Before we get into the final episode of the season for the best television series since The Wire, I want to give you a fair warning. I’m not going to recap every little thing that happened in this episode in chronological order. Frankly, it’s not necessary. I’m going to discuss the main points of this episode and season and then talk about the prospects of the future of the show and hopefully we can use the comment section to have an informal discussion about it. With a show like this, this is probably the format that will work best.
Face Off was maybe one of the few predictable episodes of the series but the payoff was well worth it. What was that payoff? Everything is not happily ever after though there was, what I perceive, as happy music playing in the background in the end. Walt clearly has finished his transformation into what Gus was before he died…a cold and calculating criminal mastermind that is willing to kill innocents and the guilty in order to achieve his goal.
Walt has always been willing to sacrifice or kill bad and/or amoral people in order to benefit him. Among the many that have fell in Walter’s wake were Jane, Gale, and the drug dealers that Jesse wanted to take out near the end of Season 3 to name a few. In this episode, his guilty pawn was Hector Salamanca. As soon as Jesse passed off knowledge of Hector to Walter, White and Salamanca brokered an alliance. They hatched a chain a chain of events (one of which was a hilarious scene where Hector gets in one last “Fuck you” to Hank…literally) that eventually led to Hector and his wheelchair acting as a suicide bomb that takes out Tyrus and, most importantly, Gustavo Fring.
The thing is, this is the first episode of the series where you see that Walter is willing to sacrifice (or at the very least put in harm’s way) the lives of innocent people in order to get to his endgame. The first scene to display that in this episode was when he parked his car outside of his house. He needed to get 2,500 dollars in order to pay Saul’s secretary to reveal his whereabouts however he couldn’t just waltz inside his house to get the money. Gus’ people could be in there, waiting for him. So what does he do? He calls his next door neighbor (played by Vince Gilligan’s mother) and creates a bogus story about how he feels the stove was left on in the house so she could go into the house so he could see if the coast was clear. It wasn’t. The second time in the series that you see he’s willing to sacrifice a non guilty party was the big reveal at the end of the episode. It was in the back of almost all of our minds that Walter was the one that poisoned Brock and the final scene confirmed it with the shot of the lily of the valley in Walt’s backyard.
After watching Face Off, you realize that it’s a double entendre. However, you realize at the same time, the connections it has to the movie of the same name. The two major players in this episode that are facing off against each other are both wearing masks and both were wearing them for a long time. As meticulous and cool Gus was this season, behind his steely demeanor was an emotional fire that burned within him that led to his end. While in the past couple episodes, we see the mask Walter White is wearing. The mask itself is Walter White. What is underneath? It’s all Heisenberg. He claims in the penultimate scene, to Skyler, that he’s won…and it’s hard to argue against the fact that he’s beaten Gus. However, the cost was the loss of his soul.
So what’s next? There are a few things that Vince Gilligan needs to resolve in the next two seasons. The biggest one is what’s next for Heisenberg. I doubt anyone thinks he’s going to be okay with the Car Wash being his meal ticket. He’s obviously going to stick to doing what he knows best: cooking meth. Is he going to go back to cooking in a trailer as a small time dealer? Or is he going to take over Gus’ organization so he can cook and distribute on a much larger scale than he ever has before in what would be a Scarfacean turn of events? I really think it’s the latter. Heisenberg’s taste for thrill and vast quantities of money is not going to be satiated by living a normal life or by being a small time dealer. Is Jesse going to come back and work with Walter? This is a more difficult question to answer. I could see this going both ways. Is Hank going to be deterred by the death of Gus to the point that he’ll stop investigating? I doubt it. Hank is smart enough to understand that what happened was a rival taking out the biggest competition…a hostile takeover. He will push on and soon Hank and Heisenberg will be head to head in a match of the wits. Is Skyler too scared off by the lengths that Heisenberg is willing to go to in order to get his way? My initial reaction is no because of the money but at some point, she will back away and maybe even snitch. The biggest monkey wrench in this whole ordeal is Mike the Cleaner. When Mike gets back, is he going to work for Heisenberg or is he going to try to take him down since he doesn’t respect him like he did with Gus? He could also work for him and try to take him down from the inside. Mike is definitely going to have a hand in bringing about the downfall of Heisenberg’s empire (I have a specific theory as to how). By the middle of next season, Heisenberg will realize he has the same problem that Gus had before he died. He’ll have to fight a war on two fronts, one against Mike and whoever he influences and the other against Hank.