Thursday, June 17, 2010

What I’m Watching: Breaking Bad (Season Finale)

Breaking Bad: Season 3, Episode 13 “Full Measure” (A-)

Opening this finale with a flashback to a very happy Walt and a friendly, chipper Skyler in the empty house that would eventually become their own was highly effective but extremely misleading. For one thing, Skyler and the other family-related supporting characters, like Walter Jr. and Hank, didn’t appear in this episode at all. Additionally, the Walt who is constantly thinking ahead doesn’t quite exist anymore. While he still has a few options in his mind, he has no idea how things are going to turn out and isn’t looking so much at the big picture as he is at surviving until the next day. His giddy proclamation of “Why be cautious? We’ve got nowhere to go but up” is particularly contradictory to his state at the start (and conclusion) of this episode. The opening following the credits was so intensely silent for several minutes as Walt watched the other car across the field until it was interrupted by the cell phone ringing. Mike’s assurance that he could kill Walt from all the way across the field provided a moment of dark humor in a devastatingly bleak episode. It’s hard to decide who’s more fearsome, Mike or Gus, but I’d have to go with Gus because he’s capable of putting on such a friendly face for all those that he meets and then transforming completely into an emotionless drug kingpin. Walt talking to him and laying out the options, stating that he prefers option B where he doesn’t end up dead, was a troubling moment that didn’t become any less disconcerting once it was over. The newly rehired Gale was trying so hard in the lab to make sure that Walt likes him and wants to keep working with him, and his request to “please teach me” was especially moving. I was so scared for Gale when we saw him singing in Italian in his own house because it seemed too peaceful and like it couldn’t possibly last. Fortunately, my fears were allayed for a few minutes as Gus arrived to ask Gale if he would be ready to take over for Walt. At the same time, Walt clearly has the same thought in mind, and he and Jesse suggestion that they get rid of Gale in order to keep themselves alive was completely cold-blooded and unexpected, in my opinion. This is a dark road that Walt has gone down, and it’s only getting darker. Seeing Jesse try desperately to avoid killing Gale made Walt’s suggestion even more cruel, and his response of “I saved your life, Jesse, are you going to save mine?” was brutal. Walt breaking down and begging for his life in front of Mike had me fooled just as much as it had Mike fooled, and his phone call to Jesse telling him to get to Gale before it was too late was, like many of the moments on this season of this show, completely breathless. Gale begging for his life as Jesse fires a shot at him was the most intense way I could possibly think of to close out this season, and I have no idea where things will go from here. This has been an astonishing season for this show, and I’m extraordinarily impressed. Cranston deserves another Emmy, as does Anna Gunn, and if there were an appropriate category, I would love to see Giancarlo Esposito (Gus), Bob Odenkirk (Saul), and Jonathan Banks (Mike) rewarded in some way as well. AMC announced earlier this week that the show will be back for a fourth season, and given how much this year improved upon the previous one, I’ll be holding my breath until then.

Season grade: A
Season MVP: Bryan Cranston.

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