Category: Breaking Bad

'Breaking Bad' wraps most-watched season

Breakingbad
AMC's "Breaking Bad" wrapped its fourth season Sunday with the most-watched finale in the show's history.

An average of 1.9 million viewers tuned in to the 10 p.m. airing, according to Nielsen. That was up 12% from last year's number and capped a season of record ratings for the show, which stars Bryan Cranston as a high school teacher who turns to meth manufacturing after he's diagnosed with terminal cancer.

11 p.m. and 1 a.m. repeats pushed the "Breaking Bad" finale to a grand total of 2.9 million viewers.

Those numbers are still niche by broadcast standards, of course, but "Breaking Bad" has proved a dependable performer for AMC, also home of "Mad Men" and the zombie drama "The Walking Dead."

What did you think of the "Breaking Bad" finale?

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"Breaking Bad" finale recap 

Giancarlo Esposito talks about "Breaking Bad"

"The Real Housewives of New Jersey" recap

-- Scott Collins (twitter.com/scottcollinsLAT)

Photo: Aaron Paul, Jonathan Banks, Bryan Cranston and Giancarlo Esposito in AMC's "Breaking Bad." Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC. 

 

'Breaking Bad' recap: The one who knocks

Waltersaul

Warning: Major, season-ruining spoilers for the "Breaking Bad" finale follow. Do not read if you haven't watched!

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Sympathy for Gus: Giancarlo Esposito talks 'Breaking Bad'

Giancarlo Esposito of 'Breaking Bad'

In a career spanning more than two decades, Giancarlo Esposito has crawled into a lot of different skins, including the wild-eyed militant Buggin’ Out in “Do The Right Thing,” the fanatical frat leader in “School Daze" and the pushy FBI agent in “The Usual Suspects.” All those roles highlighted his characteristic kinetic energy and loose-limbed style.

But in AMC’s “Breaking Bad,” Esposito is a man of few words, letting his cold eyes and taut expressions speak for him as Gus Fring, the deceptively mild-mannered owner of a fast-food chicken chain who is actually the mastermind of a meth distribution ring. Esposito’s complex portrayal of Gus has been a breakthrough role for the actor while bringing renewed acclaim to one of TV’s elite dramas.

During the fourth season of “Breaking Bad,” which reached an explosive conclusion Sunday, Gus’ increasingly tense alliance with employee Walter White (Bryan Cranston), an ailing chemistry teacher who has turned to making meth for Gus to make ends meet, shattered.

'Breaking Bad' finale recap: The one who knocks

Even in an ensemble packed with Emmy winners (Cranston has landed three, and Aaron Paul, who plays troubled drug deal dealer Jesse Pinkman, has scored one), Esposito has been singled out. Although the finale was a brutal one for Gus, Esposito’s career has sparked fresh industry interest and new opportunities for the veteran character actor.

“It’s like a symphony when every note is where it’s supposed to be,” said the 53-year-old actor recently of his role. “It’s not a little sharp to the right or the left. It’s right on key. That’s when the magic happens, and ‘Breaking Bad’ has been that magic.”

Attired in a sharp black suit, black T-shirt and dapper derby, Esposito, a divorced father of four daughters who lives in Ridgefield, Conn., was very un-Gus like as he relaxed on the patio of a Century City café. He is much closer in personality to Gus’ alter ego — the pleasant proprietor of the Pollos Hermanos chain. His hair was longer and curlier than the short-cropped, straight hairstyle favored by his “Breaking Bad” character.

“I needed to shake Gus off,” he said with a laugh. “I wanted to look a little softer.” 

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'Breaking Bad' recap: Apocalypse, now

Gustyru
Ambiguity has always been one of “Breaking Bad’s” secret weapons. The show never tells the audience more than it absolutely needs to know, and that increases the sense of mystery and excitement surrounding much of what happens. But as we head into next week’s finale, we’ve got one of the biggest mysteries the show’s ever tossed our way: Who poisoned Brock (if, indeed, Brock was even poisoned)? And everything that happens next week hinges on the answer to this particular question, I assume, so let’s take a look at our suspects.

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'Breaking Bad' recap: The end is nigh

'Breaking Bad' recap

If there’s one thing “Breaking Bad” does better than any other show in the history of TV, it’s getting the characters into situations that seem impossible to get out of and then continuing to pile on the horrors. Last night’s episode, “Crawl Space,” trucks along well enough, seeming like a slight breather after the ultra-intense ending to last week’s episode, when abruptly — and almost out of nowhere, mind — the episode shifts into one in which everything Walter White has carefully constructed to keep himself alive comes crashing down around his ears. He gets fired from his job. He realizes his wife has been giving money to Ted. He knows that he’s a dead man, and he’s probably taking his family with him. And he figures out that the only reason he’s still alive is because of the reluctance of his former partner, a man who no longer likes him very much, to wish him dead.

