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"Full Measure": Season Finale of Breaking Bad [Recraps]

Breaking-Bad-Finale-Episode-13-Walt-Mike-Small  We're back, Palinode and I, to recap the season finale of Breaking Bad, only this time we're joined by the esteemed gentleman who actually needs no introduction.  At the table with us exchanging enthusiastic comments about AMC's popular series Breaking Bad starring Emmy-award winning actor Bryan Cranston is DJ Charlie Ann, famed deejay and master mixer of the underground children's house/trance scene and pornographic astrologist to the stars.  We're so not worthy!

Join us, as we breathlessly dissect the entire episode down to every single one of its cells.  That is to say, get comfy.  

Holy fuckballsThis recap actually begun Sunday night as our badass nerd trio exchanged several emails written entirely in CAPSLOCK.  Because the episode?  Was really fucking good.  Pants crappingly so. 

We got down to business Monday morning, however, after enjoying our morning Nescafe.

Palinode (taking a puff of his pipe): So. Let's talk about the opening scene. Why do you think they started with a flashback to the house? And did you think, as I did at first, that it wasn't a flashback at all? That something really fucking terrible had happened, and the house had been emptied out?

DJ Charlie Ann: That opening scene struck me as "funny" when Walt said to Skyler…"why be cautious? The only place we have to go is up." Now, he said this regarding the house, but it struck me as some clever foreshadowing that perhaps Walt has always been a Kingpin. Even before he was a Kingpin. Sometimes you can't control what you are to become. And bits of it show - sometimes subliminally.  And yes. I thought some dastardly shit had gone down when I saw the house emptied. Until Young Walt and Skyler showed up, you couldn't have wedged a piece of dental floss between my ass cheeks. And believe me....I tried. 

Stacy: Charlie Ann, that "dental floss" is your butterfly g-string.  You know it, we all know it.  

I thought something terrible went down when the camera captured the empty house, as if it was a foreshadow to the end of the episode/season, kind of like that fucking pink teddy bear showing up all last season.  I would never have guessed it would be a flashback of a younger Walt and Skyler.  I like what Charlie Ann said about him always being a Kingpin.  He showed us that he was always reckless about big decisions, as when Walt said what he said to Skyler about going *out* of their range for something bigger. And he just wasn't comfortable in the episodes where he stopped cooking - it was like there was something feral inside him that needed to be released.  So he jumped on the opportunity Gus offered.  And then his character and values peeled away like an onion.

Aside from realizing from the opening scene that Walt was always kind of a dick, it was hopeful.  Skyler pregnant with little Walter Mitty, they were happy, ready for their "starter home" - it was all very sweet.  And then, the next time they show the house using that same camera work some 16 or so years later, the cooing baby doing cute things babies apparently do while Walt held her...and then in two seconds flat he's discussing the hit on an innocent and very adorable and docile man.  It was a bit of a punch in the gut as my mind layered the scenes onto the beginning flashback.  My, how things have changed.  Nothing is hopeful or innocent anymore.  

Palinode: Charlie Ann, I'm glad you keep floss on hand for just these moments.

DJ Charlie Ann: Well, I reckon you need something to gauge your excitement. Floss is my "threat level indicator."  Plus, it makes me feel pretty and it shows off my lower back tattoo.

I think it's cute that "family" is such a key feature. Remember the scene where the Death Twins of Death were young and they got the "nothing is more important than family" speech. After the attempted drowning, I mean. And then, Walt gives Jesse the "family" speech in the "Fly" episode? Clever.

Palinode: I noticed that several subplots and character arcs were left behind in this episode. No Hank and Marie readjusting to normal life, no Skyler getting more and more enmeshed in the business. In fact, this felt oddly like a Buffy-style finale, with the main characters going on the run and banding together to come up with a Big Bad-defeating plan. Of course, when you're slowly transforming into a Big Bad yourself, it's hard to feel that sense of triumph. 

Stacy: I've never seen Buffy.  Now I'm questioning your masculinity, Palinode.

