Yeah; I enjoyed Omar though, generally speaking. Brother Mouzone -- if he's the guy I'm thinking of -- was just plain stupid.
So, now that I have time before bed to revisit this -- the poisoning. Well, lucky (or not) for the interpreters, BB creator Vince Gilligan tends to be pretty forthcoming about unintended ambiguities in the show.
JP: Let's start at the end. Last season you ended with a final scene that played ambiguously in a way you didn't intend it to. Did that color how you ended this season, with the zoom in on the lily of the valley plant, to say, "Walt did it"?
Vince Gilligan: A couple people have seen this already, to be honest, and have asked the question, Does that mean what I think it means? We may be in a situation all over again where it's a little more ambiguous than I perhaps intended. I think it means exactly -- to start with, I think it means exactly what it looks like it means, and I think a revelation such as one in which it turns out Walt has poisoned, or at least sickened the child to the point of being hospitalized to ensure his own survival and the survival of his family. You know, a big revelation like that is best served delicately, and the audience not hit over the head with it. So hence the way we revealed that information at that final shot, but having said that I'm already starting to sense this -- I may have screwed up and done it again.
So, let's consider that out of the way. Like it or not, Walt poisoned the kid.
Now, although I like that the explanation behind the poisoning scenario wasn’t what I thought it would be in my prior comments, I certainly have my qualms with the poisoning, as nothing revealed about it in the finale makes the overall scenario any more plausible. This reviewer
feels it’s worth cutting the unlikelihood of successful delivery of the poison to Brock some slack, because, in short, A) it’s just a goddamn TV show, and B) motivationally the whole thing makes better sense now:
As it turned out, I loved this finale, or at least most of it. More on that momentarily, but first a bit more about putting every episode under a microscope each week:
Yes, I think the writers still stretched with the poisoned berry idea. Reconstructing the chain of events and keeping in mind plausibility certainly raises some doubts. But here’s the thing – I’m fine with it. Although I only do these deconstructions for what I believe are great series, even great series cannot always be perfect. They can’t have airtight plotlines, believability, dramatic tension and crisp storytelling that unfolds like science every single time. It’s not the nature of fiction, and certainly not realistic when you’re trying to create 13 hours of television each season, strung together with the 13 you finished the season before and linking to the 13 others you’ll do the next season.
So I’m not particularly concerned that the timeline of Walt getting the berries to Brock and getting him to eat them, etc., doesn’t somehow add up. For me, the motivation did add up (but it wouldn’t have if Gus had done the poisoning). So, I’ll cut them whatever slack is needed and flog myself for jumping to conclusions last week (the nature of weekly dissection, as I’ve said). If anything, I’m more impressed by the spinning gun scene and slapping myself on the forehead for not paying more attention to Walt’s light-bulb moment when the third spin doesn’t rotate back to him like the first two but points at the Lily of the Valley plant. Gilligan and his writers put the evidence out there and did it just subtly enough to have most people miss the connection (which was likely made for those who did figure it out when the ricin storyline just didn’t make sense). In any case, points for the writers on that one.
Another review I lost track of argued that the berries were more plausible in terms of Walt’s character development; i.e. he has sunken to poisoning a child to manipulate events, but a non-lethal poison.
As far as all that goes, it seems to me like excuse-making for the show; I’m not sure what it achieves to say “eh, it’s just a TV show!” Like, yeah, we all know that. As someone interested in fiction I’m still going to be hard-wired to assess what is or isn’t working in terms of the storytelling, and how well it isn’t or isn’t achieving the narrative goals it sets for itself.
But my own quibble with the poison, post-finale, is less that it was Walt or that it was the berries or when/how exactly did Walt deliver the poison to the kid – at least that’s left for imagination to fill in, instead of defined with an onscreen scenario that didn’t work – though who knows, maybe we’ll find out more about that next season. My problem is more what all this is built on in the first place.
One, Walt’s scheme relies on too many implausible reactions/assumptions from Jesse for me to really buy it having “worked,” although I guess one could argue Walt didn’t realize Jesse would suspect him, but rather was counting on him suspecting Gus in the first place and taking care of him on his own. But from what I can gather it’s more that Walt had it planned out as it went down – at least loosely. Two, I object to the reliance on Andrea/Brock as a central plot device on which the most crucial twists of the season were hinged – especially in retrospect now, taking in the season as a whole. Because unlike most of the characters in Breaking Bad, Andrea/Brock really are reducible to being nothing more than a plot device. I don’t think any viewers feel particularly invested in them; you sort of forget about them all together until the writers realize they have to remind you they exist. Personally, I think they should’ve skipped the whole aimless subplot about Marie’s return to petty theft (they’ve revived that once or twice now, but never seem to have any place to really go with it) and given us more time with Andrea/Brock, so that when the season did conclude, maybe they would have earned a little more viewer investment in the characters.
All this said, I want to be clear that I thought the finale was terrific. The entire second half of the season, particularly episodes 10 onwards, have been terrific. I tend to have a few quibbles and plausibility problems with every season – so far it hasn’t been enough to really ruin it for me, and Season 4 is certainly no exception. I defy anyone to find a better hour of television entertainment than “Face Off.” Zombie Gus was a little much, yeah, but I loved it anyway. Gus’s reaction, his death, even everything leading up to it, the whole set piece – is indelibly etched into my memory. It deserves to and probably will go down as one of the most iconic villain death sequences in TV history.
In another Vince Gilligan interview I read after the finale, he mentioned something about how he makes all of his would-be directors study the opening scene of Once Upon a Time in the West
for inspiration in their approach to the show, and that spaghetti western influence showed through to beautiful effect in “Face Off.” The music, the pacing, the camerawork … it was all superb. I was a little surprised how conclusive the episode was – probably a bit too pat, all in all – but immensely satisfying.
I particularly appreciate how diligently – and at times frustratingly – Season 4 has played against
Walt’s early-season declaration that “I am the one who knocks!” By putting Walt through the wringer all season, by so thoroughly disavowing the audience the privilege of being able to share in his narcissistic delusion, the exhilaration is greatly amplified when in the end, that manifests into such a marvelously executed, if somewhat narratively unlikely, reality. The show has always been and continues to be absolutely genius in its ability to kind of have its cake and eat it too, that way. How could anyone not share in the dramatic buzz – however temporary in the long run – of the season’s wonderfully simple, to-the-point closing exchange/summary:
Skylar: Walt … what happened?
Walt: I won.