Breaking Bad Recap: Questions about the Finale “Full Measures” and Predictions for Season 4. Vince Gilligan Talks Season 3
Posted on Saturday, June 19th, 2010 by Hunter Stephenson
This article concludes /Film’s recaps and discussions for the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recap and for the comments section. Meth heads welcome. For previous recaps, click here.
The season three finale, “Full Measures,” differed from those of previous seasons with a grisly cliffhanger that incidentally and tragically pushed one main character over the point of no return. Or did it? In recent days, the show’s creator, Vince Gilligan, has given three candid and revealing interviews wherein he’s cleared up a number of viewers’ apparent confusion over the very last scene. He’s done so in good humor, but I can’t recall a previous highly anticipated finale that needed the showmaker to later vouch his intent—and in Gilligan’s case he helmed the episode (his sole directorial effort of the season.) The initial confusion was due to the aim of a gun, which appeared to tilt to the right of the target before the trigger went off. And I’m guessing the immediate cut to black that followed only amplified some viewers’ doubts. “SMDH.” – David Chase.
Gilligan, who is refreshingly and perhaps too open about Breaking Bad‘s creative process, also stated that the writing team didn’t map the season’s arc at start, unlike they’ve done in the past. This revelation confirmed observations about the season’s touch-and-go feel cited in the previous recap with guest Sven Barth. After the jump, I address personal questions about the finale, where the show and characters are possibly headed, and analyze Gilligan’s post-ep comments. Thanks to the /Film commenters who left insightful and spirited opinions over the past dozen BB posts. Let us know what you thought of the finale and of the questions posed below.
How awesome was the hit-job sequence with Mike that was scored to “Shambala” from the Beastie Boys’ album Ill Communication?
Is that really the most pertinent first question for the finale? Well, yeah that scene was pretty awesome. I’m always surprised that Beastie instrumentals aren’t used in more films and TV, especially “The Rat Cage.” This track fit nicely, and if you were previously familiar with its length, you knew Gilligan was setting up a zen mission for Mike from the first note. I liked how the ominous, serpentine monk chanting kicked in, as we followed Mike into this dark warehouse with his silencer, passing a Buddha statue and multi-colored candles. The point of this scene, which felt a touch random, was to allude to the scope of season four.
It a) illustrated to us that the Mexican cartel was ordering henchmen, albeit C-listers, to retaliate against Gus’s power move to control the South West and b) it introduced us to an awkward Asian middleman working for Gus—as if to say, Walt’s just the tip of the iceberg. Personally, I always dig when Breaking Bad has also included flashes of reggae music on the soundtrack. For some reason, reggae in the desert fits the calm m.o. of Walt and the youthfulness of Jesse.
Do you think Walt actually weighed giving up Jesse’s location, and thus his life, to Mike and Victor when it looked as if they would murder him in the lab?
No, not at all. I was surprised to hear that several fans felt this was a possibility, or that even crossed Walt‘s mind. In “Half Measures,” we saw how far Walt would go to protect Jesse. Keeping their partnership and friendship above water seems to be a prime motivation for him now. But do I believe Jesse would give Walter up in a similar situation? I do. And even in this ep, at the Hinkle Extreme Lazer Tag: Lazer Base, when Jesse tells Walt to rat to the cops—to enter the Witness Protection Program—that was a real sign to me of Jesse’s cracking vulnerability.
Earlier this season, Jesse threatened Walt under duress, saying if he ever got caught, he’d give him up due to Hank’s nasty assault. I hate to side with Gus, Saul, and Mike, all of whom recommended Jesse be terminated this season, but he puts everyone as risk. And he’s relapsing with meth again. I can’t believably see Jesse living past season four, unless he ships out of town. From recent interviews, I get the feeling Aaron Paul worries over his character’s mortality as well. For a 20something, he’s so broken.
