime. He smells a rat. Period.

    4. I think Skyler is a goner and her death will propel us into the final season. Did anyone think she was going to get taken out by a sniper when she went out on that balcony for a cigarette. For the first time, we had a shot of Hank’s hilltop neighbors which dovetailed nicely with Walt’s own long-distance kill plans. Perhaps her imminent demise explains why Skyler was given so much screen time and role variation this season. The producer warned that a major character would bit the dust in season 4. Surely he didn’t mean Victor.

    Simon–hope somebody is covering Dexter this season!

  4. MAckeral says

    Didn’t Walt tell Sal to call hank or the DEA so they can protect Skyler and the kid?

  5. Joseph F. McNulty says

    Walt was barrucaded in his apartment, so I cannot fathoml how he could have poisoned Brock. On the other hand, Gus did say that there would be an “appropriate response” to Walt’s alleged blame for the DEA search. Perhaps Brock was seen as an implement (do you really this Gus is “too decent” to have an unknown child killed?) to be used TO INDUCE JESSE to kill Walt, thus completing Jesse’s seduction by Gus and getting rid of Walt without Gus getting blood on his hands and causing a “problem” with his vital cook. If Jesse could be motivated to killl Walt, he could hardly object to the death of Walt, as he would if Gus killed Walt. Other explanations are possible, but I get the feeling that any other explanation would be the writers pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Now, why did Gus get spooked at the Volvo? Spidey sense is unconvicing. The only explanation is that Jesse told him something. This is plausible because Gus feigned concern and understanding of Jesse’s desire to stay at the hospital. This is part of the secuction of Jesse by Gus. He could not force Jesse back to the lab. He could kill him, but what would that accomplish? Once Jesse had his back up — and remember that Gus saw Jesse dismantle tha arrogant Mexican chemist for the cartel — he knew that there was no forcing him. So Gus was all sweet concern and understand — even beyond what any nornal emplayer might exspress. It would be classic Gus to express sweet compassion after poisoning a child, either directly or on his order. Remember the hit on Hank, suggested by Gus, while he expressed sincere concern and regret at the hospital. Whatever happens, I am sure that it will be astonishing. I dred the cliffhanger and months of waiting for season five. By the way, I see where Anna Gunn has scueduled new television work and a new play. Does this bod ill for the survival of Skyar?

  6. Mario in Philly says

    Great episode. Nice write-up, Simon!
    I loved the indentation of Walt’s gun on his own forehead, as if he needs this crap like a hole in the head!
    The obvious question of the week is what made Gus hesitate and walk away from his car. Gus looking out over the city blocks was tense and I almost expected him to see Walt’s bald head popping up over the ledge.
    The other question I have (I perhaps missed something) is how Skyler and the kids got in protective custody with Hank. Hank received a threatening anonymous phone call? From Walt? Sorry, this isn’t clear to me.

    1. Simon Howell says

      Yeah, Walt made the call.

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