Breaking Bad Finale: Who Survives?

Update: Almost all my predictions below were wrong. My recap of the finale and thoughts on next season are here. But don't read until after you've watched the show.

I've read 100 predictions of tonight's season finale for Breaking Bad. The only thing everyone seems to agree on, including blogs, message boards and the MSM, is that nobody knows. [More...]

Much of what we do know is from interviews this week: Check these with Aaron Paul (Jesse), Giancarlo Esposito (Gus) and series creator Vince Gilligan. While none give specifics, they tell us is that the finale is going to have us on the edge of our seats, have several "wow" moments, and the last shot will leave everyone (in Cranston's words) "freaking out."

Bryan Cranston on Letterman the other night (video here, go to 24 min. 06 seconds in) had this to say about the finale:

It's unbelievable. there are so many moments where you are cringing and on the edge of your seat.

The very last scene, there is no dialogue, there are no actors, it's just an exterior shot that's familiar if you watch the show. The camera pushes in on an object, and and once it pushes in on the object and you recognize what it is, you freak out.

The only description AMC provides :

Walt and Jesse team up to take on Gus. With Saul's help, Walt finds an unexpected ally.

Interestingly, TV Guide adds a word that totally changes the meaning: It says:

The fourth season ends with Walt and Jesse squaring off against Gus. Elsewhere, Walt acquires a surprise confederate with help from Saul.

There have been three previews: this one that aired at the end of the last episode "End Times"; this one with Walt and Saul's secretary; and this one that is actually the first minute of the finale, which shows Walt feverishly trying to remove the bomb he planted under Gus' car in the parking garage.

So, what do we know? After Walt removes the bomb from under Gus's car, he puts it in a fabric type bag and goes into the hospital to talk to Jesse. He ask Jesse what he told "them."

Jesse, we learn, has been talking to the police or DEA. Here's the screen shot. We also know there's a new guest character in the episode, Detective Kalanchoe, played by Gonzalo Menendez.

We know Tyrus told Gus he got word from the DEA that someone was talking. We know that Agent Gomez tells Hank someone came in and gave them some information.

We know Saul is in the episode. What we don't know: who Saul hooks up with Walt. Is it a cop?

We know Mike returns in the episode. He's probably mad at Gus for leaving him to die in Mexico. Will he team up with Walt and Jesse against Gus?

Jesse may make a major kill. It could be Gus or Tyrus. We know Tyrus fills up a vial with a syringe to poison someone. We know he and Walt are in a house together. It looks like he's unaware of Tyrus' presence. At some point, Walt pulls a gun on someone.

There's a scene in the lab with two people, one wearing the yellow lab suit and the other with heavy black shoes. Walt's gun is lying on the floor. There's a strange shot of a contraption lifting a blue blob with yellow at the end. Is it Jesse in his blue jacket being hoisted somewhere?

There's a man in the lab sequence with a gun I've never seen before. He's at 22 1/2 seconds into the preview. Do any of you recognize him?

On Brock and the poison: I didn't spend much time on this, as I doubt he'll die or that Walt tried to poison him. I doubt it was even ricin he ingested. Even though Gilligan wants us to see Walt as having gone from Mr. Chips to Scarface (as Cranston puts it to Letterman) he also wants us to feel conflicted about him. Child molesters and killers are the most hated people on the planet. If Walt did that, no one would every sympathize with him again.

I doubt Gus did it either. If Brock was poisoned, and I doubt he was, it had to be Saul or Tyrus. A few episodes ago Saul went to Brock's house to drop off money for Jesse's girlfriend. (Brock's mother.) In the last episode when Saul was leaving town, he made a big deal about getting Jesse to come by so he could give him money. Saul could also have gone to Brock's house to drop off a final payment to his mother. The ricin was inside a vial that was placed in the cigarette, it wasn't powder placed in the cigarette. I doubt Brock smoked it.

Or, Tyrus may have taken it from Jesse's pack while his coat was in his locker at the lab, and then put it in a vial to kill someone. Which brings up the question of who Tyrus is really working for, Gus or someone else? With the cartel gone, who's left? The German conglomerate Gus works for? I doubt he'd be working for the DEA.

A few random notes and questions:

  • On the white plant the camera pans in on as Walt's spinning his gun. Will it come up again in the finale? Is it a hyacynth, a lilly, or a poisonous Kalanchoe, which is mostly poisonous to pets. The new detective in the finale is named Kalanchoe. Coincidence? And as a production aside, check out the table the gun is on -- who are all those people reflected in it? Crew members?
  • Skyler smoking the cigarette. She's smoked before, and tried to hide it from Walt. So it's not surprising she would ask a DEA agent for a cigarette. But why show it? Who is that DEA agent? Is he the agent Tyrus gets his information from, meaning he's a bad guy?

