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Breaking Bad Review: As Good as It Gets

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Wow.

I could respond with that single-word description to pretty much every episode of Breaking Bad, but after watching "Salud" and then not being able to fall asleep afterward, just... wow.

An Adventure in Mexico

Think about all the show accomplished in just one hour: Jesse concluded the installment as a hero, Gus as a strong-willed leader beyond anything we'd ever seen before and Walt as, dare I write it, a sympathetic figure with father issues.

And these evolutions took place without bashing the viewer over the head with monumental developments or out-of-nowhere twists. The series can do so much by placing its characters into various situations and having them simply talk.

On this episode, we were treated to a fascinating monologue by Walt, an inspired speech by Jesse (my proud smile was even broader than that of Gus and Mike) and a subtitled exchange between Don Eladio and Gus that - due to the history between these two, the performances by the actors, and the build-up of the season - was more suspenseful than any action sequence on any other show could ever be.

But we need to return to Walt for a moment and his stunning admission: "It's all my fault." Yes, this was uttered under heavy medication, but does anyone doubt its honesty? I truly never expected to hear such words from Walt, the guy who believes he's the one who knocks. Has the fight with Jesse, his surrogate son (sorry, Walt Jr.), caused Walt to do a 180?

I doubt it. I can't imagine Heisenberg is a persona of the past this quickly. Still, the brawl and the subsequent, overt anger/pain expressed by Jesse, has clearly had an effect. When was the last time we saw Walt this vulnerable, or as Walt Jr. so aptly put it, this "real?" He's no lovable protagonist now, but Walt has undergone a transformation of some kind at least.

When Gus' employee pulled up and reminded Walt about the job that, for the last year, has turned him into someone who his son does not want to remember, I almost felt bad for Walt. Mere days ago, I couldn't fathom feeling such a way.

And that's what Breaking Bad does so well. It takes you in directions you never imagined you'd go, places you never even realized you were heading until you found yourself watching Jesse and Mike carry a poisoned Gus to a car and actively hoping they'd make it. How did we get here? Earlier this season, Gus was nothing more than the even-keeled boss behind a multi-million dollar meth operation.

He's still that person, but he's also morphed into a man with a past. Did he kill the cartel members purely for business reasons? Or because he's developed a relationship with Jesse akin to the mentor/protege one that Don Elario destroyed many years ago? Probably a little bit of both.

Like Walt, Gus created his own Heisenberg a long time ago. He's just a lot better at it, and the drug boss hat he puts on isn't that of a foolish narcissist. It's of a businessman. That meticulous bathroom scene? With Gus folding each towel and taking precious care to clean up after himself? I doubt that side existed in Mexico. It's been cultivated over the years. It's the habit Gus has perfected in order to succeed in his world of fast food and high stakes drugs. The "real" Gus, however?

Business is not business for him. There was no way he was gonna allow Don Elario to crush his dreams again, especially not with a young, loyal cook by his side.

Just tremendous stuff all around, without me even getting to Skyler and her boneheaded decision to first help Ted, and then let him in on her wealth. No way we've heard the last of that.

This was an example of television at its best, of character evolution and interaction that shocks and fascinates. And it all went down without the show's main character leaving his property or, heck, even putting on pants. Amazing.

Review

Editor Rating: 5.0 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (123 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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ONE OF MY FAVORITE TV SHOWS I lOVEEE IT ..

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Well, I think Gus' reasons were entirely for business (the cartel had been causing all kinds of problems and killing his employees) and personal reasons (vengeance for Max) and had nothing to do with saving Jesse. To be sure, Gus did stop Jesse from drinking the poison, but that's because Jesse is a valuable employee who is the only one who can come reasonably close to replicating Walt's recipe. There's no reason to let him die needlessly. I don't think Gus' relationship with Jesse (who he had been trying to kill recently) doesn't even remotely resemble his relationship with Max (who was like a brother to Gus). And I still don't really buy Gus' act, as he is probably still manipulating Jesse on some level.

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I'm not sure Ted is smart enough to take on Skylar with blackmail. Plus, he has nothing to bargain with. This season has been great. I love how up until now Walt has found himself in the same position he was in at the beginning of the series: facing possible death and in control of nothing. Interesting to see where his head is at and what move he makes next after those scenes with Walt Jr. (such a stupid name.) I'm pretty convinced at this point with only about 16 episodes left of the series that Walt may not find redemption, and I'm almost certain he won't be alive at the end. Sorry, but I don't see any movies following the series.

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my money is betting walt will kill ted as soon as he finds out ted knows about skylars wealth. can't have loose ends just running around spending money like that.

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Excellent review as usual. I think I can guess where the Skylar/Ted story arc is all going, by the way. Skylar made a big error by telling Ted the money came from her, and whatever explanation she gives him (likely the gambling story), he's going to know the money is illicit, and will end making a lame attempt to blackmail her ("if I go down you go down..", etc.). Walter's associates will get wind of it, and Ted will become another addition the the show's ever-increasing body count (I'd say we're approaching about 300 now as a result of Walt's break to badness...). Being responsible for the death of her former lover will complete Skylar's corruption as well - which goes along with the whole Godfather homage in Vince Gilligan's grand story (by the end of the trilogy, everything Michael Corleone tried to "protect" with his ruthless tactics had been destroyed or hopelessly tainted). This is the ultimate moral of the series, I think...

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I've come to admire Skyler; how she gave Ted the smack-down in the face of his arrogance and folly. Her middle-of-the-road reasonableness is what's needed when dealing with all these men and their pride (including Walt Jr.). They may not like it, but oh well. She may hope for the best (Saul: rose colored glasses) but is prepared for the worst. You go girl.

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Not a wasted moment. A legendary episode. Tuco, move over! Even Saul's anxiety before Ted walks into his office, then playing it cool when talking to Skyler later. whooosh I love the framing and lighting of the scenes! I'm no director but the exchanges between Walt and Jr. - wow. I had to cover my mouth when Walt admitted his guilt; I was halfway between crying and screaming. In the later scene, the background was a metaphor of the divide between them, mostly on Walt's side, then Walt Jr. swings his legs off the couch and closes the gap between them. How the kitchen lights seem to be above Jr.'s head, almost like he's an angel. It's subtle things like that that make the show so, so, so sweet. Jesse's chutzpah in the Cartel's lab; Gus and Mike's quiet approving smiles. The intense silent look on Gus's face as the Don collapses in front of him. BTW, where was the Cartel's chemist in the final scene? I saw him looking on as everyone collapsed but didn't see him among the dead. I went over the scenes three times.

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wow. amazing turn of events. cant believe gus did what walt and jesse couldnt do after 3 failed attempts to poison someone. gus is the real deal. jesse is the next mike after his shooting and getaway skills. breaking bad is reaching sopranos territory of greatness.

Matt-richenthal

@Alex: I sit corrected. Thank you.

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Actually Eladio is a name, Elario isn't. And "Don" is like "Mr.". The problem is that Giancarlo Esposito's pronunciation makes it seem "Elario" instead of "Eladio". BTW good review. I think I've become not only a fanatic of BB, but also of the comments related to it. Best show on TV, and not only in America LOL.

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