The way “Breaking Bad” has ratcheted up the tension in recent episodes, it was easy to wonder if the show could keep going in that vein before something snapped.
The answer is yes, it can. Sunday’s (Oct. 2) episode, “End Times,” didn’t feel quite as relentless as the past couple have. But in picking its spots to ladle on the white-knuckle moments, and again using silence better than any show on television, it had me creeping toward the edge of my seat at least half a dozen times.
So with one episode left this season, just how deeply has Walter White, with help from various forces outside his immediate control, painted himself into a corner? He doesn’t have enough money to take Skyler and the kids with him if he disappears. He’s unable, or at least unwilling, to go to Hank or any other authority lest he reveal his own culpability. And once again, his plan to take out Gus falls short.
Given the trouble he had getting his test detonation to work, I figured that Walt’s walkie-talkie bomb would fail in the moment of truth. Instead, he never even gets the chance to try as Gus decides not to re-enter his car after visiting Jesse at the hospital.
At least as I read it, though, this wasn’t yet another case of Gus thinking a couple moves ahead of Walt. I read it as Gus being more cautious than usual given what happened in Mexico — and Walt doesn’t know exactly what did go down with the cartel, and therefore doesn’t know that a car bomb might not be the best tool for the job right now.
The universe has conspired again to keep Walt penned in. The shot of him crumpled on the roof at the close of the episode was a great bookend to the closing shot last week of Walt in the crawl space. Both conveyed similar feelings of hopelessness, but where Walt could do nothing but laugh at the end of “Crawl Space,” here he looks utterly defeated.
If there was a positive development for Walt in “End Times,” it was in making Jesse see that he’s just as expendable to Gus as Walt is. When he wasn’t able to find the ricin-laced cigarette at the hospital after Brock was admitted, I figured he’d put it together that Tyrus or one of Gus’ other people had lifted it and poisoned the boy. But Gus has just spent several days watching Jesse’s back, to the point of having blood stored for him in case it was needed in Mexico, so it’s also not hard to see why Jesse would go after Walt — Jesse himself was the “appropriate response” to the Walt problem that Gus mentioned on the phone.
The end of that sequence, with Jesse pulling the gun away but leaving a dent in Walt’s forehead, is a shot that’s going to stick in my head for a while. Great stuff once again from Aaron Paul and Bryan Cranston.
The way we left Walt at the end of this episode makes it tough to figure where “Breaking Bad” will go in its finale next week. Will Walt run? Will he get another shot at Gus? Will the universe beat him again? Your guess is as good as mine, but I can’t wait to see where it goes.
A couple other notes on “End Times”:
- Very interesting to see Skyler pick up on the possible consequences of the DEA raiding the laundry. If she and the kids remain at Hank and Marie’s in the finale, I can’t imagine her not using her knowledge of both ends of the equation in some way.
- Please let this not be the last we see of Saul Goodman. We get why he wants to make himself scarce, but here’s hoping he finds a way to stay in Walt and Jesse’s lives.
- Show of hands: Who thought very bad things were coming when the laundry truck dropped Jesse at his car? I’m not sure I breathed until Saul’s third voice-mail message.
What did you think of this week’s “Breaking Bad”? Where do you see the finale going?