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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???

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Episode 13 - Full Measures

21 April 2014

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt offers to keep cooking and forget about Jesse. Gus agrees but returns Gale to his former position. Mike hunts Jesse down but Saul puts him up at the Lazer Tag place. Walt determines that they must kill Gale in order to save themselves and refuses to go to the DEA. When Mike and Victor take him to be murdered he offers to sell Jesse out, calls him, and begs him to kill Gale.

The Good: This was a tremendous season finale. The Rewatch has helped me crystallise the sense that Jesse had never been in a position to kill anyone before this. Even now he still prefers a safe course over getting in deeper in the drug world. It’s Walt who refuses to countenance going to the police and puts emotional pressure on Jesse to murder innocent Gale. 

That final sequence was so good. Walt getting picked up outside his house by Victor, just as Tuco did not that long ago (201). Once more Walt is facing death and walks slowly, painfully toward it. Then he begs and pleads to be let go – an emotion we haven’t often seen from him and played with the edge of hysteria you’d expect from Cranston. Then he offers to sell Jesse out in order to make the phone call. Once it’s done suddenly he can snap back into Heisenberg mode and flips his collar defiantly, once more feeling alive and justified despite condemning two other men to horrible fates.

For Gale its death and for Jesse it’s the tear stained trauma he is already going through before he pulls the trigger. Once more the twisty narrative of Breaking Bad shows us how Walt’s actions continually condemn Jesse to misery. By standing by and watching Jane choke Walt thinks he is saving his partner from a bad influence but smashes his heart to pieces in the process. The downward spiral that set Jesse on lead to his confrontation with the two dealers last episode. And again Walt thinking he can spare Jesse kills them. Only to then turn around and ask Jesse to murder poor Gale to repay the “favour.” It was so heartbreaking to see a broken Jesse aiming the gun at Gale whose own begging was pitiful as the sad denouement to the season played out.

The apartment and lifestyle created for Gale was a very nice piece of set design – filling us in on the hippy, geeky, highbrow hobbies he enjoyed. That sense of play with a scene was on display in Mike’s super-cool attack on one of Gus’ depots. The 70s cop drama style music and the utter smoothness of Mike’s movements as he kills four guards without breaking sweat and delivers a stern warning to Chow. Chow and his secretary provide some nice comic relief too in a scene meant to remind us that the Cartel will be coming back to regain lost territory.

Walt’s confrontation with Gus early in the episode showed the calmer side of Heisenberg. Particularly in light of last week’s discussion I loved his flexible response to Gus asking if he was being accused of murdering a child – “I would never ask you that.” Mike’s insistence that Walt get his car fixed was a perfect character moment. He knows the police will pull over a damaged vehicle (as they did in 302) and he doesn’t want any attention focussed on Gus’ operation. The broken windshield becomes yet another running motif (along with the eyeball and Walt fixing things) after it got damaged during the plane crashes (301) and then smashed by an angry Jesse (305). I loved Gus being the friendly boss with Gale only to use mute impassivity to communicate to Gale what the correct answer to his question was.

The Bad: Nothing bad but...

The Unknown: I don’t remember it being established before this episode that Gus could not afford to shut down his meth production even for a week. It’s easy to imagine that such an expensive operation could function like that. I can also see how a chain of supply out to dealers in other states needs to remain unbroken to maintain a monopoly. But if Gus is raking in millions upon millions and has other concerns (like chicken restaurants and the laundry) then it seems like a foolish situation to be in. One unworthy perhaps of Gus’ reputation as a business man. But I’d be fine with it as an explanation if it had been inserted earlier into the story.

What I wrote on first watch was: They are the kind of flawed decisions which make you think maybe Gus is just another TV bad guy and that Walt and Jesse will find a way to wriggle out of their predicament and survive.” I can’t entirely ignore that first instinct that while Season Two maintained the illusion that you were watching this real life story unravel, Season Three introduces a more traditional villain. That doesn’t make Breaking Bad a less good show but it does remove a certain element of the relatable reality which made Seasons One and Two so special.

Back in that first watch I also wrote: “It will be interesting to see what happens to Saul as well. He betrayed a hit man to protect his clients and surely there should be repercussions for that.” That also seems true. Saul is such a worm that it seemed like he would be more afraid of Mike and his boss than he would want to protect Walt and Jesse. I think there’s a sense in which Saul has an affection for them or maybe is just too small fry for Mike to take vengeance on. But it still seems like a slightly surprising character moment.

