‘Breaking Bad’ Season Finale Recap: Face Off

S04E13: Let’s be honest. Almost nothing was going to live up to our excitement for the Breaking Bad Season 4 finale. First of all, Season 3 concluded with one of the most intense pair of episodes that many of us can remember seeing on television in the past several years. Secondly, somewhere around the middle of Season 4, the episodes began embracing more and more drama, tension, excitement and terrific storytelling (both back and forward), culminating with the colossal episodes “Salud,” “Crawl Space,” and “End Times.” So this episode, which was a little lighter on the dramatic elements and more interested in just wrapping things up, might have paled a little in comparison. But it was still very, very good. Just not edge-of-your-seat good.

The episode picks up immediately from last week’s: Walt runs to the hospital parking garage to remove the bomb from Gus’ car, and then rushes hastily into the hospital to speak with Jesse and find out why Gus turned away from his car — a question we never get the answer to. Or will we? Could this loose end be one that brings up a whole new string of problems in Season 5? Walt versus Jesse. Walt probes Jesse for information on where he can surprise Gus. He wants to find a spot where Gus will inevitably end up — without cameras, like his home and workplace — so that Walt can plant the bomb there. As Walt and Jesse chat, a pair of detectives approach and demand Jesse come in for questioning regarding his claims to Andrea that Brock was likely poisoned by risin.


As this questioning gets underway, Walt rushes to Saul’s office for aid in the matter. He breaks in while Saul’s secretary is shredding documents, and asks her for a phone number where the incognito Saul might be reached in exchange for an inordinate sum of money. The scene is a fun one because the woman goes off on Walt and how he ruined her life. The value (other than comic relief) is that it clues us into all of the minor, nameless and faceless people whose lives Walt and Jesse have ruined via their catastrophic endeavors. We see this woman in many episodes, but we have never heard any of her story. Breaking Bad humanizes everyone, eventually. So this was interesting and fun.

Anyway, in order to pay the woman off, Walt must head to his house and get some cash from his crawl space — but, there is the strong possibility that his house is not safe. Gus has people everywhere. So Walt, watching from a reasonably safe distance, has his neighbor head into the house with a fake errand as a decoy. She emerges safely, and Walt sees two of Gus’ men leave the backyard. A safe (but close) interim period between the men’s departure and return allows Walt to retrieve the money from the crawl space. Cut to Saul cutting Jesse’s interrogation short.

“Did you tell them anything?” – Saul

“I told them they’re dicks.” – Jesse

“He’s quite a wordsmith.” – Saul

Saul also meets with Walt to discuss some information Jesse gave Saul about Gus: every so often, as we have seen, Gus visits Hector Salemanca at the nursing home to taunt him. So, Walt pays a visit to Hector—the first time he has seen him since their very tense meeting in Season 1 (which is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series, for what it’s worth)—and offers him a chance to get revenge on Gus, who, if you recall, recently killed everyone of Hector’s family members and friends.

Hector is silent, communicating with his nurse via a board of letters, and requests a meeting with the DEA. His wish comes true and he speaks specifically with Hank, but he uses the meeting to spout obscenities and apparently insult the DEA and waste their time. However, the plan is to arouse the suspicions of Gus. And he does. Tyrus stakes out the meeting and informs Gus, who decides to take action himself. First, Tyrus goes in to Hector’s room at the nursing home to see whether or not it is safe. He brings a metal detector, but fails to notice Walt hiding outside on the ledge (Breaking Bad has done this sort of thing before, and has done it better each time before, but this is a minor detail).

Among these scenes, we see Jesse set free from the detectives’ interrogation. Risin is ruled out as a poison, which makes all us cock our heads a little. Immediately after he is released, Jesse is tasered and kidnapped by Gus’ men, and brought back to work in the lab.

