Face Off (Breaking Bad)
|Breaking Bad episode|
|Directed by||Vince Gilligan|
|Written by||Vince Gilligan|
|Original air date||October 9, 2011|
|Running time||50 minutes|
"Face Off" is the thirteenth episode and season finale of the fourth season of the American television drama series Breaking Bad, and the 46th overall episode of the series. It originally aired on AMC in the United States on October 9, 2011. TV Guide named "Face Off" as one of the best episodes in all of television in 2011.
After failing to kill Gus (Giancarlo Esposito) via a car bomb, Walter (Bryan Cranston) removes the bomb and asks Jesse (Aaron Paul) if he knows of a place Gus frequents that does not have security cameras. Before Jesse can think of one, he is then approached by Detectives Kalanchoe (Gonzalo Menendez) and Munn (Jason Douglas), and taken to the police station, where they proceed to question him about Brock's poisoning. Saul (Bob Odenkirk) has gone into hiding, so Walter breaks into his office for his help, where Saul's secretary Francesca (Tina Parker) asks for $25,000 in exchange for Saul's contact information. Walter goes home to retrieve the cash but suspects hitmen may be waiting for him. After asking his neighbor to check on the house, he spots two men fleeing from the backyard, confirming his suspicions. Walter retrieves the money before the hitmen can spot him.
Jesse is interrogated about the ricin, but he claims it was a lucky guess. Having been contacted by Walter, Saul finally arrives. Jesse tells Saul that Gus often visits Hector (Mark Margolis) to taunt him, which Saul relays to Walter. Upon learning that Gus and Hector are longtime enemies, Walter visits Hector and offers him a chance to kill Gus. Hector contacts the DEA and insists upon talking directly to Hank (Dean Norris), but at the meeting, Hector just curses at Hank through his interpreter and is quickly returned to the nursing home, where Walt has spent the interim preparing a bomb for Hector to use to kill Gus. Walt reminds Hector that the bomb will kill him too, but the old man is determined to have his revenge against Gus, even at the cost of his own life. Tyrus (Ray Campbell) observes Hector's arrival at the DEA, assumes he is turning informant, and phones Gus, who decides to kill Hector, just as Walt anticipated. Tyrus inspects Hector's room for anything suspicious but finds it safe for Gus' visit, failing to spot Walter just outside. Meanwhile, Jesse is released from police custody after Brock's diagnosis reveals that he was not poisoned by ricin. He is immediately kidnapped by Gus' thugs and brought to the lab to cook the next batch of meth.
Gus enters Hector's room and berates him for supposedly being a coward and asks Hector to finally look at him, which is something Hector had always refused to do during Gus' taunting visits. As Gus prepares to inject Hector with a syringe of poison, Hector finally looks at him for the first time in years; first remorsefully, and then with rage in his eyes before ringing his bell numerous times. At first Gus and Tyrus are confused, but Gus then realizes the bell is connected to the bomb that has been fitted under Hector's wheelchair. Before Gus can escape, the bomb explodes, blowing the door off Hector's room and instantly killing Hector and Tyrus. Gus then walks out of the room's remains seemingly unharmed and calmly adjusts his tie. But as nursing home staff rush to the site of the blast, it is revealed that half of Gus' face and scalp have been completely torn off before he falls to the floor and dies. Walter hears the news of the explosion on the radio and is relieved that his plan has worked. He then heads to the lab, kills Gus' two henchmen stationed there, and frees Jesse. Knowing that Hank is closing in on the lab, Walt and Jesse burn it down.
Later, Jesse tells Walter that Brock will live, that he was poisoned by lily of the valley berries, which children sometimes eat because of their sweet taste. Although Jesse questions killing Gus, since Gus never poisoned Brock after all, Walter assures Jesse that it had to be done. Walter calls Skyler (Anna Gunn), who – along with the rest of the family – is learning of the explosion from the news. Skyler asks Walt if he had caused the explosion and what happened, to which Walt replies that he has "won". The season ends with a shot of Walter's backyard, which contains a potted lily of the valley plant, towards which Walter's gun was pointed in the previous episode, implying that he indeed poisoned Brock and expected Jesse to react as he did, turning against Gus instead.
This episode marks the final appearance of Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring on this series. The plot wrapup was planned by the series' production team since the beginning of the season, partly because they were not certain at the time whether the series was going to renew for another season. Specifically, the visual effect of Gus Fring's massive facial wounds took months to prepare, with assistance from Greg Nicotero and the special effects team from fellow AMC drama The Walking Dead. The effect was produced using elaborate makeup on Giancarlo Esposito's face, combined with CGI that took two separate shots and combined them seamlessly. The episode's title "Face Off" was also meant to be a reference to Gus losing half of his face in the explosion.
The episode received unanimous acclaim from television critics. Seth Amitin of IGN awarded the episode 9.5 out of 10, describing it as "the perfect blend of Breaking Bad". Alan Sepinwall, reviewing for HitFix, said the episode was "fantastic, from beginning to end". Matt Richenthal of TV Fanatic awarded the episode a 4.8 out of 5 and described Breaking Bad as "the best show on television". Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club awarded the episode an "A". James Poniewozik of TIME magazine described the finale as "stunning, morally searing and, well, explosive (...) with a few holy-crap moments for the ages", while Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter reckoned that the episode "did a lot of things right, course-correcting most (...) worries and giving viewers not only an action-packed, satisfying episode but putting the show on the path to finish (...) in a nearly perfect dramatic state."
The episode was nominated for six Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series for Vince Gilligan, Outstanding Cinematography for a Single-Camera Series, Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing for a Drama Series, Outstanding Sound Editing for a Series, Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy or Drama Series (One-Hour), and Outstanding Special Visual Effects in a Supporting Role. Editor Skip MacDonald won the ACE Eddie Award for Best Edited One-Hour Series for Commercial Television for this episode.
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