Interesting pick up.  I do like the comedic moments that they brought *in* to the finale characters, though. I LULZD when the Asian woman responded with such agitation and hysteria for what seemed like two minutes straight and then the man simply said, "She said she's fine."  LULZ!  And Mike was a bit more comical in this episode too (and I love his duality as a grandpa and TOTAL FUCKING BADASS).  That shooting scene was awesome, although...am I the only one missing the premise?  What was happening there?  

Palinode: The shooting scene was some foreshadowing for the next season. The Juarez cartel was trying to set up a rival lab - mostly to test for "signs of weakness," as ol' Boiled Face put it. But yes, that scene was comedy at its blackest. When Mike (that's easier to say than Boiled Face Man, I admit it) used his daughter's balloons to short out the security system and then dispatched everyone with the most casual ease, I couldn't help laugh.


Does anybody find the physical resemblance between Mike and Walt a bit disturbing? And totally deliberate, obviously. If it weren't for the porkpie hat on Walt's head in the opening scene, I would have had trouble telling them apart in the wide shot. Note that the villains seem to have gotten older but more menacing in this season. Remember when they had to worry about Tuco? Or Los Hermanos Muertos? Now it's Mike and Gus Fring.

I think Season 4 will show Walt gaining ever greater control of the Southwest region drug empire. Meanwhile, his moral compass will point firmly towards hell.

You think Buffy isn't masculine, Stacy? That shit is ten tons of testosterone in the body of a blonde chick. One day you too will sit down with all seven seasons. You'll start watching and you'll say, "This is stupid". But you'll keep watching anyway because it's kind of amusing in a cheesy way. Then at some point your jaw will drop and you'll say "Holy shit!" Then your life will disappear into the dark vortex of a Buffy marathon. Your brain will fill up with Whedon quotes. You'll curse the asshole writers for dumping such a shitty seventh season on you. And then you'll watch it again.

Stacy: Oh. Okay?  

Whatever it was, the shooting scene was masterful.  From the moment he shorted out the electricity and Beastie Boys's funky-freaky "Shambala" started playing, it was cinematic.  I mean, the writing and camera work has always been crazy awesome, but this was like a really good fucking action movie.  

I hadn't noticed anything about the resemblance before you just mentioned it, but now it's obvious to me and I can't believe I missed it.  I wanted to say at first that maybe it's symbolic of good and evil, but there's the rub: why do I think Mike is on the "good" side and Walt the "bad?"  Mike is who he is and he knows it, everyone who knows him knows it because he doesn't bullshit.  Walt is constantly changing.  He wants to be good, he wants to be bad.  He's bouncing all over the place.  

I concur with your thoughts on Season 4.  I feel, though, somewhere down the line, they'll add in a Dexter-esque finale moment.  Something is going to completely unhinge Walt where he literally has nothing to lose anymore. 

Palinode: Oh god, a Dexter moment. As you pointed out, that's exactly where I thought this episode was headed when we first saw the empty house.


Mike was a cop who recognized somewhere along the way that order and security, not notions of good or evil, are what really keep society running smoothly. I love his perpetually jaded attitude which only drops when he's around his daughter.

Speaking of which, we got to see parallel scenes of Walt and Mike with their daughters. Mike is in it for his family - killing people is how he puts bread on the table. But Walt seems to be in it for the power and the triumph as much as anything else. Check that 'how you like me now, motherfucker' look in his face during that final stand-off with Mike at the laundromat. Walt believes that he's pulled off a strategic victory. What he doesn't consider is Jesse, who can't possibly survive the murder of Gale with his sanity fully intact.  

Stacy:  But isn't it also about loyalty, too?  Mike is in it for his family and we don't doubt that because his unique set of values are never questioned.  Walt, on the other hand has proven himself disloyal to his family and now Jesse.  He always retained that seed of goodness in that he was involved in the drug trade so he could provide for his family.  It was actually a feel-good compilation of moments where Walt remained loyal to Jesse - he almost seemed like a doting father to him, protecting and shielding him.  But then when he realizes that he'll be "forced downstairs," he gives Jesse up to Mike and Victor (was this the first time he was actually given a name?).  Walt cannot have known any of this would happen and there would be no way for him to prepare himself for such a situation as he was in in the laundromat, so we can only assume that it was his instinct to rat Jesse out.  He only changed course when he actually had Jesse on the phone.  So...where are his loyalties?  It's a good point you bring up about Jesse not being able to handle the aftermath of killing Gale The Innocent.  My own eyes watered for both of those men, for different reasons.  Jesse will not be able to handle his actions.  I think Season 4 will be interesting.  Jesse has put on so many faces, I'm not sure what else he can do for himself, where he'll go now.  He's in figurative quicksand.  He can't get out.  Will he run away?  Commit suicide?  I don't know where else Jesse's character can go.  