Then, Tyrus and Gus pay Hector a visit. Gus insults Hector for talking to the DEA and reveals a needle with which he apparently intends to inject (and kill) Hector. But before he can, Hector begins ringing his bell frantically, setting off the bomb that Walt apparently strapped to his chair (after Tyrus’ inspection) and rigged to be activated by the bell, killing all three of them. Hector was well-aware that he was going to die; we never explicitly see the plan being detailed, but we do see Walt asking Hector if he is “sure” he is willing to do this, to which he rings once: yes.

“What kind of man talks to the DEA? No man. No man at all.” – Gus

And the bomb goes off. Gus emerges from the room, standing upright. We only see his profile at first, but the camera revolves to show that half of his face was blown off. Gus adjusts his tie, and falls to the ground. Dead. Now, this is kind of a weird choice. On one hand, it’s off-beat and interesting. Plus, one can assume that, since Gus was the primary antagonist for the past two years whose death has been plotted for a while now, that the show wanted to let us see him in his last moment before death. And it shows him as he lived: dignified, yet destroyed. The series is intent on keeping his air of sophistication, even though he is a vengeful, maniacal drug dealer. But on a visceral level, it’s just a strange, kind of silly scene. But I’m willing to ignore that. It is, after all, Breaking Bad.

So, Gus is dead. All is well, right? Walt finds out via FM radio, and then meets with Jesse to put all matters to rest. Walt shows up at the lab, killing the two Gus cronies who are watching over Jesse, and then informing his friend that Gus is dead. The two take immediate action in destroying the entire superlab. It’s a brilliant montage (for lack of a less ’80s-movie-reminiscent word), visually, musically, and in terms of the story and characters. They set the fire alarm on the way out as to free all of the laundromat employees from their bondage to this horrible institution.

“Walt, what did you do?” – Skyler

“I won.” – Walt

And, in a final cathartic scene, Walt and Jesse speak on the hospital roof. Jesse explains that Brock is going to be fine (yay), and that it was actually Lily of the Valley that poisoned him, not risin. Again, we cock our heads. Jesse says that sometimes, kids eat berries off Lily of the Valley, a flowery plant, and it makes them very sick. We’re all a little set-off at this point, emotionally. Last week, the big question was: Who poisoned Brock? Gus or Walt? And now, it seems that it was just a strange accident. Not very Breaking Bad. We don’t know how to feel, really. But Jesse feels guilty about ‘helping’ to kill Gus now that he was not involved in Brock’s poisoning. Walt assures him that Gus still needed to die, which Jesse reluctantly accepts. The two shake hands and head their separate ways.

Walt calls Skyler, who heard of Gus’ death on the news. Horrified, she asks him if he was responsible for this. Walt gives the best, most in-character answer he could have given: “I won.” Way to go, writers. Then, he drives home, passing Gus’ empty car in the hospital parking garage.


As an ending song plays, we see the empty backyard of the White household. At first we assume it’s just some kind of artistic shot. After all the yard has been a place of a lot of important scenes over the years. Season 2’s plane crash thread had floating stuffed animals in the pool. Walt got his son drunk there in a fit of pride. Just recently, we saw him spinning his gun while waiting for his doom.

But then, the camera begins to zoom in. On what? Oh, nothing. Just a table. With a potted plant on it…a Lily of the Valley.

And there’s the spine-tingling rush. Thinking back to the gun-spinning scene, that’s actually probably when Walt devised the idea. The gun probably pointed to that very plant. But that’s just wishful thinking.

This does pose two questions, however. One: how did Walt get the Lily of the Valley to Brock? And two: if risin was not Brock’s poison, what happened to Jesse’s missing risin cigarette? This is one question we never got the answer to. Will we? Could this loose end be one that brings up a whole new string of problems in Season 5? Walt versus Jesse?

And what else is in store for Season 5? As of now, Jesse finding out about Walt’s involvement seems to be the biggest dramatic element. Skyler is also pretty mortified by her husband’s actions, so that might come up. And, of course, the DEA. But Gus is dead. The cartel is dead. Who remains? Mike (sick in a ‘hospital’ bed in the middle of the desert)? What on Earth will happen?