Back to the question. Walt calculated his need of Jesse to kill Gale. Like he tells Jesse at their secret meeting, “Now you’re the only edge I’ve got.” And moreover, I feel like Walt saw something he silently liked in Jesse—diehard loyalty—when Jesse wanted to poison or blast away the two dealers in “Half Measures.” I really liked Walt in this episode. The “Never the DEA” line he growls after Jesse suggests surrendering, to me that was as memorable as “Run!” Walt won’t be taken alive by the DEA. He’d rather risk dying at the hands of Mike and Gus. Jesse is the opposite.
So, Jesse killed Gale. He shoots him in the head, point blank. Let’s say the season picks up right after the gun goes off. What are your thoughts?
I think it would be spectacular if Victor shows up before Jesse splits the murder scene. Jesse has to know Victor, or someone, is on their way based on Walt’s urgency over his cell. Also, Jesse killed Gale in a residential complex not accustomed to gun shots going off at night. The cops are already gunning it there. No question. I mean, Jesse left the front door open when he pulled the trigger. So, to have Jesse and Victor square off in Gale’s apartment, or maybe Jesse hides and plots in a corner to kill him—as the cops are coming—would be so great.
I mean, in a realer world, Victor would wipe Jesse off the planet, but Jesse needs a badass moment. It might be stomach-churning—a double homicide—but I’d cheer. It mighty counter the mortality issues I mentioned above. And maybe Jesse could wipe his gun off and place it in Victor’s dead hand. It wouldn’t explain Victor’s body, but it wouldn’t hurt.
The other thing I’m wondering: What type of evidence might Gale have in his apartment linking him to Gus? Who is Gale, really? He still listens to CDs, so he’s not a gadget whore, even though his has a 30” Mac screen. Maybe he keeps paper records or bills lying around with large deposits that can be traced to a front company? I just don’t see Mike having enough time to get there and clean up the blood and search for incriminating evidence. The writers left it ambiguous regarding how far away the lab is from Gale’s apartment. We know Jesse, and the arcade, are closer.
Another thing: Gus just visited Gale. Might his fingerprints be on the living room table and so forth? This will be a super tricky corner for the writers to get out of.
Now that Gale is dead, is Walt really no longer expendable? And is Jesse off the hook?
Walt tells Jesse before Gale’s murder, “If I’m the only chemist [Gus’s] got, then I’ve got leverage. If I’m the only chemist he’s got.” So, yeah, apparently Walt is the only chemist under Gus’s wing, since Gus personally visits the home of Gale—for effect, business-wise and entertainment-wise—to inform him of Walt’s cancer and possible need for replacement. But christ, after Jesse’s goes over Gus’s head, after Walt’s implied skepticism about Gus ordering Tomas’s murder, and now after the duo killing Gus’s pet employee, I can’t picture a truce. Pretending like nothing happened? Resume the mundane work week back at the lab? How about those Lakers? Etc?
Here’s the other thing, how irreplaceable and unique is Walt, really? He makes great meth—not great art, not Good Will Hunting-level formulas for drug companies. If Gus could build Walt’s dream lab without advice, packed with all the supplies Walt ever dreamed of, it can’t be much of a stretch to crack Walt’s method using surveillance. Victor or hidden cameras or otherwise. To my knowledge, there’s not a coterie of American meth chefs. The quality ceiling can’t be that much different from coke and weed right?
What a snobbish thing to quibble over…
Drug empires are built on power, not recipes. That said, the number of brilliant chemists available to cook meth full-time is low. Which begs the question, why does Walt have to personally cook up each batch? Couldn’t underlings do this with his supervision?
What about the millions of dollars owed to Jesse and Walt?
Yeah, that’s another big issue for season four. It’s unclear if Walt and Jesse were to receive a lump sum at the end of their contract, or were on a payroll. But with their professional relationship with Gus strained to the max, money could be a real point of contention, after survival. And when do we get to see Walt spend a little of the cash to spruce up Skyler’s home and c’mon—buy a decent car? For the sake of evidence, he finally has to. And all of those cracked windshields this season, it’s been like a bad omen. Buy an Audi station-wagon, or would that be a giveaway?