Oh, Gale.  Why did you get mixed up in this?

Palinode: I was fucking jealous of Gale's apartment. I mean, I know it was just there so he could die in it, but it was full of plants and light and books and awesome music. Plus he did everything with this kind of self-delighted gusto. I'm glad he didn't die until the end of the episode.

DJ Charlie Ann: Gale's not dead. Jesse is. The muzzle flash at the ending scene? Not Jesse's weapon. That's Victor straight up icing Jesse. Then, Walt goes fucking CAVEMAN on the entire organization.

Like Zoro. He was the Gay Blade after all.

Also, jealous of Gale's super-duper themo-heat gauge-y thingy he used to check the temp of his teakettle. Awesome food gadgets make my Special Purpose feel funny. 

Stacy: Gale's dead, sadly. I wondered the same thing, if it could be some sort of amazing twist. The A.V. Club scored an interview with Vince Gilligan, thought, in which he answers that question:

The A.V. Club: Last season ended with an episode that was reasonably conclusive, whereas this season ends with a cliffhanger. Why’d you choose to end on an ambiguous note?

Vince Gilligan: Well first let me ask you: When you say “ambiguous” do you mean ambiguous in the sense of did Jesse shoot Gale or not?

AVC: Among other things, yes. 

VG: Gotcha. That’s interesting, because I’m hearing that from some folks, that question. To me, for what it’s worth, it’s not actually meant to be ambiguous. It’s meant to be, “Oh my god, Jesse shot poor Gale.” But I’m realizing now that when people see the camera come dollying around so it’s looking down the barrel of the gun, some are reading that as maybe he’s changing his point of aim. But that’s not what we intended. Apparently it’s not as clear as I thought it would be. [Laughs.]

AVC: Well, now you can still change your mind in the off-season. 

VG: Maybe that’s the universe telling me I should. “Don’t kill Gale, he’s such a great guy!”

Stacy:  I'm one person in the universe who is indeed yelling that very sentiment.  I liked Gale.

Palinode: Good clarification. It never occurred to me that maybe Jesse didn't shoot Gale. Breaking Bad is a cruel, cruel show. The whole point is to drag its characters one by one into hell and leave them there.

Did anybody else find this episode surprisingly quiet? It seemed like they slowed the pace way down and dipped every scene in sheer dread. I spent the whole episode waiting for someone to die.


DJ Charlie Ann: That's what's so fucking badass about this show. I've know, in my foolish tenure as a young man, my share of "ounce at a time" Jesse Pinkman's. I've also, unfortunately, know a few Gustavos and Mikes. And no matter if you're dealing in Pinkmans or Gustavos... there is always, way back in the places of your mind where the Swiffer don't reach, the damn-surity that this is a business with no "civilian" rules. And you're already in Hell and sleeping with one eye open is worse than staying awake forever.

This show makes my swimsuit area tingle.

Palinode:  What I find funny is that Breaking Bad may be the ultimate anti-drug PSA. Instead of showing a bunch of idiots stumbling around or freaking out, it exposes the drug business for what it is: untrammeled commerce, divorced from ethics or humanity. Walt just gets more and more evil, piece by piece, as the series goes on, but I get the sense that it's kind of exposing Walt's nature. He's a drug lord in the skin of a science teacher. Jesse, on the other hand, that poor bastard... he's just trying to be decent in a world that has no place for decency.

DJ Charlie Ann: It breaks down the essence of the duality of Man in a very, "you'll never know what you do, 'till you do what you do" kind of way. What do you do when you have Everything to lose.