Finally I also said “I'm not sure the cold reality of that (Gale’s murder) really had time to sink in. Walt has no justification left. Although killing Gale will save his life, Gale has done nothing wrong. He is making the judgement that he would rather be a murderer than die. His life is more valuable than Gale's. That makes Walt the bad guy because a hero doesn't sacrifice innocent life to save his own. Not that I thought nor does Walt think that he is a hero. But so far he has always been able to look at his enemy and tell himself "they are worse than I am." On Rewatch I’ve been quicker to judge the moments when Walt makes truly selfish decisions. But this does still seem like a turning point. “Never the DEA” he tells Jesse but how many innocent people would he kill before that stopped being the case? The murder of Gale is surely the moment when Walt’s final justifications drop away and he is an unequivocal bad guy.

Best Moment: Jesse and the gun.

The Bottom Line: This was a fine season finale to a fine season. My investment and understanding of the whole show were greatly increased by how good Season Two was and this delivered equally excellent viewing throughout. But that edge of relatable reality has to be sacrificed in order to give us a level above Walt and Jesse. I think that’s probably unavoidable in a show trying to keep the drama levels high and I wouldn’t sacrifice “One Minute” or this ending for the sake of something in a lower key. But it is fate of most TV shows that the original premise that feels so real can not sustain that feeling once its mythology becomes more complex.

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  • Great review!! I wonder about Gus' businesses too, and I didn't really think about Saul thanks for mentioning that

    Viewer score: 98 / 100

    Posted by Maya , 21/04/2014 3:42am (6 years ago)

  • Just wanted to thank you for mentioning my blog, breakingbaddict.worpress.com, at the end of your podcast of this episode! I'll be putting up my season 3 episode summaries soon, and, of course, starting in on episode 4 as well. The rewatch has been so entertaining and enlightening. I especially like Kelly's comments.

    Viewer score: 80 / 100

    Posted by Maggie S., 13/07/2013 7:57pm (6 years ago)

  • I agree that the ironclad reality of the whole story was beginning to slip just a bit at this point, and I think it slid further in season five, with them running train heists and what-not, and generally creating distance from the low-key horrors and moral quandaries of seasons 1 and 2. But that's a discussion for season five time. For now I'll just point out that the acting was again fantastic, from Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Espositio, and Jonathan Banks alike. Walt's begging and offering up Jesse in particular was a stand-out moment, because we have not seen Walt that desperate in a while, and it is not a pleasant sight. It also contrasted nicely with where he was at the beginning of the episode, when he confronts Gus on a level playing field (that gorgeous dusky plain), wearing his Heisenberg hat and daring to outline Gus' options for him. From there he is reduced to ready to give up Jesse and then having him murder Gale. (Kudos to the show again for underlining that there is another way out, one that Walt just isn't willing to take: go to the DEA.) Overall, this episode again upped the ante, and was tension-filled throughout.

    However, in a bad/unknown side note: although Mike's super cool hitman sequence was brilliantly executed and injected a welcome dose of black humor, I wonder if the casualness of those killings somewhat undercuts the high value generally put on life and death by this show. Because of Banks' superbly world-weary acting, Mike is one of my favorite characters on the whole show, but he is almost problematically likeable. It's almost like he's Jules from Pulp Fiction, minus the Bible-quoting and the second-half introspection. Whereas with Walt the creators have been very careful to let us see the consequences, especially moral, of his actions, Mike is often likeable not even just despite what he does, but because of what he does, and how coolly and collectedly he does it. I'm kind of playing devil's advocate against the show here, because as I said above I really love the character of Mike, and how he's written and acted, but I'm interested in others' thoughts on the issue. Can the show depict this other killer as simply cool and practical and not be practicing a bit of a double-standard (albeit one that's opposite of the usual protagonist-favoring ones)?

    PS Sorry if this double-posts; I was having troubles with the comment system (from my end of things, I think).

    Viewer score: 72 / 100

    Posted by dfault, 06/07/2013 6:16pm (6 years ago)

  • This was a devestating and masterful finale for the third season of Breaking Bad. By killing Gale, we are entering even more dark territory for both Walt and Jesse as they are now confronting the big territory betwen them and Gus. It can be said with great irony, that all of Walt's action that are apparantly justified on protecting Jesse has continually caused a downward spiral on him.

    While Season 2 was more involving to its viewers, this season also establishes the fine line on one of the show's main themes of actions always have consequences.

