Breaking Bad, season 4, episode 12: "End Times"

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Oct. 3 2011 12:14 AM

Breaking Bad, Season 4, Episode 12: "End Times"

Bryan Cranston plays Walter White in "Breaking Bad."
Bryan Cranston plays Walter White in "Breaking Bad."

Photo by Gregory Peters/AMC.

[Caution: There are spoilers ahead! So if you haven't yet watched "End Times," come back when you have and share your thoughts and theories.]

June:

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Jess, I can barely type, I’m so amped up. The creators of Breaking Bad certainly understand the power of anticipation. The episode was a string of scenes of people waiting, at first resignedly, then impatiently, then desperately. By the final minutes, Walt—and surely every single viewer—wanted something to happen so damned much it was impossible to breathe.

After a whole season where I’ve found Walt exasperating, my sympathies turned around completely this week. Partly it was that in the confrontation with Jesse he expressed real emotions rather than his usual unconvincing bluster. And although it goes without saying that Bryan Cranston always does a masterly job of portraying Walter White Sr., this episode was something really special. I saw the difference between the Walt of the previous 11 episodes—a deluded, out-of-his-depth fool—and that guy, a man who knows exactly how much trouble he’s in and who finally sobers up enough to reach for his real big gun: science. I presume that was a batch of home-brewed bomb he was cooking up and would’ve detonated, if only Gus hadn’t experienced a crazy presentiment.

Actually, I don’t think Gus has a spidey sense. I think that on his walk to the car he had a change of mind about where he’d left things with Jesse and decided to return to his new master chef. Could Gus have been responsible for whatever happened to Brock? I can’t see it myself. Walt was right that the inscrutable Tyrus could easily have gotten into Jesse’s coat pocket while he was cooking. But did he? And even if Gus had known about the ricin and managed to get his hands on it, how could he have gotten it to Brock? Didn’t Walt say it takes a day or two to take effect?

Well, next week is the season finale, so as Walt said to Skyler, there’s “no more prolonging the inevitable.”* I can’t imagine that Jesse and Walt won’t be left standing, but nor can I imagine that everyone else will live. Will Gus still be among the quick at 11 p.m. next Sunday? Skyler? Hank?

Jess:

June, if Breaking Bad gets any more intense, I’m going to have to pop a sedative before watching the final episode just to counteract that meth-laced energy. I agree that it was a pleasure to see Walt finally man up—and not just with Jesse, but with Skyler. His interaction with her in the opening scenes of “End Times” displayed not just Cranston’s skills, but that Walt’s humanity has not been completely obliterated.

Speaking of Walt’s humanity, I’m glad Jesse came to his senses and realized that Walt would not have poisoned Brock. I’m with you in that Gus had nothing to do with Brock’s illness. In fact, I’d wager that his hospitalization is not because of ricin in the first place. Jesse said he switched the ricin-laced cigarette into a new pack, right? Maybe with all the stress he’s been experiencing he took the original pack, and not the new one—that’s why he couldn’t find the offending smoke.

Here’s where we don’t agree: I do think that Gus has some kind of spidey sense. He somehow worked his way to becoming a kingpin after Don Eladio killed his “brother” right in front of his face. You don’t achieve this kind of seamless, highly successful double life without an otherworldly intuition.

Gus won’t die via car bomb next week. But I believe he will die. Though the writers have been pretty unsparing when it comes to secondary characters (Jane comes to mind especially), they’ve kept their mitts off the core: The White Family (this includes Hank and Marie) and Jesse Pinkman. However, I don’t think we’ve yet discovered what Gus meant when he said that “there will be an appropriate response” to Jesse’s refusal to let Walt be killed. What do you think it is? Furthermore: Why do you think Gus allowed Jesse to take a week off work? That seemed like a 180, and I couldn’t understand it.

The last three episodes have been completely riveting and almost unbearably heavy. I can’t imagine how they’ll top this week, but something tells me that the DEA and Gus are going to have some kind of run-in. Thoughts?     

June:

I don’t know why Gus was suddenly so generous with the comp time (and why he allowed himself to be seen in such a public place with a known low-life), but Jesse really does have him by the short and curlies. If the cook won’t go to the kitchen, and there’s no other cook available, what choice does Gus have?

The person I’m worried about is Saul Goodman. Sure, now that he’s no longer holding Walt’s and Jesse’s money, he’s not nearly as essential as he once was, but I think his long-term absence would be more than a minor inconvenience for the Whites and for Jesse. Saul has taught both of the would-be drug lords some key lessons, and he has made some important connections for them, but they’d find life hard without him. Gus knows that. (Killing Saul wouldn’t make Jesse or Walt any more likely to cook for him, though.)

I have a feeling that Hank might get his man next week. Hank came to mind when Jesse stood outside the emergency room door to smoke a cigarette (and swiftly moved into freak-out mode). The last time he was in that spot, Hank arrived at that very door after his run-in with the cousins. I have never lost faith in Hank’s persistence. He is one dogged investigator, and Gus doesn’t seem as disciplined as he once was. That might leave the tidy Mr. Fring with a mess he can’t clean up.

Correction, Oct. 3, 2011: June Thomas' first entry originally described Gus telling Skyler, "there's no more prolonging the inevitable." It was Walt who said that. (Return to the corrected sentence.)