Palinode: Exactly. But I don't want to let Walt off the hook quite so easily, and neither do the makers of the show. I think that was the point of the opening scene, with a younger Skyler and Walt looking at their house. He's dissatisfied, overly ambitious and completely delusional about his place in the world. The meth trade not only gives him a chance to do something he excels at, it's also a vent for his rage over his thwarted ambition and a place for his brutality to show. On the one hand I want to cheer for the guy because he always manages to keep one step ahead. But then I see him manipulating Jesse and it's just not cool. NOT COOL, WALT.

I wondered about that moment in which he seems so willing to give up Jesse to Mike and Victor (and yes, I think this is the first time we hear his name). But Walt knew from the moment that Victor pulled up to his driveway that he was headed for a hole in the desert, so he had the entire ride over to plan for that moment. Mind you, I'm certain that if it ever came down to a choice between him and Jesse, Walt would pick himself every time. Walt acts in the best interests of his family, but his definition of family is elastic.


Stacy: True.  Walt is and isn't many things, but he really is brilliant at Plan Bs.  I don't know... I'm no longer convinced that Walt is in this for his family anymore.  He has gotten away too many times - in both lives, really - for him to actually believe in consequences.  In my opinion, he thinks he's untouchable now.  And he sort of is, in his own way, but it's rather self-aggrandizing because he's not really as untouchable as he credits himself to be.

For me, there is no moral redemption for Walt.  I saw the laundromat scene more as a look into who Walt really is than a planned (and genius) swerve. Walt can't go "up."  He can't change now.  As you say,  "his moral compass will point firmly towards hell."  I just think it's pointing there now.

Speaking of [a lack of] moral compass, here in GD Hell is Charlie Ann??

DJ Charlie Ann (who we found masturbating in the pantry, his tear-filled eyes fixed on a can of black olives):  Bingo! That's the thing. Family, that word, is so loose. Walt has his "family" and his "Family". Jesse fits in one of those boxes and I have to argue that Walt would never give up Jesse anymore than he would give up his baby girl. 

I think the battle for Walt is not good v. evil. I think the battle is Walt sussing out how to be both. Like Nike said - Walt wants to "Be Like Mike."

Breaking-Bad-Episode-13-Walt-Mike-Gus-VictorStacy: I think he actually does want to be like Mike.  Palinode, you mentioned that this episode was quiet.  It really was, and the tension was like reaching into your arm and plucking a tendon to stretch it and see how far it will go before it snaps.  Every scene of this finale was rinsed in dread and menace. I recall noticing right away in the desert scene that it had the air of an old western movie - the two potential foes advancing toward each other square-shouldered but wary. The camera caught a close up one one of Walt's eyes narrowing, whilst the other side remained unseen. And Gus exiting the vehicle last gave him almost a king-like baddest of the bad aura. 

The western-like theme was played over and over in different ways. And again (Palinode, you brought this up a while back) with the fucking windshield! Walt's face splintered as the camera caught him through the broken windshield. And that's what we're left with until Season 4, which has just been given the green-light. 

Everything is shattered.  I cannot fucking wait for next season.

. . .

Anastacia Campbell, Palinode and DJ Charlie Ann wish you were here around the table with us.  No, really.  You *have* to see DJ Charlie Ann's butterfly thong panty.

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I am now depressed until the fourth season.


If you guys need me....I'll be in the pantry.


Please, please, please, pretty please, keep up the recaps during season 4. I look forward to them nearly as much as the show.

At first Walt was a sympathetic character, and while I disagreed with his decisions, I wanted him to have some validation as a man. Now, he just creeps me the fuck out. He went from a science teacher to murderer very quickly. His moral compass has always been pointed to hell, he just took awhile to learn to read that compass.


Thank you, Nicole! I know I'm definitely in to cover the show next season, so long as Palinode and the DJ are in it with me. :) These past few months have been rough and I take the blame for not being as on top of things this season.

Walt really is kind of creepy, isn't he. Did it not just blow you away in the first scene of them younger? He looks so young, normal! It took seeing that for me to really see the crazy, frenzied look that we've come to know every episode. It was really something.


Every time I see clips of BrBa I think of Bryan Cranston's amazing turn as Buzz Aldrin in "From the Earth to the Moon" -- I think he's a fantastic actor.


Forgive my complete ignorance here, but wasn't Walt supposed to have been dead of a terminal disease by now? Did I miss a recap where he went into remission? If so, my bad.

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