Other notable parts of the interviews:

Here's Jesse and Vince Gilligan. For Jesse's take on the finale:

"You truly haven't seen anything yet," he says. "People are going to be screaming and yelling at the television set multiple times and definitely [be] on the edge of their seats. They're going to struggle to hold on. It's definitely a crazy ride."

And on his new sense of control:

"This season, you finally saw Jesse stand up on his own and take charge, take control," Paul says. "It was nice to finally not be beaten down, but be the one shooting the gun. Jesse is coming into his own and I think he's going to take that stand and show who he truly is. He's not going to be used as a pawn anymore."

Vince Gilligan:

"It's the culmination of a lot of chess playing, a lot of gamesmanship," Gilligan says of the episode, appropriately titled "Face Off." "This really is Spassky versus Fischer, and we're not going to know until the very end which one is Spassky and which one is Fischer. Hopefully, it will be a hell of a chess game. I'm hoping the main thing people say when it's all over is, 'Wow!'"

Giancarlo on Gus and the Pinochet connection:

There’s a lot we don’t know about him, even going beyond what you experience in this fourth season. There are still many unanswered questions, and some of the clues to that are Don Eladio [the cartel kingpin], who says, “I know who you are,” and the whole reason they can’t take him out is the whole reference to him being part of the Chilean Pinochet Government. He’s been this way. We see a glimpse of what happened with the cartel and why he’s been trying to exact his revenge for so long: why he hates, why he’s so closed up, why he’s so close to the vest, why he’s so guarded. But we haven’t seen the very beginning of his character yet...

And on whether he and Max were lovers in Chile:

I think the magic of really good television is to allow the audience to draw their own conclusion. Certainly, there is a deep and abiding love between Gus and Max. Was it romantic? I don't know. You've got to make up your own mind to see if it was.

And again the Chile connection:

I think that what motivates Gus for much of what we've seen has been revenge, building his empire, playing his cards right. But since that really horrible moment that we finally see in ("Hermanos"), we understand him a different way. It's not only revenge, but the revenge has played into taking over, into making this family his family.

I think if we were to go back even further than that, we'd see his connection to the Pinochet government and where all the previous incarnations of Gus came from and what his dream for his empire is. We haven't seen that yet, but I think the motivation is a two-fold motivation. It's to bring people to their best selves in whatever they do, which is why he has such patience for Jesse, who is a ne'er‑do‑well drug addict.

And from this TVline interview of Giancarlo on what Gus believes in:

You know what he believes? The business of blue meth is a business. It could be growing rice, or being the manager of a food-packaging factory…. Gus is a guy who is full of integrity and morals. You’ve got a guy who has a moral compass and the whole thing about “Box Cutter” is he killed Victor because he put the family at risk, and that’s pretty simple. He has a family of people he has to care for, whether they’re packaging peaches, making Pollos Hermanos chicken or making blue meth. He’s a regular Joe who came up through the ranks and who may have had a background in the Pinochet government, and he has more morals than many people I know in terms of the way he deals with his life.

So, my predictions:

I think Tyrus and Mike will be the goners. while Jesse, Walt and Hank will survive.

Up in the air: Gus, Skyler, Saul, Agent Gomez, Marie, Walt Jr. and baby Holly.

Vince Gilligan says in addition to the "wow" moments, there will be a cliffhanger. I'm thinking the cliffhanger is whether Gus survives. Walt either blows up the lab, Gus' station wagon or some other place, or Jesse shoots him.

As for the object the camera will pan in on in the last shot that will make us freak out? I don't think it will be the one-eyed teddy bear or the eyeball. Could it be Gus' glasses? Or perhaps the vestiges of a burning car, unrecognizable until the camera pans in on the Pollos Hermanos medallion that had been hanging from the rear-view mirror? With no sign of Gus or indication of whether he was even in the car.

The final reason I think Gus will be the cliffhanger: Gilligan says the next season hasn't been written or even planned yet, and Giancarlo is still hoping more of Gus' background will come out. If Gus were a goner, Giancarlo wouldn't be hoping for further exploration of his character next season, he'd know his character was kaput:

Q: It’s never been spelled out for us why Don Eladio couldn’t kill Gus, but we’re to infer it’s because Gus is connected…?

A: Exactly. He probably came out of the Pinochet government, so Don Eladio couldn’t touch him, otherwise his whole organization would go down. As an actor, I hope there’s an opportunity to one day investigate that connection and give insight about what drove Gus to be who he is.

