Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale Review: Who Won?

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Following last week's episode of Breaking Bad, which included Walt's panicked plea to Skyler - "I've made choices. I alone should suffer the consequences of those choices." - I wrote that Heisenberg was dead.

And it's true. Walter White is no longer a man trying to look and act the part of a ruthless, well-reasoned, cold-hearted drug dealer. The fourth season finale of what is making its case to be the greatest show in television history made it clear: Heisenberg really is gone. Gus Fring 2.0 is in his place.

Walt truly is the Man Who Knocks now.

Partners Shake

Overall, "Face Off" told a very simple story. It was the story of Walt actually coming up with, and following through with, a careful, intelligent, winning plan.

Throughout four seasons, viewers had seen this chemistry teacher go from an average, no-confident Joe to a ego-maniacal loose canon. He wanted to be tough, he wanted to be the man in charge and he thought the world revolved around his every action. But a lot of that was a farce, as emphasized over these final few heart-pounding episodes, as Jesse rose up the drug operation ranks and Walt grew more and more ostracized.

But that all changed with one explosion. The key ingredient in Walt's evolution has now been added. Walt executed a plan as thought out and diabolical as any Gus could come up with.

It involved putting his neighbor's life at risk. It involved nearly killing an innocent child. And it led to a moment where Walt could finally exhale, look over his town and declare: I won.

Before Walt arrived in the winner's circle, of course, a death as gruesome as any in televised memory gave an entirely different meaning to the title of the finale. No, Gus and Walt didn't really face off here. The former simply lost half of his head.

Vince Gilligan and company didn't even attempt to make Gus' murder a surprise. The death march for this fascinating character began the moment he left his car outside the retirement home, as music played, we zeroed in on his face and it was clear what was about to go down. The goal here wasn't to shock, but first to honor such an engrossing, well-portrayed villain and also to emphasize the rise of Walt as his replacement.

Again, this was a straightforward episode (with one major exception: it skipped over a great deal of Walt's plan - having Saul's bodyguard life Jesse's Ricin cigarette, never revealing how Walt slipped the berries to Brock - something that could understandably bother many viewers who felt this was an example of manipulative, misleading storytelling). It took its time to arrive at that parking garage roof, literally spelling out multiple scenes with Hector to build tension like it often does so well, but the aim of this season was to finally anoint Walt as a winner. In a Charlie Sheen-like sense of the word, of course.

Walt doesn't care about the money, he doesn't care about his family (do you really think his next stop is Hank's house... or to wherever he'll construct a super lab of his own?) and he almost doesn't care that he was nearly a child killer. Walt did seem legitimately relieved Brock will survive, but the fact that he took the step with that deadly flower is all we need to know. (Bravo, meanwhile, to the readers who pointed out from last week's conclusion that Walt was behind Brock's poisoning, especially those who referred to the scene where his gun landed away from his on the terrace, aiming straight at a plant.)

Despite everything, meanwhile, Jesse is as much Walt's student as ever. He still refers to him as "Mr. White," he asked to make sure Gus had to go. I don't know what Walt has in mind next, exactly, but I don't doubt that Jesse will follow him into it.

Breaking Bad is undoubtedly the best show on television. Is it the best ever? Where will it go from here? Will Walt organize a New Mexico cartel of his own? We have awhile to wait and awhile to debate, but does any of that matter right now? I'd prefer to savor the incredible season that just passed - from the acting to the camera work to the storytelling - than begin to worry about the final 16 episodes. Just truly amazing stuff all around.

What did everyone else think?


Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (565 Votes)

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


I do agree the show highlights what hides beneath the surface for most people. What we are truly capable of when we are pushed to our limit. Walt and Jesse for that matter are governed by their emotions.....Walt less as each season progresses, their decisions are based on them. Gus on the other hand was cold, calculating and completely ruthless but on the other hand I don't think Gus harmed Brock. I almost felt slightly sad when Gus went, he was vicious yes, but he was honest and kept his word. Maybe it's just me LOL but he ran everything as a business with no emotion involved and I think that is what it takes to run something as large adn complex as his operation or even a wall street firm. I don't see Walt running the operation well, too much emotion.


Walt definitely has changed for the worse but if you watch the last 15 mins or so of the episode I think it's clear he poisoned the child. I don't think it intended to kill him and you can see genuine relief when jesse tells him he will make it (Walt doesn't fake well). Then probably the most revealing moment when he phones Skylar basically admitting what he had done and basically not making any excuses with the single phrase "I won". Also when he says that one little phrase look at his first he looks demonic much like Gus, then when he tells her he won, he almost looks defeated and almost crying. Kind of like when you're on a mission to accomplish something and then when it's all done you almost feel unsatisfied.......the journey was all the fun/drive, and he sees what he is becoming or has become. Either way these small details always mean something as we have seen in this show. The song playing when he talks to Skylar I think is Lissie, and the words I remembered hearing "Until you travel to a place you can't come back". When he looks at the station wagon.......meaning he is gone and cannot return, the new Gus, and he actually grins when he looks at the medallion. So many emotions in such a short time frame makes it so difficult to figure it all out, but that is what life is really like, so hard to describe, so many emotions.