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'Breaking Bad' recap: Mirror images

Breaking Bad

I’m sure it’s no coincidence that, even as Walter White reaches what might be his lowest ebb around the midpoint of tonight’s episode, Gus Fring has finally had his ultimate triumph as the episode ends. These are two men who’ve always been running as rough mirror images of each other, even as this season has turned them, for the most part, into parallel lines, only intersecting when Gus allows it. And so as Gus finally triumphs over Don Eladio and the cartel — poisoning them in a scheme roughly similar to the one Walter was going to use to poison Gus — Walter spends all day in bed, painkillers washed down with beer keeping him there, and his son devastates him without even knowing he’s laid his dad low.

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'Breaking Bad' recap: Back in the corner again

Jesse

How long has it felt like “Breaking Bad” was building to a giant confrontation between Walt and Jesse? Sure, the seeds for the fight they have at the end of tonight’s episode were planted mostly this season, but the route they’ve traveled to get here extends all the way back to the very first episode. Walt has always viewed Jesse as a surrogate son, sure, but that includes some bad along with the good. Fathers often have to learn to let their sons go, to let them go off and have their own lives. Walter can’t do that with Jesse, because letting Jesse do that equals a situation where Walter can’t control absolutely every single element of his life, a situation he believes makes it that much more likely he’ll end up in jail. His small choice to start cooking meth has reverberated so far beyond him that it seemingly encompasses all of New Mexico now. He always thought Jesse would be an element he could control, and now that he can’t, he’s even more paranoid and frightened.

 

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'Breaking Bad' recap: Putting up walls

Skyler
It’s been nearly two dozen episodes since Gustavo Fring and Walter White first crossed paths, and what we know about the former is remarkably little. We know he runs a fast-food chain in addition to a criminal organization. We know he does everything he can to stay under the radar, including keeping tabs on law enforcement by appearing to be one of their chief boosters. We know he lives in a large-ish house, but probably not one as big as he could really afford (just with the fast food money). And we know that he runs his organization on the principle that people who stick out too much need to be dealt with swiftly and brutally. Throughout, we’ve been given the sense that Gus succeeded where Walt is flailing because he keeps so many people – even the audience – at arm’s length.

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'Breaking Bad' recap: The rise and fall of the Fring empire

Hank

The “Problem Dog” of tonight’s “Breaking Bad” episode title is a fictional creation, something Jesse uses to stand in for Gale Boetticher when he tries to explain to his addiction recovery group what it is that has him so adrift. But at the same time, the title could refer to any number of the characters, all of whom bite and fight against the restrictions placed on them by Gus (or bite and fight to get to Gus). Gus Fring, of course, has constructed such an elaborate life for himself that it would seem that nothing could bring it down. But sometimes the smallest of things can wreck the mightiest of empires.

“Problem Dog” is also a terrific example of the show doing what it does best: slowly increasing the tension until the characters all seem like they’re on the verge of destroying each other. Walter’s plotting to kill Gus via Jesse. Gus is plotting to separate Jesse and Walt, to drive a wedge between them that will bring the latter down (and pull the former in line). Hank is plotting to build a case against Gus, the man he’s sure is atop a massive drug empire, even though all he has to go on are conjecture and a few fingerprints. Skyler is plotting to keep the family afloat, trickling just enough money through the car wash to appear as though the family is doing well but not remarkably well. And the writers are plotting to bounce all of these characters off of each other without having any of them explode just yet.

This is one of the things I was talking about way back before we started discussing this season in earnest, when I’d seen the first three episodes and nothing else. Last season, the show expertly used the cousins – twin mercenaries from Mexico – to ramp up tension and increase the body count. It was never immediately certain where and when the cousins would show up, but it was always certain the only person they’d listen to was Gus. (He was the only one, ultimately, who could call them off of killing Walter when they were sitting in the former’s bedroom.) This season, however, the show has gone all in on the slow build, on increasing the amount of character complications (Gus all but offers Walt Jr., a job tonight) while also increasing the pressure on those characters to see if they finally snap.

So with that in mind, let’s take a look at all of the “problem dogs” yapping at the edges of Gus’ peripheral vision.

Walt: Of course we’re going to lead with Walt, who’s actively plotting to get Jesse to kill Gus, using the same odorless, tasteless poison he developed to kill Tuco way back in Season 2. (This is obviously going to do someone in by the time this show is finished.) Walt goads Jesse into performing the awful deed by reminding him of all of the misery Gus has been responsible for in both of their lives, but by the time Jesse finally has a chance to slip Gus the poison (while preparing his coffee for a sitdown with the cartel), the kid is sufficiently intrigued enough in just what Gus is up to (and what he “sees” in Jesse) that he doesn’t dose the coffee and lies to Walt about having had the opportunity to kill Gus. Still, Walt is clearly chafing at the fact that he’s once again living under a death notice he can do very little about. He sets fire to cars, asks Saul to find him a hitman (all of the hitmen Saul knows also know Mike), and treats Skyler poorly when she asks just where they’re going to put all of this money before laundering it. Of all of the problem dogs in this show, Walt is perhaps the least predictable, other than the fact that it’s obvious he’s on the edge of an explosion.

