Just a Reminder, There is Still One More Season of ‘Breaking Bad’ To Come
Disclaimer: This post will contain some spoilers. If you haven’t watched Sunday’s Breaking Bad season finale and intend to do so, proceed after the jump at your own caution.
Breaking Bad is the best show on television. I say that without a shadow of a doubt. On a week in, week out basis and season to season, there isn’t another show that compares in terms of depth of character, building of tension, and ultimate climactic resolution. Breaking Bad is the best show on television and season four was its strongest season yet.
Season four started slowly, with Walter White a defeated man, a bumbling, henpecked loser, stuck under the yoke of Gus Freen and facing an imminent death. The season ended with Walt as the last man standing, a grinning psychopath who had managed to eliminate all of his enemies in one fell swoop. Walter also managed to regain control over his assistant Jesse Pinkman, as often as White refers to them as partners he is the dominant one, just when it seemed that Jesse was developing a spine, turning into the type of cold-eyed killer who could operate without Walt. White played Jesse like a fiddle, pulling at the one string he knew would compel Pinkman to do whatever he asked by poisoning Jesse’s girlfriend’s son Brock.
That act of poisoning, which we weren’t sure that Walt committed until the final scene of the episode is emblematic of how far these characters have come since the show’s first season. Back then Walt was a simple chemistry teacher with a few months to live, who only turned to cooking meth as a way to provide for his family once he was gone. Now, it’s just about the power for him. As much as Walt plays the henpecked, bumbling fool, he’s really a calculating, evil, man. The way he tells his wife Skylar, “It’s over. I won.” is a perfect summation of how White thinks now. It’s not about providing. It’s about the game.
Pinkman has evolved more than any other character, yet in many ways has stayed very much the same. In the first season he was just a wigger idiot meth-head, a former student of Walt’s and the ideal assistant and conduit to the drug world for White’s new operation. Now, he’s learned exactly how serious the business is, and has suffered more personally than any other character on the show. While this season saw him evolving into a kind of Mike Jr., he’s still very much the vulnerable, broken kid we saw in the beginning. He trusts Walt over and over because he sees White as a type of father figure. This has allowed Walt to walk all over Jesse, using him on and off as a conduit to do his dirty work, with little regard for how it affects Pinkman’s mental state. Although Walt got his own hands dirty this time, he still needed to drive Jesse to the edge to put things in motion.
In the end, I found “Face Off” (the episode’s title) to be an excellent ending to an excellent season. My one gripe would be the cheesiness of Gus’ final moments, but I can live with that. Show creator Vince Gilligan has said that he likes his writers to write the show’s characters into corners that they have to get out of in the finale. The writers did a masterful job of doing just that in the final weeks of this season. Although “Face Off” would have been a great ending to the series, there is still one final season to go. I personally can’t wait to see what the minds behind TV’s best show cook up.