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'Breaking Bad': Run

Episode-12-Jesse-Wendy-760 "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan has often  discussed his idea of transforming a Mr. Chips into a Scarface, and on Sunday night we may have officially arrived at the end of that journey. On this latest and epic episode of "Bad," Walter White (Bryan Cranston) continued to play the part of Mr. Chips for most of the show, trying his best to remain nice and civilized about things. And then -- forget it. 

One minute he was having dinner with his family, and the next he was barreling into a couple of men with his car, one of them falling beneath and the other flying up over the top of it. And the man who emerged from inside of that Pontiac Aztec -- Walter -- was certainly Mr. Chips no more. No, this was a guy without hesitation, without conscience. This was a guy who rushed right over to the lone survivor, grabbed his gun and then shot him right through the skull. 

We'd seen Walt kill before, but this was different. Before, the look on his face was that of regret or horror, or a certain sadness. On this night, though, there was only a cold stare and a single word. "Run," he said to his stunned partner, Jesse. And that was that. Cut. Black. Credits. 

We now have one week to catch our breath and then the season finale. It's hard to imagine things getting any more brutal than this, but consider the circumstances: Walt has just killed two trusted employees of the bad, bad Mr. Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), whose main instruction during this episode was to keep the peace. 

And then, consider these words: "I will tell you this," Aaron Paul, who played Jesse, told me during an interview a few weeks ago. "Episode 12 [Sunday's episode] definitely could have been the finale and it would have been insane, but then there's another episode where they just ... " -- here he laughed -- " ... they take it to such a different level, you're just like, 'Wow.' " And here he laughed again, a mischievous laugh that seemed to say, "You just wait." 

Is it possible for this story to get any better? We'll see. 

Sunday's ending did seem like a significant step in Walter's transformation. Even Cranston has said in numerous interviews that he envisions Walt ultimately becoming a ruthless, bloodthirsty man. But Sunday's episode seemed to make a pointed effort to show us one last stand from Mr. Nice Guy before darkness fell. Titled "Half Measures," it showed Walt taking the middle ground in so many situations, the same middle ground he'd lived on for the better part of this series. Here, he negotiated with his (sort-of) wife for more family time, he had no issue with his son driving with a foot on each pedal, so long as he got safely from Point A to Point B, and he implored Jesse to ignore his notion of revenge. "You are not a murderer. I am not, and you are not," he said. "It's as simple as that." And during all of this, he even found time to watch some "Jeopardy!" Well then ... 

Who is Walter White?

Answer: the man we saw in the end. 

That final camera shot -- the quick zoom-in on Walt, looking up at him as he uttered that one word, "Run," to Jesse -- seemed significant in and of itself. I was pretty sure I'd seen that kind of zoom-in in a previous gangster tale or two, and the steadiness of the shot just felt so different from what we usually got on "Bad," which was often a camera that was just a tad unsteady and a bit farther away, like the shot of "The Cleaner," Mike, when he got up from the couch at the end of that amazing monologue that gave the episode its name. "No more half measures," he said, and it should be noted that in a season full of captivating monologues, that one by actor Jonathan Banks was unquestionably among the very best. Whenever Banks is on screen, there are always fireworks. 

Meanwhile ... 

-- It wouldn't be "Breaking Bad" without a little levity somewhere in the midst of the darkness, and for that we turn to Hank (Dean Norris) and Marie (Betsy Brandt). Since Hank was feeling sorry for himself and refusing to leave the hospital, Marie decided to prod the big lug. "If I can get the groundhog to see his shadow," she said, her hand down south, "we check out of here." The bet was on, Hank a non-believer. And did you catch how long he gave her? "You got one minute," he said, and if you recall, one minute was the time he had to prepare for the assassins who put him in this very hospital bed. The ensuing combination of a brilliant smash-cut and some priceless facial expressions by those involved provided one of the funniest sequences of the season, Hank suddenly being wheeled out with get-well flowers on his lap. I just interviewed Norris for a Q&A that will appear on this blog in the coming days, and my first question was, well, exactly how many takes? Norris laughed that hearty Hank laugh and joked, "Well, you know, with my encouragement, we practiced that scene a lot. Yeah, we had a lot of fun doing it. We actually had a lot of discussion about it, and my take on it was, even though [Hank] pretended he didn't want it to happen, I think any guy would want to know. ... If you're paralyzed, one of the first things you're going to think about is, 'Will I ever have sex again?' " So it was a mixed blessing for Hank; he lost the bet, "but he got his [manhood] back."

-- Another great episode from Aaron Paul, who continues to shine in this third season. Here, our stomach turned a bit when he was forced to shake the hands of the men who had Combo killed, and then again when he took a bump of meth before going out to face them again. As for the drug use: "They could have had Jesse go to rehab and then come out and just relapse right away," Paul said of the writers. "But now Jesse is almost like a different character within himself. And who knows? Is he really a bad guy, or is that just him trying to convince himself that he is because of his guilt? Will he ever let that go? It's a lot of fun to play. ... I really hope people stick with this crazy ride." 

