Breaking Bad episode titles always have multiple meanings, but “Face Off” has to take the cake. I mean, Gus literally with his face off. It doesn’t get more visceral with that. And there’s plenty of symbolic meaning to the shot as well–the good side of his face representing his public image, the owner of a chicken chain, and the other. mangled side, the drug lord who kills without remorse. So long to Gus and his cold calculations, and especially Giancarlo Esposito, who has been amazing on the show.
Gus’s downfall ultimately came about because he cared about something. Critically, he wants to talk to Tio, look him in the face before killing him. Sure, he could have sent any goon to get rid of him, but he wanted to be there when his quest for vengeance was fulfilled, to really throw it in Tio’s face. But Walt saw the opening and capitalized on it. One small slip-up and Gus dies. Applying this to Walt, it’s not pretty. Walt is someone who cares about a lot more than Gus. He has a family and often berates Jesse for no good reason. Walt doesn’t think clearly all the time and from Gus’s example, not thinking clearly just once can have deadly consequences.
“Face Off” is another mind-blowing episode, coming after a bunch of episodes of the same quality. It’s crafted brilliant, slowly unveiling all the pieces–Tio and the DEA–before unleashing a torrent of plot development which works like gangbusters–Tio ringing the bell and blowing Gus up, Walt and Jesse laying waste to their workplace, and Walt revealed to have poisoned. Brock. It’s classic Breaking Bad and it works perfectly.
The revelation of Walt owning the plant (I believe the one which the gun pointed to in last week’s episode) which poisoned Brock was just about perfect. It fits with Walt’s character and it’s a less elaborate scheme than Gus poisoning Brock for his purposes (though the logistics behind Walt giving Brock the berry do seem improbable). After Walt defeats Gus, declaring to Skyler, “I won,” this revelation brings everything together. This is Heisenberg at the top of his game. He’s saved himself and he doesn’t care who the fuck is in his way, innocent or otherwise.
This then leads into the fifth season which will obviously deal with Jesse and Walt That handshake may have sealed things for now, but it is also framed as a face off between the two and they are sure to clash again. A season of Breaking Bad has never disappointed me and the fourth was no exception. After a slower start, without the typical action/tension episode, Walt hit his low point and then rose to the top in the amazing last half of the season.
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