Hank: Gus doesn’t even know it, but Hank has him dead to rights. Hank doesn’t even really know it yet. He’s just got a vague suspicion that a vegan like Gale wouldn’t be the type to eat fried chicken, and he follows that suspicion all the way to obtaining Gus’ fingerprint, then matching it to a fingerprint found in Gale’s apartment. (The scene where Hank does this is wonderfully fraught with tension, particularly in the faux-friendliness among Hank, Walt Jr. and Gus, and in the moment where Walt, Jr., tells Hank about the car Walt bought him, the one Skyler was intent on keeping secret.) It seems likely that Gus isn’t even aware he’s on Hank’s radar, let alone aware that Hank is incredibly close to knocking down the entire Fring empire. (In my one small quibble with this episode, Hank’s renewed vigor extends to his ability to walk. Suddenly, he can use walkers and canes to get around slowly but surely, where he was struggling to walk all of 20 steps a week or so ago.)

The cartel: A couple of weeks ago, I talked about how since we don’t know Gus’ ultimate plan, it was hard to judge his actions in a lot of ways. This goes double for the cartel. They’re obviously people Gus has some sort of deal with and people he’s dealt with in the past, but they’ve also obviously made an offer to Gus that he simply can’t accept. (I’d presume it has something to do with splitting the profits from the blue meth.) Gus perhaps can’t afford to waste too much time on Walter and can’t afford to keep an eye on the DEA because he’s so busy trying to keep the cartel from escalating the quiet war between the two groups. And while he’s got Mike on his side, it’s increasingly clear that his other soldiers are falling at a rapid pace. No wonder he’s trying to turn Jesse into another point in his favor.

“Problem Dog” is a fairly remarkable piece of television – indeed, it would be if only for the scene where Jesse breaks down at the meeting and finally pushes the counselor leading the meeting (good ol’ Jere Burns, returning after being slightly underused last season) too far and angrily cries out about how he has yet to be punished for Gale’s murder (all through coded language, no less) – but what’s best about it is how many different potential explosions it sets up. Last season at this point, Hank got into that desperate fight with the cousins, the one that landed him in a wheelchair for a good long while. But this season, it’s not immediately clear where any of this is going, which is fascinating. There have been complaints about this season moving too slowly, both far and wide, but I think after this episode, it’s abundantly clear that everybody – even Gus – is in over his or her heads, and they’re all just beginning to figure this out.

RELATED:

'Breaking Bad' recap: Listen to the voice

'Breaking Bad' recap: Who's pulling the strings?

Complete Show Tracker 'Breaking Bad' coverage

-- Todd VanDerWerff
Twitter.com/tvoti

Photo: Hank (Dean Norris) follows his gut to find clues pointing the way toward Gus Fring. Credit: AMC

'Breaking Bad' recap: Listen to the voice

'Breaking Bad' recap

The world of “Breaking Bad” has… not a god, exactly, but definitely some sort of moral force, something that ties everybody together and deals out rewards and punishments. The way that force works is occasionally mysterious and subtle. It can bring Walter White together with the man whose daughter is Jesse Pinkman’s girlfriend for a drink in a bar, the two men launching into a conversation that indirectly leads to that daughter’s death at Walter’s hands. It can also work in completely loud and obvious ways that the characters just tune out, as when it kicked off a chain of events that ended with two airliners colliding directly over Walter’s house. The message was clear: “Many will die if you keep this up, Walter.” But he ignored it completely.

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'Breaking Bad' recap: Who's pulling the strings?

'Breaking Bad's' Jesse (Aaron Paul) finds himself going on a trip with Mike to make pick-ups

One of the most interesting things about this season of “Breaking Bad” is that the character who’s most affecting the way the show is playing out is someone we’ve barely spent any time with. Gus Fring is carefully trying to turn the troubling situation he finds himself in to his own advantage, but he’s doing almost all of it off screen. It makes some of the actions the other characters take feel almost inexplicable, and I’m just waiting for a reveal like the one in last season’s eighth episode, where we abruptly realized that Gus was playing a much, much larger game than any of the other characters.

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'Breaking Bad' recap: Ground control to Walter White

'Breaking Bad': Walt (Bryan Cranston) angrily explains to Saul (Bob Odenkirk) just how bad his situation has gotten.

For those of you who’ve been complaining that the first three episodes of “Breaking Bad’s” fourth season have been a little light on plot, what do you think now?

Sure, there was always the languid sense of pacing “Breaking Bad” has, present around every corner, but there was also a relentless forward momentum (maybe even too relentless). What started out as an episode about how Walter and Skyler were going to explain to Marie and especially Hank that they were buying a car wash without making Hank unduly suspicious shifted abruptly around the halfway point into an episode about whether Walter could find a way to keep Jesse Pinkman alive. The episode doesn’t even signal that this is going to happen. There’s one offhand mention from Hank, and we’re suddenly in the middle of a Jesse storyline, without much warning.

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