Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

"It Ain’t All Supermodels And Speedboats"

So, all of that shit-talking we’ve done about how Skyler’s (Anna Gunn) lame storyline as of late has been a distraction from everything else that’s been great about Breaking Bad as of late? Totally rescinded, for two reasons.

One, Skyler’s decision to give the insufferable Ted Benecke (Christopher Cousins) a grand sum of $617,226.31 to help pay off his IRS debt, and, in turn, make sure that the government doesn’t trace his dirty money back to Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) “untaxed gambling” earnings (a.k.a., his crystal meth-assisted intake) led to one of the funnier death scenes in the show’s history. It all starts when Ted refuses to use Skyler’s money for his IRS debacle, citing his discomfort in using money garnered through what he thinks is Walt’s gambling addiction; Skyler, naturally, is both infuriated and scared, knowing that Walt’s drug cash will get uncovered if Ted doesn’t do what she needs him to do.

Which leads her to call upon the services of Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk, who sends his “A-team,” that of Huell [Lavell Crawford] and a second nameless helper [Bill Burr], who previously appeared in this season’s “Open House” as the fake inspector) to muscle Ted into writing the IRS check. He does, but when they say the're going to hang with him until the check clears, he tries to make a run for it, slips on the rug (call it Chekhov’s Rug, thanks to an earlier, seemingly throwaway shot of Ted tripping over it before greeting Skyler), and flying headfirst into a dresser; prior to this episode, “Crawl Space,” the hope around these parts was that Skyler herself would kill Ted, but the Coen Brothers-esque sequence in which Ted meets the reaper is a fine sendoff for a guy who couldn’t have inadvertently offed himself soon enough.

But that nice bit of black comedy isn’t the main reason why anyone who’s berated Skyler’s recent subplot (present company included) should chew on some thick crow right about now. The last 10 minutes of “Crawl Space,” an insanely tense, chaotic, nerve-bashing coda to yet another dynamite hour’s worth of Breaking Bad, showed just why creator Vince Gilligan and his brilliant team of writers and producers have insisted on dedicating precious minutes to the Skyler-and-Ted show: That $617K she took from Walt’s stash has royally fucked their entire family.

Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), who survived the poison from last week’s stellar episode, “Salud," (Mike [Jonathan Banks] and his gunshot wounds are still in Mexico under the doctor’s care), is finished with Hank’s (Dean Norris) stakeouts of Gus’ factory, and his private investigation into Mr. Fring’s operations—it’s time for Hank to die. And Gus informs Walt of this plan after Gus’ goons taze Walt outside of Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) house, toss a black bag over his head, and drive him out to the desert. Gus pulls up, bluntly tells Walt, “You are done,” and then commands Walt to never interact with Jesse again. Walt then realizes that Gus won’t kill him because Jesse, despite his recent scraps with Walt, doesn’t want Mr. White to die.

The power dynamic in the Walt/Jesse partnership has completely flipped—Jesse, now having earned Gus’ trust and respect, has the upper hand, and he knows it. Inadvertently, Jesse killed the grandson of Gus' nemesis Tio Hector (Mark Margolis) during their bullet-ridden escape at the end of "Salud," news that Gus is pleased to deliver to Hector in front of Jesse (it's worth noting that Margolis' silently heart-broken performance in the scene is quite amazing).

Having killed one of Gus' rival's loved ones, Jesse is officially Gus' new favorite. Walt, on the other end, only has the power that Jesse’s “Don’t kill Mr. White, Gus” stance gives him.

Jesse’s good standing with Gus doesn’t help Hank at all, though. Gus warns Walt that if he interferes with their plan to terminate Hank’s pulse, so to speak, that Gus will kill Walt and his entire family, including the newborn baby. Moments later, Walt storms into Saul’s workplace and frantically asks for Saul’s “guy” who can send the White family away and give them a new, secret life. Saul tells Walt that it’s going to cost a half-a-million dollars to do so for the entire fam. But once Walt flees home and checks his money stash in the crawl space, he notices a load of it is missing, and when Skyler tells him that she gave it to Ted (with neither of them knowing that Ted’s a corpse, mind you), Walt breaks down into violent tears, but then maniacal laughter.

"Some Kind Of Clandestine Activities"

The last few episodes of Breaking Bad, preceding last night, have ended incredibly well, each assaulting the viewer’s nerves with either extreme violence or devastating monologues; “Crawl Space,” however, was a whole other beast. The final minutes accounted for some of the most breathtaking television in recent memory. Walt, a character we all love for varying reasons, and one we know is bound for an unhappy ending once Breaking Bad’s remaining 18 episodes (before the announced series finale), spent the entire episode on the ropes, gradually breaking down into a petrified, exceptionally fragile man, a guy who was nearly in tears while begging for Jesse, his former protégé, to not cook without him and, subsequently, prove to Gus that Jesse doesn’t need Walt anymore, which would basically be Jesse’s ways of signing Walt’s death certificate.

It’s not like the show’s runners would kill off their main character, Walt, 18 episodes before the series finale…right?

And also a man so terrified and so desperate to keep his DEA brother-in-law Hank away from Gus’ factory, where Walt cooks the product, that he sideswipes his Aztek into an oncoming car at high speeds and puts the already injured Hank in a neck-brace, all to save his own ass and keep his secret for a little longer. Now that Gus is coming for Hank, though, there’s not much Walt can do to protect either one of them at this point, other than have Saul place an anonymous phone call to the DEA offices to say that the Cartel is out to kill Hank, leading the DEA to send agents to Hank’s home for protection. Marie (Betsy Brandt) calls Skyler in sheer panic, telling Skyler’s voicemail that once again Hank has a target on his head.

Walt, lying in the filth of the crawl space, hears the message and starts laughing even harder, and even more maniacally. He knows that Hank, like himself, is in deep trouble, especially now that Gus will know that Walt “interfered.” The look on Skyler’s face throughout the closing minute of “Crawl Space” is priceless, as well as chilling: Finally, after merely assuming the situation’s gravity for so long, she clearly sees that her family is near death. Unless Walt can think of something, which it’s safe to assume he will—it’s not like the show’s runners would kill off their main character 18 episodes before the series finale…right?

And, yes, we still have two more episodes left in Season Four. The only way that the next episode’s closing moments can top the intensity of “Crawl Space” would be to kill off a major character in a particularly gruesome manner—as much as it pains us to say it, we’re looking at you, Hank.

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

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