the crowning of a kingpin: ‘breaking bad’ season 4 comes to a close

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Monday, October 10th, 2011

bryan cranston breaking bad

the crowning of a kingpin: ‘breaking bad’ season 4 comes to a close

bryan cranston breaking bad walter white

prior to the start of the 4th (and now completed, as of last night) season of breaking bad, writer and producer vince gilligan talked candidly about how this was the season that walter white would finally (and completely) turn the corner from a heroic father to a self-focused monster. this evolution has been relatively slow. in fact, i spent the majority of this season believing that gilligan overstated their intentions for this character. walt had his moments of monstrous power, but had just as many weak moments spent living in fear and paranoia.

and then the final episode occurred.

in the end, mr. chips became scarface.

or maybe i should say gustavo fring.

because that’s precisely who he became.

as i predicted, season 4 ended with walt successfully coordinating the death of gus fring, thus freeing him from his required servitude. while the scene of gus’ death wasn’t quite as shocking as this, the first thing i thought was the scene in the wire where stringer bell was killed. it was shocking and caused one of those whoa, did that really happen? moments. (and we even knew that it was most likely coming.)

walt’s plan, involving hector salamanca, was brilliant. and exactly the kind of plan gus would have hatched.

when the death scene finally came, the most shocking part wasn’t just that the bomb exploded, but that we then see gus walk out the room, seemingly unscathed. that is until the camera pans and we see the shocking physical aftermath of the explosion. you’ll just have to watch to see.

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the death of gus, though, wasn’t the episode’s/season’s biggest shocker. the drama of the final few episodes this season involved jesse tending to his friend’s suddenly-sick child, brock. one of the most climactic scenes this season happened in the penultimate episode where jesse comes to kill walt, believing that he poisoned the child. placing a gun to his forehead, walt convinces jesse that only a callous killer like gus was capable of using children to execute his sinister plan.

in the final episode, though, jesse learns that it wasn’t poison after all that made brock sick. rather, it was a flower called lily of the valley that kids have been known to eat. instead of attempting to describe the moments that followed, take a look at how the season concluded.

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gus is the only person callous and sinister enough to harm a child? not any more. gus is dead and walt is the new gus.

the most brilliant part of the plan that walt executed was how the writers foreshadowed it in a very subtle and mysterious way. in the previous episode, there’s a scene where walt sits in his backyard poolside and contemplates how to escape this mess that he’s found himself in. while we thought he was thinking about killing himself, the spinning guns finally points toward something other than him. at the time, we had no idea what it meant, but the writers were genius enough to plant the seed (no pun intended) of what was to come. here’s the clip.

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it’s hard to imagine that next season—the 5th and final season of the series—won’t focus on walt’s assuming of the proverbial throne. despite the fact that they destroyed the super lab, i can’t see another plot line wherein walt isn’t the new kingpin, resuming his persona as heisenberg.

along the lines of a prediction, i cannot see an out for walt in the end of this series besides death. mastermind gus was outwitted by walt this season, so it’s hard to imagine that walt won’t meet the same fate as the series concludes.

now, we have to sit back and wait another 9+ months to find out.