    The ending sequence of course was the climax of the show and a particular note to how the way its impact work through the use of camera. We see directly see Jesse holding his gun and then it slowly pans to the camera as if it was the audience is being shot. This further highlights the shock to us viewers of by Jesse's trigger.

    It's being an amazing and insightful journey, Robin on your Breaking Bad Rewatch. Finished just in time for the remaining part of Season 5. It allows us to be properly prepared on the viewing and sequences that lie ahead of us as the finale is closing up.

    Viewer score: 86 / 100

    Posted by Krean, 06/07/2013 3:11pm (6 years ago)

  • Thanks for reading my long winded theories on Gus's S3 schemes. I think Gus is intended to be a mysterious figure and I don't think his motivations are ever fully explained in canon. I mean, a half season after Gus's death, we still don't know for sure if he was gay or married with kids. We know nothing of his early life in Chile either. It could be said this makes Gus a less satisfying character than Walt and Jesse who do have a clear reasoning behind everything we see them do. Personally I like the contrast and Giancarlo Esposito's performance is so enigmatic he holds my attention even when Gus's true nature lurks beneath the surface. If I understand Gus's intentions more than I'm supposed to then maybe that does make me an evil genius!

    I didn't find S3 as consistently strong as S2 or S4 but One Minute, Fly and the Half/Full Measure two parter would all feature in my Top Ten Breaking Bad episodes list. Certainly the final scene of S3 is the most devastating of all the finales and it may be Aaron Paul's finest moment of acting on the entire show. It's such a cruel irony; Jesse was so upset over a child's innocence being destroyed after learning that a drug gang used him as a hitman. And in the end, Jesse's fate is to become Tomas as we see Walt forcing his younger partner to commit his first murder and Jesse losing the last shreds of his innocence. I don't think Walt was particularly morally outraged by Tomas's murder or by Tomas being used as a pawn by the two dealers. I do think Walt wanted to protect Jesse though at this point it's arguable whether Walt saved Jesse because he genuinely cares about his partner or if Walt just wasn't prepared to let Gus take out one of Walt's own pawns. Walt preferring to murder his former friend Gale rather than seek witness protection from the DEA shows how much Walt is driven by his Heisenberg nature these days.

    Thanks so much to Robin for these recap podcasts. It's been a great way to pass the long hiatus. And hey! By the time you do the podcast for Full Measure it'll be one month and counting till the first episode of S5 part two. Can't wait!

    Viewer score: 87 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 05/07/2013 9:34pm (6 years ago)

  • A great season finale and so heart breaking how Jesse had to become the `bad guy`, though not through choice. All season he had been trying to convince himself he was the bad guy after Jane`s death and he did things like try to lure drug addicts back into meth, but even then he couldn`t do it. Like with Andrea, when he saw her child, he couldn`t continue. Jesse is not the bad guy and it seemed a very fitting way to make him break bad this way, mentioning the bad guy all season but then showing how innocent he really is, so the final moment when he is forced to save his partner by doing the unthinkable is really tragic. The writers did an excellent job at portraying this and also continuing Jesse`s train wreck self-destruction next season.

    I also really liked the line where Walt says to Gus about killing children`No I would never ask you that`. It was also interesting to see Walt pleading on the phone and then playing Heisenberg when he reveals what the phone call had actually meant.

    I thought the idea that Gus was trying to get rid of Walt and Jesse to have been a bit rushed so I didn`t follow it completely the first time I saw this episode. I agree this didn`t leave a lot of time for the reality of Gale`s murder to sink in. Also found some of the mechanics behind Gus`s operation a bit confusing too.

    I found season 3 a solid season and continuation of the events in season 2 but prefer season 2 and 4. The storyline with the cousins dragged at times and there were a few slower episodes, though they are necessary to build the story. But season 3 delivered some highlights like One Minute, Half Measures and Full Measures and then leads nicely into season 4 with Box Cutter.

    Thanks so much for doing the rewatch. It has been a pleasure to listen each week and remember the great moments of the show and I`m surprised at how fast the time has passed. Usually it is an agonising wait between seasons but this year it seems to have sped by.

    Viewer score: 73 / 100

    Posted by Kay, 04/07/2013 8:22am (6 years ago)

  • What an awesome show this is. I had to immediately buy Season 4, I think b/c my satellite provider had a row with AMC.

    Gale's death was heartbreaking in what it did to Jesse, but really how did Gale think his life would end given his occupation?

    Can't wait until August.

    Viewer score: 78 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 03/07/2013 7:38pm (6 years ago)

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