AceKing, your criterion for "good" is wrong. This is why you are confused. Good is NOT How Many People Watch It. It's complexity and ingenuity and creativity. (subjective, it's true) Rating a show by it's popularity doesn't mean it's good. Witness Vampire Stupidities and Two and A Half Braincells. By your criterion The Sopranos, Deadwood, Rome, Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, Mad Men and many others are poor compared to NCIS. Let's look at some other artsts who, by the Popularity Quotient, suck the Big Luigi. Van Gogh
Johann Sebastian Bach
Henry David Thoreau
Johannes Vermeer
Franz Kafka
Edgar Allan Poe
Paul Gauguin (among many others) All the above, failures in their lifetime. All shitty artists compared to the makers of 24. Ridiculous, no? See, basis of your conclusion is wrong. It's a follower's equation. I assume you are an iconoclastic, stalwart pioneer like the rest of us. So, no. The numbers aren't interesting. They're meaningless.


What I like about about BB is that I haven't had to like Walt in this series to still really enjoy it. Its good that the makers can have the main character be an asshole for most of an entire series. I wasn't so much rooting for Walt, but rather rooting for Walt to find his moral compass again - hinted at in some scenes like when Walt's soon finds him drunk in bed, and hears him say 'Sorry Jessie". As a previous commenter noted: " Why are we celebrating Walt becoming a sociopath?"
It would be good if Jessie did alright by the end of Series 5... I know many of the screw-ups were his fault, but he's had more than his fair share of beatings and heartache. It seems inevitable that Series5 will concern Walts return (or not) to normality, Hank, and Mike.
Though no-where near as good, the ending of The Shield might provide clues... without spoiling it, the entire show was leading up to how the leading character would receive his come-uppance or redemption.
Looking forward : D


You can't compare 24 to Breaking Bad; they are different genres. It would be like comparing apples to oranges. However, the following statistics are interesting:
24 Season 1 average viewers (in millions) 8.60
2 11.73
3 10.30
4 11.90
5 13.78
6 13.00
7 12.62
8 9.31
BB 1 1.20
2 1.70
3 2.00
4 2.60
These were the highest figures that I could find for BB.
Like I said before, BB is a great show, probably the best in its genre. Let's get off this best show ever kick. The show had four years to attract a larger audience. Why didn't it?


Michael M. Thank you-I am sick of reading reviews from `Reviewers` going on about how Walt is now as bad as Gus or the Cartel or how he murdered in cold blood etc.


Jonny, Wrong-it was NOT stupid or was it disapointing-it was totally brilliant-my heart leaped-GUS lives until 2 seconds later-SNAP. If he crawled out it would not have had the same impact. Gus always precise-even in death.
The plots are brilliant.
Please don`t watch next season if you thought the plot were flimsy-they were the best TV I have seen.
Go back to True Blood or Mad Men.


It's interesting how everyone thinks they tied it all up with the plant in the back yard... they left it completely open to go anyway they wanted with season 5.
As someone else already stated, Gus's goons were in Walt's back yard. Dammit... I'm going to have to go back and watch the last like three episodes, but I don't have time until Thursday... When Walt leaves the house or enters the house over the fence is the plant there? Remember, Gus's goons came back to Walt's house while he was in there. They could've easily placed the plant after Walt came and got the money... But it'd be pretty unlikely that Walt didn't set it all up... since it wasn't Risen then all Walt would've had to do was take the cig from Jesse, poison the kid with berries somehow, then when Jesse figures it was Walt that poisoned the kid and comes to kill him Walt talks him down and turns him against Gus... pretty big gamble for Walt. Well, not really, since it was in the script, but you know what I mean. But less of a gamble for Gus to take the cig (he had someone watching Jesse and knew that Walt and him had been fighting) while Jesse's stuff was in his locker and then poison the kid with the berries. You have to go back and look at when Jesse said the smoke went missing. It was the morning after him and Walt fought. After he got to the hospital, after the kid had been poisoned. You're telling me Walt somehow snatched the cigarette when he was never anywhere near Jesse? And the kid just miraculously gets poisoned at school, hours after he saw the cigarette. My money is on Gus had someone watching Jesse, saw the fight with Walt, saw what they were talking about with the cigarette and the poison, took it while it was in his locker. Jesse tells Gus he doesn't want Walter dead, so he poisons the kid and sets it up to look like Walt did it with the plant. He was probably going to say "look, when my guys were over there we found this plant, you wanna go see it? Walt poisoned the kid, can we kill him already?" But he didn't live long enough.


Its so impossible to predict what is going to happen next and I appreciate that everyone is predicting something a little different for season 5. I think season 5 will be about Walt trying to return to normal and put all this behind him and he will NOT be able to because of Jesse. Walt has used Jesse as a pawn but I still think that Walt truly cares for him. I think at some point, Walt will be faced with a difficult choice that may involve Jesse's death. I wonder what he would choose....


and anyone thinking 24 is anywhere as good as this show is crazy. i bet they think terra nova is better than lost too. smh.

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