-- Another week, another great teaser. This time, we got a montage of Wendy the hooker (played by the brave Julia Minesci, an Albuquerque, N.M., local who undergoes a serious makeup job to look that bad) on the job, set to the alternately light and fun '60s tune "Windy," recorded by the Association. Only cable. Only "Breaking Bad." 

Predictions for the finale? Have at it... 

-- Josh Gajewski

Photo: Jesse (Aaron Paul) and Wendy (Julia Minesci) are on the lookout during Sunday's episode of "Breaking Bad." Credit: AMC

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Comments () | Archives (15)

i think Walt killing the two drug dealers shows he has a conscience, not that he's losing one.

Still speechless this morning... wow. This show will soon start entering the 'all-time' conversation.

How many windshields does that make for the Aztec now?

What a stunning episode. Every time I try to predict what will happen next I am so wrong. The story twists in some original way. Can't wait for the next one and I wish the season was longer.

In the real world, wouldn't Gus and Mike just kill Jesse - just wipe him off the map. What could Walt do about it?

Walt takes out Mr. Fring and becomes the new kingpin!

An obvious plot line would be Walt needing to off Gus, but Giancarlo Esposito is too good for the show. Will this be a rivalry developing for next season? Walt aligning with some other dark forces? Where does Skyler and Hank fit in?

Suddenly everyone is run over by a truck.

What about all those people crawling on the ground in the earlier episode?

In the real world, I think Gus would confront Walt about Walt going behind Gus's back to "mediate" between Jesse and Gus' foot soldiers / dealers. Walt is Gus' golden goose, and I don't think Gus would want to seem rash to Walt, making Walt to mistrust Gus - Gus sending the muscle / enforcer Mike to Walt's house to give a "professional warning" is consistent with a drug boss who has a unique source for his drug supply. As for the end of this season, I hope Jesse isn't killed off...yo. But I don't buy Jesse's character becoming all guilt ridden after learning that the killer of his friend and associate had been killed... the fact that Jesse is dating the dead kid's cousin doesn't seem to support Jesse's over the top guilt... where did all his anger and desire for revenge disappear to? I think the final episode of this season will somehow tie together Hank, Walt & Jesse with Gus... and a few more dead bodies. Mr. Heisenberg is back, and I hope he kicks some ass!

Fantastic show. The ending will have everyone on pins and needles, I think. Glad I discovereed this show. Between this and "Mad Men," AMC has the two best televisions shows -- bar none.

I think Wendy killed that kid Tomas. She did not want Jesse messing with her drug connection and thought that might appease him. She will have a role in the next weeks final. Her sad life will come to a sad end.

The opening Wendy montage was brilliant!

I agree with Tim that Walt’s killing of Gus’s two employees is motivated by something rather admirable. (Of course the “Mr. Chips” Walt wouldn’t have killed anyone, but it was "Good-bye, Mr. Chips" long before the end of Season 1.) Walt kills them to protect Jesse – from being killed and/or from becoming a murderer – Jesse, unlike Walt, has retained his fundamental innocense. I disagree with those who find Jesse’s desire for revenge against the two lowlifes implausible. He has always been emotional and has demonstrated a kind heart towards children and a hatred of bullies (people who were treated as unfairly as Jesse was by his parents are often outraged by the mistreatment of children).

I’m sorry that this series is about to end (though it had to). The acting and the writing are outstanding. In current TV, only Mad Men comes close.

Posted by: KC |

Is it too obvious that Walt Jr. might get caught in the crossfire while he borrows the Aztec for his driving test? While not logical that Gus would order a hit...it might be what sets off Walt to take out Gus. I think the show's peak will be when Mr. Chemistry teacher isn't just a cook but is the leader of the whole organization. With that being the obvious path Walt's on, to me at least, Gus has to get in the way somehow to facilitate that move. And accidentally injuring/killing Walt Jr. would move that along for sure.

*maybe Walt Jr. being dead would crash and burn Walt to a point he wouldn't cook, sell, or anything. So maybe it's just that Jr. gets roughed up a bit.

KC - Ok, I could see how Jesse is hell bent on being a 'catcher in the rye' character, since thinking back, Walt after hearing the news story about the dead kid just walking out on his family dinner (which he so desperately negotiated in the beginning of the episode) tells me that Walt knew what that kid's death will mean... that Jesse was going to try to kill the employees, which will 'break the peace' mandated by the boss, Gus... and Walt knew what that would mean - that even if Jesse survived the gunfight with Gus's employees, Jesse killing Gus' employees would mean that Jesse would be ordered to be killed by Gus - for breaking the peace forced by Gus. Walt is taking a gamble with his life to protect Jesse (like a father figure), but it, like the night when Walt left his home and later regretted about the events that followed, this is a parallel to another sequence of events that will surely spiral out from one unintended consequence into another... a damn good drama... AMC - keep this series going please!

It is possible that Gus orchestrated the murder of Tomas in order to eliminate Jesse without alienating Walt. Gus realized that Jesse would come after the two street dealers after Tomas' murder, and would have no chance against them. He never anticipated that Walt would come to Jesse's rescue at just the right time.


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