S04E12: Pure anxiety. Deep, tremor-inducing, throat-drying, torturous, wonderful anxiety. From beginning to end. There are few dips. Mainly, we’re on edge the whole time. This is beyond what the capabilities of dramatic television should be.
After last week’s episode of Breaking Bad, there were several theories floating around regarding where the events would take these characters now that they’ve reached a tipping point. It appeared that Saul’s faux-Witness Protection Program was no longer an option for Walt and his family due to their inability to collect the money in time (Walt crumbled when he found out Skyler gave much of their money to Ted Beneke -- symbolic, don'tcha think?) and further due to Saul’s whole leaving-town shtick this episode. But the show does make a point of highlighting the large sum of cash bestowed unto Jesse this week, and now that Jesse and Walt are back in “good graces,” might we expect him to fund the Whites’ escape?
Another option—Gus does, in fact, stick to his word in killing Skyler, Walt Jr. and Holly. The most horrifying option, for sure. But the show does that. Of course, this doesn’t tell us what will happen to Walt, among others.
But what seems to be instituted in this episode, at least for now, is war. Walt holes up in the White house, spinning guns and barricading entries. Seriously—never have scenes of a guy sitting silently have been so damn invigorating.
"There must be another way." - Skyler
"There isn't. There was, but now there isn't." - Walt
The episode picks up almost immediately after last week’s: the Whites are packing hastily so that they may take hospice in the safeguarded Schrader house—all but Walt, who insists he stay behind for the safety of his wife and children. It’s a rare moment of decency for the man Walter White has turned into (or the man he always was and has finally let out into the world—too much tension to debate this right now). After a great deal of contesting Walt’s point, Skyler finally succumbs and heads on over to Hank’s and Marie’s with Walt Jr. and Holly.
More invigoration over at the Schraders—Walt Jr., keeping with tradition, blames his mother for Walt not coming to safety. Hank doesn’t seem at all worried, and Marie is a mess. Hank has still got his theories about the Laundromat, so his pal Steve heads over to investigate, convincing the de facto manager with some smooth double-talk to let him and a partner (which turns out to be a drug-sniffing dog) investigate the place. They turn up with nothing—in the meantime, Jesse and Tyrus wait silently underground (not too much of a stretch for Tyrus). Jesse gets a call from Gus, just to make sure he understands what is going on, and whose fault it is. Jesse insists that there will be a problem if Gus decides to kill Walt.
"Put in a good word for me with Gus." - Saul
After the cops are gone, Jesse is dropped off at his car, where he calls Walt (unsuccessfully) and listens to a series of desperate messages from Saul, begging him to come over. He does. He is patted down aggressively by Huell. Saul delivers Jesse a large sum of cash, as he is skipping town. He “lets slip” that Gus took Walt into the desert and threatened him at gunpoint, and makes mention that he might be back when this is all over.
Back at Jesse’s house, he gets a frantic call from Andrea—her son Brock is very sick in the hospital. Jesse rushes over and tries to console her. He is asked to wait outside by an ICU doctor. While fishing in his pocket for a cigarette, Jesse notices the ricin cigarette is missing, and then takes notice of Brock’s symptoms…he has been poisoned. Jesse, freaking out, tells Andrea this—she is none too comfortable with the news, nor with Jesse’s insistence that he not explain how he knows. This is the point where we begin thinking, “Have we ever seen Brock sneak a cigarette? No…” And then begin thinking some more, “Did somebody do this to him?” Tension builds, but we’re not exactly freaking out just yet. Give it a scene.
"I have been waiting. I have been waiting all day. Waiting for Gus to send one of his men to kill me. And it's you." - Walt
Jesse shows up at the White house—Walt is sitting in the dark, furniture against the doors and windows, waiting. He lets Jesse in after some hesitance. Without letting Jesse say so much as a “Hello,” Walt begins rattling off his own problems, giving Jesse a chance to pick up the gun he has left on the ottoman, which Jesse points at Walt. A frantic Jesse explains that he “knows” Walt poisoned Brock as he is the only other person who knew about the ricin cigarette. He rationalizes that Walt had Saul (by extension, Huell) grab the cigarette off of Jesse that morning so that they could kill Brock. But Walt protests.
Why would he do such a thing? How could he do such a thing? It doesn’t make sense. But it makes sense for Gus to do it. Gus has killed children before (children in the same family, mind you). Gus wants to turn Jesse against Walt. Gus has cameras everywhere—allowing him to know things that they don’t think he knows. Jesse realizes Walt might be right, and agrees to take Gus out. Together. Like old times.
Here’s the thing, though…Jesse believes Walt. After all, he makes a good case. And sure, Walt’s a smart guy. But he makes too good a case. He “figures out” Gus’ entire plan, then delivers it to Jesse in a perfectly convincing explanation. It horrifies the viewer to suspect this…but it can’t be discounted that Walt is the one who actually did poison Brock. Could he suspect that Jesse would come to realize Brock was poisoned with ricin? Possibly. Could he have expected Jesse to immediately suspect Gus? Or was Jesse’s initial suspicion of Walt part of the plan? It might not matter. Walt’s reasonably adept at thinking on his feet—at least when it comes to people who are willing to trust him, which he knows that Jesse is. So…did Walt poison Brock, an eight year-old child, in order to get Jesse to kill Gus?
That’s the question.
Andrea’s family has requested that Jesse not be admitted into the ICU area, so he camps out in the waiting room. Tyrus shows up and tries to get Jesse to come to work, but Jesse refuses, and says that if Gus wishes to speak with him, he can come do so directly. Gus does this: he and two henchmen show up and speak to Jesse in the hospital chapel. At first, Gus insists that Jesse come back to work. But when Jesse explains that Brock has been poisoned and that he refuses to leave the hospital (not sure what his angle is here), Gus allows Jesse to take all the time he needs. Gus and his duo head back to the garage to the car, on which Walt has planted a remote-detonated bomb he constructed (he’s a genius scientist, remember?). Walt waits with binoculars on the adjacent roof…but Gus stops as he walks to his car. He goes to the edge of the garage, and looks out over the city. This, by the way, is heart-stopping anxiety. Tension to the max. Walt hides, and it never appears that Gus spots Walt. But Gus eventually turns around and heads back into the building, leaving Walt (and the viewer) frantically crying and wondering what the hell is going to happen next.