My Translation: Giancarlo knows he's in the show next season, he just doesn't know what happens to his character. (Hopefully for Gus, he won't be disabled and in the nursing home with Hector.)

I won't be surprised if my analysis is completely off. As I said at the beginning, the ending has been a well-kept secret and you can read 100 opinions and almost all are different. The one thing everyone agrees on is Bryan Cranston, Giancarlo Esposito and Aaron Paul deserve Emmys next year.

(Note: The interviews linked in this post are so similar, I suspect the actors and Gilligan were on a media conference call, and the reporters just picked different segments to quote or describe. )

Update: One last description by Bryan Cranston of tonight's episode, from a podcast of an interview he gave to Marc Meron this week.

"There is an oh... my... GOD moment -- almost near the end. It's, like, hold your head, you can't believe what you just saw. ... Then, there's a scene with two characters that tie up some loose ends, answer a couple of the questions that were lingering, and that's resolved.

"And then almost insignificantly, almost forgettable, the last scene, there is no dialogue. There are no actors. It's a familiar exterior scene if you've watched the show. You'll recognize the place, exterior shot, and you don't even know really what you're looking at. You're looking at something that's like, yeah, so? And the camera slowly pushes in, pushes in, pushes in, and you don't even know where it's going, it's innocuous. And then all of the sudden it rests on an object. And once you recognize, and understand the meaning of that object, you hold your head, once more, and go: "NO! HOLY SH*T! NO! "Blackout. End of the season."

Could Gus have blown up Walt's entire family-- Skyler, Walt. Jr and baby Holly? Did they leave Hank's to go back home to find Walt? That would make us have sympathy for Walt next season, which will be needed if he's going to assume the role as chief honcho of the meth business. It also fits with one of Giancarlo's comments about Gus and Hector -- it's always the plan to make the enemy suffer before killing him.
Q: And why doesn’t Gus just pull the plug on Tio Salamanca?

A: Just as he said to Walter, “I will kill your wife, your son, your infant child… I will make you suffer before I kill you,” that’s what he does to Hector. That’s Latin revenge, man! [Chuckles] They do not mess around. They want you to see every one of your people go down, knowing you’re next.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Meaning in the TV Guide listing (none / 0) (#1)
    by SHARPER56 on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 07:08:44 AM EST
    I think you've undersold the extra information in the TV Guide listing.


    Walt and Jesse team up to take on Gus. With Saul's help, Walt finds an unexpected ally.

    TV Guide:

    The fourth season ends with Walt and Jesse squaring off against Gus. Elsewhere, Walt acquires a surprise confederate with help from Saul.

    "Take on" vs. "Square off"
    The shift here moves the characters Jesse and Walt from the idea of "working in concert" to a direct confrontation with Gus. Much like Deadwood, the writers love the "reasonable bad guy" so I don't think they would let Gus die in the "hail of bullets", but they may severely injure or allow an old injury, like the self-poisoning, to force him to be removed from action. Of course he would rise up later, next season, to try to reclaim his throne.

    "Elsewhere, Walt acquires a surprise confederate"
    This turn of phrase separates the action and says linearly after handling Gus, Walt gets support for somebody Saul can control or influence. The implication support from Gus' group, but I think it's turned DEA agent, but not Hank. The blog entries analysis of Gonzalo Menedez, seems on point for this, but this is feels very "machina deus ex", but these writers have used that mechanism before.

    It would appear that Gus is Gone (none / 0) (#2)
    by MKS on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 10:16:36 AM EST
    He has really been featured and it has been quite a ride, but.....

    Sharper, I think you are correct (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 02:16:50 PM EST
    that Walt takes on Gus' role as head of the operation next season and that the battle becomes with the DEA (as we watch Hank put together he's Heisenberg.) And that the accomplice Saul provides Walt helps him in his post-Gus battle.

    I don't think the show will let us know whether Gus is dead. Or, as you say (and I implied in the quip about him ending up next to Hector in the nursing home), maybe he'll be disabled. Another possibility is that he's kidnapped by the cartel that takes over for the one he decimated. Maybe that's who the unknown gunman is, part of the new cartel. There's always a rival cartel waiting to step in when one goes out.


    This is more "in depth" than the TV (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 11:36:35 AM EST
    articles in the NYT  

    I want cable (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdm251 on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 02:25:23 PM EST
    I watched the first three seasons on netflix and this is the first time I have ever wished for cable

    I have got to start watching this show. (none / 0) (#6)
    by caseyOR on Sun Oct 09, 2011 at 02:33:02 PM EST
    No cable, so it has not been on my radar, but now I am going to check out the preceding seasons from the library and bring myself up to date.