Do you think Walt’s cancer will return next season? It’s the show’s invisible bomb, is it not? The writers can always fall back on Walt getting sick.
Vince Gilligan addressed Walt’s cancer remission on the AMC website after the finale:
“Walt’s cancer did kind of take a back seat this season, which does not mean that it won’t resurface at some point. Walt, in my mind, does indeed have cancer. And it is in remission right now, but remission, it should be noted, does not necessarily mean a total cure. We probably have not seen the last of Walt’s cancer. But his current state of relative health is kind of an irony in itself. He got off on this whole tangent of becoming a criminal due to his realization that he didn’t have long to live.”
I think when the series ends, Walt’s cancer will be the cause of his death. For the last recap, there was a discussion I omitted about whether it would be cool to do an entire season set in prison. Walt’s resourcefulness put to the ultimate test.
You’ve said this season was uneven, and while it was superlative to most current TV, it didn’t match the prior two seasons. Why do you think that is?
First, I have to say I’m excited by how the season ended. Especially compared to the grandiose, hell-hath-fury finale last year. If Jesse didn’t pull the trigger or had botched the shot, I wouldn’t be saying that. With season four, viewers are no longer just semi-rooting for meth dealers but for murderers. That’s insane. Against Gus and the cartel, Walt and Jesse remain the lesser of three evils, and unlike The Sopranos and Dexter, I’m invested in their success. It’s going to be, well, cool to come back each week to watch murderous villains, but I have to wonder if that’s what AMC signed up for. Where the season failed for me was in character development and consistency.
But most of all, storylines felt rushed—there are a lot of holes in logic this season, and I don’t feel it’s going to age well. The word “great” is mentioned a lot in regard to this season, but greatness stands the test of time. This season relied on drumming up tension and shocking bursts of violence. It’s good for ratings and word of mouth, sure, but I often felt like I was no longer tuning in because I cared what happened to the main characters. On the contrary, I was tuning in to see if Gilligan would get nuts and kill off one of them.
If any of our readers haven’t read Gilligan’s post-finale interview with Alan Sepinwall, it’s a must. I found his candid insight to be quite cool; but it’s also worrisome to hear him reiterate how little of an idea he has for where the next season is headed. But really what got me was this quote:
“I’d love to be able to say that everything is pre-figured. I’d love to tell you I’m Bobby Fischer and I’m playing this game 20 moves ahead, but it’s just not true. The writers and I, once we created the Cousins and put them into motion, the problem that we saw for ourselves was, “My God, how do we pay this off? …one of these days, we’ll probably paint ourselves into a corner we can’t escape from. The Cousins were one of those corners, in a sense.”
Is there a character you think will receive more focus next season, like Hank received this season?
Mike, definitely. Not only is Jonathan Banks super capable of playing a criminal realistically, but he’s just a great actor. He never gives it all away, keeps you guessing. He raised the bar this season. I think in “Full Measures,” the chemistry (no pun) between him and Walt was being emphasized, hinting at moves to come. At the ep’s beginning, the smirk he gives Walt after watching him cut a deal with Gus and Victor in the field is priceless. And maybe we just saw Mike’s granddaughter (and grown daughter?) in this ep for an excuse to use balloons in a hit, but there’s a growing similarity between his relationship with her, and Walt with Holly. I think he’d make a great ally for Walt, and an ideal replacement for Jesse down the line.
But with more characters, there’s less time for others. Something tells me Gilligan will be going to the drawing board early—and he has the time. The fourth season doesn’t begin filming until next January. The Onion AV Club posted an interview this week with Gilligan as well.
One detail I haven’t seen mentioned: when Walt and Skyler are shown walking through their eventual home, the real estate agent makes a remark in jest about Walt’s well-to-do work involving “space lasers.” It’s funny how life plays out. Here is Walt decades later, plotting murders in a Lazer Tag arena, and debating whether to launder money through it.
Hunter Stephenson can be followed on Twitter.