“Vamanos,” indeed. AMC’s Breaking Bad pulled off the seemingly impossible with its Season 4 finale on Sunday night, by finding a way for Walt to extricate himself and loved ones from the death sentence they had all but been assigned, while serving up two big jaw-droppers along the way.
The episode picked up with Walt, having been waylaid in his bid to blow up Gus and his goons in the parking garage, scrambling to remove his homemade explosive from the vehicle, then labor to get in touch with Saul. That teed up one of the episode’s few light moments, as Saul’s secretary effectively strong-armed Walt into ponying up $20,000 for a door he broke in the course of storming the law practice.
To secure that “ransom” for Saul’s top-secret phone number, Walt craftily employed a neighbor to send Gus’ watchmen scampering, affording him a brief window to sneak into his home, get under the foundation and grab some greenbacks – narrowly eluding the returning thugs.
Jesse meanwhile found himself having some ‘splaining to do, to some cops who were rather curious about the “Ricin!” alert he blurted to Brock’s mother. Jesse tried to claim that he had, like, simply heard about ricin recently, but his questioners weren’t buying it. That Jesse escaped that predicament at all is only due to the fact that it wasn’t ricin at the root of the kid’s poisoning — but that’s a story for further down in this recap.
Thanks to his discreet tête-à-tête with Saul, Walt learned that Gus had been visiting Tio Salamanca at the nursing home. There, Walt told the twitching, wheezing onetime crime lord, “I know you despise me,… but I’m willing to bet that I know a man you hate even more.” With those words, sweetened by the promise of revenge, Walt found a most unlikely ally.
Hector shortly thereafter rang for his nurse, and requested a sit-down at the DEA office. There, he merely toyed with and taunted Hank & Co., yet for Walter’s purposes he created the illusion that he had spoken to the feds. That led Mike’s fill-in, Tyrus, to alert Gus, who grew incensed and determined to neutralize Hector once and for all, now that he had snuffed everyone the old man cared about.
But Gus’ thirst for his own great revenge would be his undoing. Because once seated across from Hector, set to end his longtime adversary’s life with an injection, he realized – a microsecond too late – that Walt had rigged the wheelchair bell to the homemade bomb. And… boom.
That would not be, however, the last we saw of Gus. No, rather surprisingly he walked away from the blast… if only long enough for us to gaze at his half-removed visage (giving extra meaning to the finale’s unhyphenated title, “Face Off”), see him adjust his tie one final time, and then topple to the floor, dead.
Giancarlo Esposito, who plays Gus, learned of his character’s grand finale back during production of Episode 3. “I said to [series creator] Vince [Gilligan], ‘Look if he’s got to go, let him go big,‘” he tells TVLine. Well, mission accomplished. As for who gets credit for the kill, Esposito says it can go any number of ways. “Did Walt get Gus? Or did Hector get Gus?” he muses with a laugh. “It’s just all so fantastic to me, and that’s why I love this show. It’s poetic justice of the deepest and most fruitful kind. Or in the end, did Gus just get himself? He wanted this revenge so badly.”
As for Gus’ final act, it was Gilligan’s idea to have the baddie fuss with his tie a last time. “That is so absolutely dignified and perfectly Gus,” raves Esposito. “In Pollos Hermanos, I am everyman with the yellow shirt and clip-on that Gus would never wear. I’m even wearing Wallabees, looking very much like Walter. And then you watch him transform into the guy who really is Gus, with the upscale clothes and ties that he ties in a half- or double Windsor.”
The makeup effects to give Gus his Harvey Dent-like melted-off face required a one-and-a-half hour head casting session, followed by a five-hour application process once the prosthetics were ready. “Vince wanted to have this ultimate reveal of a half a death mask on Gus,” Esposito explains. “It was just an amazing physical moment.”
Back to our recap….
Walt then found Jesse in the superlab, gunned down at near-point blank range his guard, and the two proceeded to prep the underground lair for a massive inferno.
With his foe felled and the lab in cinders, Walt would report to Skyler via a phone call, “I won” – but not before hearing from Jesse that Brock had not been poisoned by the ricin but the toxic berries of a “Lily of the Valley” plant which, apparently, is not uncommon to their region.
But in the finale’s final moments, we saw just how acquainted Walt in fact is with the bush, seeing as a seemingly new one was potted right… on his… back… patio.