BREAKING BAD season finale: “Full Measure”

Not since the golden era of The X-Files have I been so outrageously furious about a season finale … in a good way. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, since X-Files veteran Vince Gilligan created Breaking Bad and pulled both writing and directing duties on this episode.

“No half measures.” That’s what Mike told Walt last week, and Walt took those words way, way, way more than seriously. Here we see the ramifications of Walt’s actions … and a domino effect of game-changing choices that will define a fourth season that needs to be airing now, now, now, now, now.

This is truly, confidently, and completely the stuff great television is made of.

I’ve turned several of you on to this show, so I’ll give you plenty of room to stop reading if you’re not caught up. Full discussion and spoilers to follow.

In 10 …

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And …

Wow.

From Hank’s last-second, hail-mary take-down of the Mexican Terminator Brothers in “One Minute” to Walt’s hit-run-and-gun dispatching of Gus’s thugs who were about to kill Jesse at the end of last week’s episode, I’ve spent a lot of time inching back and forth across my couch in nervous excitement and pure shock this season. The first season was great, and the second season was even better, but season three has seen this show hitting an entirely new level. It’s easily my favorite show on television right now, which isn’t an easy thing to say, because I’m watching more good shows right now than I have in years.

When Bryan Cranston won his second Emmy, I hadn’t yet watched all of seasons one and two on Blu-Ray yet. And I remember thinking, “Bryan Cranston again?”

Now that I’ve seen all the episodes, I know there was simply no other choice.

I loved the cinematography of Walt’s desert meeting with Gus. I loved the reveal that Jesse was still in town. I loved that when Walt told Jesse that he knew what they had to do, I didn’t immediately piece it together that Walt meant to kill Gale.

Just last week, when Jesse wanted to poison the thugs who’d ordered the kid to kill Combo, Walt told Jesse that he wasn’t a murderer, even though Walt killed Krazy 8 all the way back in the third episode. But we all know how Walt can lie to himself just as well as he can lie to everyone else, and I’m sure Walt justified that to himself as self defense.

But what he did for Jesse at the end of “Half Measures,” even though it was done in Jesse’s defense, shows that Walt has fully embraced the dark side. And I love it.

Earlier this season, as Walt struggled to whitewash his own guilt, Jesse was telling us he was okay with being the bad guy. And I was furious when he decided to sell meth to his support group, though, in typical Breaking Bad fashion, that storyline didn’t go where I expected it to. Watching the two of them switch roles has been fascinating.

I was initially a little disappointed in the coincidences. After having Walt share a second season beer with Jane’s father while discussing fathers and daughters immediately before he allowed Jane to die, it was a bit much to swallow that the girl Jesse chose as an easy target from his support group just happened to be the big sister of the kid who killed Combo.

Whatever. I’ll allow it. Because the results of that storyline just keep paying off in outrageously awesome ways. And I love how Jesse’s plan to hook her on meth immediately ended when he found out she had a kid. A nice callback to the protective streak we’ve seen Jesse have for children in the past.

This was easily the show’s finest hour so far. Walt’s steely reserve when outlining Gus’s options directly to Gus’s face in the desert, when Gus could easily have had him shot at any second, was awesome. And Gus continues to be the devil, so softspoken and reserved, but possessing great and terrible evil inside him. We saw more hints of it tonight than we’ve ever seen before, and what we’re bound to see next season terrifies me.

Mike’s big action sequence was bad-ass beyond belief, with Jonathan Banks continuing to do spectacular work here.

God bless whoever hired Bob Odenkirk to play Saul.

And what about that ending? I was heartbroken and angry and shocked that Walt would give up Jesse to Mike and Victor so easily … until the epic moment when Walt shouted the score to Jesse on his cell phone and turned the situation around against Victor and Mike. Walt’s intelligence is a marvel to behold, and that entire sequence is pure perfection in its execution. When Walt spouted off Gale’s address and raised up to his full height while straightening his collar and using his voice to blow a bigger whole in Mike’s night than any bullet ever could, I was cheering.

We’re left with so many things to wonder and worry about until season four begins.┬áDid Jesse really kill Gale? Aaron Paul was devastatingly amazing in those final moments, and after a season of thinking that Jesse deserves what’s coming to him, I’m right back to rooting for his redemption.

I don’t think he really did it. But it would be so much more powerful and shocking if he did. What do you think?

And let’s say that Jesse really did kill Gale. How is he going to escape from Victor, who’s on his way to stop Jesse from doing what the final shot — literally — tells us he’s possibly already done?

And if Jesse does escape, and if Gale is really dead, will Gus really let Walter go back to cooking his meth? Walt is hedging his bets that Gus’s operation can’t sustain itself without constant production, and Gus’s actions certainly support Walt’s assumption.

My theory about the finale was that Walt would kill Gus and set up his own enterprise in the car wash next season, but that’s entirely out the window. Or is it?

And what about Hank? Now that he’s out of the hospital, it’s only a matter of time before he finds out his medical care is being paid for by Walt’s “gambling money.” How is Walt going to feel about that, and how long will it be before his investigation brings him to Walter’s doorstep?

(Anna Gunn’s performance as Skyler spun that lie to Marie several episodes ago was one of the season’s finest.)

So many things can go wrong from here. So many things can get worse, and have to, and will, in ways we won’t be able to predict.

Hands down, there’s just nothing better on television right now. Thanks to everyone involved for an exciting, challenging season that upped the stakes infinitely in its awesome, awesome finale.