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Breaking Bad season finale recap: 'Face Off'

A grisly season finale gives new meaning to the words “Face Off”

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Breaking Bad Finale
Gregory Peters/AMC

Breaking Bad

TV Show
Current Status:
Off Air
run date:
Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk
Vince Gilligan

Once, he was a good guy who did bad things for good reasons. Then, he was a good guy who did bad things for bad reasons. Now, it’s official: Walter White is just bad. Goodbye, Mr. Chips. Hello, Scarface.

Has Walt ever endangered so many innocent people in a single episode? He carries a bomb into a pediatric hospital in his baby daughter’s diaper bag. He uses his next-door neighbor as bait for Gus’s hired guns. He sets fire to a laundromat that’s still packed full of employees. He lures his own brother-in-law out into the open, where Gus’s henchmen are waiting to kill him, just so that he will realize that Hector’s been inside. He straps a bomb to a frail old man inside a nursing home. (Admittedly, that particular old man isn’t an innocent, but the Casa Tranquila comrades playing Bingo within range of his exploding wheelchair might be.) And then, of course, there’s Brock. Looking back, Saul’s advice to the kid—”Carpe diem, okay?”—feels prescient.

What kind of man kills a child just to send a message? As Gus would say: No man. No man at all. Back in “Half Measures,” Gus told his dealers, “No more children.” Even Scarface abides by one hard-fast rule: “No f—in’ kids!” Has Jesse traded the world’s most evil villain for a guy who’s much worse? Walt’s already dissolved at least three human beings with acid, watched a woman choke to death on her own vomit, and now this? How much more will it take before we stop rooting for the guy?

Now, Walt’s become exactly what Gus once was: the all-seeing, all-knowing Almighty who somehow manages to be everywhere at once without anyone noticing he’s there. (Well, no one except that little old lady. “Hi! Hello!”) How did this poisoning go down? In the scene where Walt plays roulette with his gun by the swimming pool, it’s now quite clear where he got the idea to poison Brock: the gun was pointing directly to the Lily of the Valley plant. (Kudos to the commenter who noticed this last week.) But after that, things get a little more ambiguous.

When did Walt steal the ricin cigarette off Jesse? He couldn’t have broken into Jesse’s locker at the meth lab without Gus seeing him on the surveillance cameras. Yes, Huell could have taken the whole cigarette pack during that split-second pat-down. (Some people believe they can see Huell pocketing something in that scene. You can watch it here to judge for yourself.) But Huell would’ve also had to find a way to replace it quickly with another pack, and it’s hard to believe that Walt would trust that numbskull with such an important job. Could Saul have helped out? His calls to Jesse did seem awfully urgent. And Saul was friendly with Brock, which leads to another question.

Who actually fed the plant to Brock? If Walt didn’t enlist Saul to help him, he would’ve had to hide the berries in Brock’s food without hurting Andrea. Otherwise, if he fed them to the boy himself, Walt’s going to have a major problem next season. Once Brock pulls through (and, according to Jesse, the doctors think that’s likely) that kid’s going to tell his mother exactly what happened, and this time, Jesse won’t think twice about pulling the trigger once it’s pressed against Walt’s head.

Still, how would a brilliant chemist—one who can cook the blue stuff with 99 percent accuracy—possibly miscalculate how much poison to give to Brock? Is it possible that he only meant to make the boy sick, not kill him? When Jesse tells Walt that Brock’s odds are good, there’s a million emotions sweeping across his face, but it looks like at least one of them is relief.

NEXT: Gus’s best battle cry ever? “I do this!”