Breaking Bad, "Face Off": bell of the hall

Quick Take: Breaking Bad, "Face Off"
"We've got work to do." - Walt to Jesse

breaking bad

Review: Breaking Bad, "Face Off"
(S0413) I was initially somewhat disappointed with the end of “End Times” because the last two seasons of Breaking Bad had spectacular penultimate episodes. “Phoenix” had Walt watch Jane die, choking on her own vomit. “Half Measures” is the greatest episode the series has ever aired, featuring not only the climactic showdown between Walt and the drug dealers about to off Jesse, but also the amazing Mike “Bo Svenson” monologue and the hilarious cold open with Wendy the hooker.  “End Times” was great television, but it wasn’t blow-me-away great. Plus, the ending with Walt hoping to blow up Gus’ car with Gus inside it was suspenseful as hell, but didn’t live up the back-to-back-to-back-to-back (dare I say) life-changing endings that came in the previous episodes.

But, now, here in the hindsight of the season four finale, “Face Off,” I can’t help but think how stupid I was. The ending of “End Times” is crucial to the suspense of “Face Off.” Chekhov had his gun. Walter White has his bomb.

In an earlier episode this season, Walt claimed that he is “the one who knocks.” And boy did Walt go a-knockin’ in this final episode. After failing to whack Gus in “End Times,” Walt clumsily snags the bomb off of Gus’ car and approaches Jesse to find a second location where he can blow up Gus. But before Jesse can come up with an idea, the Albuquerque police approach him for questioning in regards to Brock’s poisoning. Knowing Jesse is going to need Saul, Walt finagles Saul’s secretary into give him Saul’s contact number by giving her 25 large (Walt doesn’t have enough money for the Vanishing Man, but he’s got 25 grand).

So Saul gets the cops off Jesse’s back and Jesse in return gives Saul some information to pass along to Walt. Gus makes the occasional trip to see Tio Hector Salamanca in a nursing home to taunt him about his current condition. Walt realizes that even though Tio hates him, he probably hates Gus more.  And it was pretty clear from this point what was going to happen, but the stress of whether or not Walt and Tio would be able to pull it off was intense.

After making an unusual appearance at the DEA (to mock Hank) which Tyrus witnesses (not the mocking, but the visit itself), Gus’ loyal henchman contacts his boss to inform him of the problem. Knowing that it’s finally time to get rid of the Don, Gus has Tyrus inspect his room at the nursing home for any kind of wire or camera. When he gets the all clear, Gus shows up to finally silence Tio Salamanca’s bell for good. But, Tyrus checked for surveillance equipment and nothing else. And when Gus gets into the room to inject Tio with a likely untraceable poison, Tio finally is able to look his nemesis in the eye. And he clicks his bell a dozen or so times, causing the bomb strapped beneath his wheelchair to blow up the room.

Then there’s a moment where Gus walks out to the hallway and adjusts his tie like the professional that he is. But the camera pans around and we see the right side of Gus’ face has been blown off worse than Harvey Dent. He collapses. The Chicken Man is dead.

Meanwhile, Jesse gets released from police custody when it is determined that ricin was not the poison that has hospitalized Brock. But he is promptly kidnapped by some of Gus’ henchman because someone needs to cook the meth. But after Gus’ demise, Walt shows up and pops the two henchmen watching Jesse with his .38 snub. Walt informs Jesse that they have won and so they proceed to blow up the Superlab in an extremely cathartic scene.

Later, at the hospital, Jesse finds more info about Brock and brings Walt up to speed. It turns out that Brock had somehow ingested some berries grown on the flower called Lily of the Valley. They’re common enough, but very dangerous, and it seems like just a coincidence that Brock got sick. Walt turns to leave, but first gets a call from Skyler making sure everything is okay. He says it is. And then the final shot of Breaking Bad’s fourth season shows the White family’s back yard. In which a potted plant sits. In which Lily of the Valley grows.

“Face Off” (which I didn’t realize until just a moment ago is the funniest episode title ever) is a fitting end to yet another groundbreaking season of the best drama in television history. And yet we have 16 more episodes to go. I don’t know what direction this show can take or even if it’s prepared to take those directions. “Face Off” had a definite “series finale” feel to it. And it would have been a damn satisfying end to its run. But after this season and the ones that came before it, Vince Gilligan and company have my full and utter trust. As long as they want to make something as special as Breaking Bad, I’m on board.

By Mike Proper

About the author

I work hard.  And I play hard.  

Actually, I don't work that hard.

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On: Monday, October 10, 2011
Eric - TV Geek Army "Revered Leader" said:

Great point Mike that this could have served as a series finale. However, I don't think that Walt gets to win the "war" after winning this battle decisively. 

One thing I've noticed over the second half of this season is Walt coughing every once in a while. It's happened enough times now that I think that means Walt's health will come back into play (and perhaps he even know something that the audience / other characters don't even at this point). Also I have to think that the DEA and Hank vs. Walt will be a necessary and coming battle. It's possible that the feds will be as inept in the end as they seemed to be in The Sopranos, but Hank is one dogged investigator and I don't see him giving up just because Gus is dead. 

Overall, another truly extraordinary season of television, and great review and coverage all season long mike !

On: Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Robert Paulsen said:
They have my full attention and trust too. I agree, now that Gus is gone, what’s next? Who is Walter White? The ending was a perfect ending to a perfect season. That explosion was awesome and at least his tie was straight! But what happened to Mike? That explosion did look good on my HD TV with my DISH Network service. As a customer and employee of DISH I can tell you that right now there are lots of affordable packages to choose from with DISH. Check it out online. Why pay more for TV?

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