Penultimate episode, y’all!
Let’s dig right in to this KFC Big Bowl of Intensity, after the jump.
Ever since Gus Fring and the SuperLab entered the picture, Breaking Bad has worked as a metaphor for Corporate America. Jesse, and especially Walter, are in an eternal quest to control their own destiny and their own lives, but it will never happen because that’s not the way our society is structured. Walter thought he was breaking his bonds when he quit the car wash, then his teaching job, to become a master criminal. But even master criminals and genius meth cooks have to answer to somebody. There’s always a more powerful criminal further up the chain of command, or the police, or cancer…
Even Gus’s storyline this season showed that he’s not entirely in charge of his own fate despite his litany of precautions and chess-move thinking. The cartel may be neutralized for now, but they, or their inevitable replacement, will eventually come knocking on The Chicken Man’s door. And if they don’t, Hank’s one-man crusade will. Gus at this point is like an embattled CEO who makes life hell for his employees but still must answer to the board of directors or stockholders. (If there’s one thing I know, it’s big business!)
Walter and Jesse are stand-ins for every man and woman in a gray flannel suit, trudging to the office each day to do something they don’t care about so that they can pay their mortgage and keep their kids in new clothes. That’s why we’re still cheering for Walter to extricate himself from the seemingly inescapable mess he’s in, despite what a raging bastard he’s been for the last two seasons. And it’s why we were so excited when Walter and Jesse agreed to join forces to throw off the yoke of their poultry-scented oppressors. We want Walt and Jesse to beat Gus — even though Gus is awesome — because we want them to be free. Because we want to be free ourselves.
And now we rush headlong into the fourth season finale, and we wait to find out:
- Is Gus going to survive the season?
- Will Mike be back?
- Will Walter’s cancer be back?
- Is Hank going to spot something in the laundry pictures Gomez took?
- Will someone please take Tyrus down a peg?
- Will Brock please die so that Epyck/Andrea can exit our lives forever?
- Is Skylar going to take a sniper bullet to the forehead?
- How will Gus define “appropriate” next week?
(Can all Breaking Bad recappers and reviewers please agree to call a moratorium on referencing Chekhov, at least for the rest of this season? Every week, it’s Chekhov’s Throw Rug, Chekhov’s Ricin Cigarette, Chekhov’s Vacuum Cleaner Repairman Card. We get it. You know what Chekhov’s gun is. Congratulations.)
Over the course of the season, Breaking Bad has introduced so many ideas and plot elements that might come into play that we never know which ones will turn out to be crucial. So while it stood to reason that someone was going to get ricin poisoning this year, we didn’t know for sure, and we didn’t know who the victim would be. And because of that cavalcade of maybes, we don’t know what’s going to happen in the finale or why.
I suspect that this season might end with a doozy of a cliffhanger — none of the previous three seasons has ended with a real cliffhanger, and I think we’re overdue. Season One’s finale felt like the end of a chapter, with Jesse and Heisenberg standing in the garbage dump now fully immersed in the drug trade. Season Two’s last episode put a bow on the plane crash and tied up that year’s loose ends. Season Three’s conclusion was more about the realization that “Holy shit, Jesse’s a murderer now” then wondering what would happen next. So we could be in for a long, suspenseful wait after this season.