SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen the finale to "Breaking Bad" yet, skip to the end.
SERIOUSLY, SKIP TO THE END NOW!
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So, um, wow!
I have always been on the "Breaking Bad" bandwagon, calling it one of the best shows on TV when it first debuted four seasons ago. Given the show's ratings and subject matter, I didn't expect it to catch on or get the Emmy love it has gotten.
Usually, after a few seasons, a show will start to decline as ideas get old and characters are no longer fresh.
For "Bad," however, this might be its finest season yet, and one of the best endings to a TV season I've ever seen for any series.
To recap, Walt and Jesse are trying to kill drug kingpin Gus (Emmy-worthy Giancarlo Esposito) before he kills them. But Gus, with a sixth sense about such things, suspects he is in danger and doesn't get in his car, which Walt rigged with a bomb.
Meanwhile, the cops are questioning Jesse as to why he thinks his girlfriend's son has been poisoned with Ricin, a highly unusual substance for a toddler to ingest. Jesse has been holding on to a Ricin-laced cigarette in order to kill Gus but hasn't used it, in part because Gus seemingly has taken him under his wing.
Walt and Jesse devise a way to draw Gus out of his protected areas by using former cartel member Tio (Mark Margolis, who manages to communicate more with his eyes and facial tics than most actors can do with dialogue). Tio sets off a bomb, killing himself, Gus and one of his lieutenants. The shot of Gus calmly walking out of Tio's room, only to see that half his face has been blown off, is one of the most stunning moments I've ever seen on TV.
But even that pales in comparison to the final shot of the season, in which we find out that it was Walt who poisoned the toddler in order to frame Gus to turn Jesse against him. In that moment, we see how far Walt has truly fallen.
I saw another critic blast the character of Walt and the show because they turned Walt from a nice guy caught in a bad spot into a bad guy, but for me, that's the entire essence of the show -- power corrupting and what lines will a person cross in order to protect his family. Of course Walt has become the villain of the piece -- it was inevitable. And yet, every decision he's made makes sense in the real world. When you deal with bad people, you are going to be forced to do bad things. And Walt, who has stared death in the face with his cancer, no longer fears the consequences of his actions.
Not just that, but we see how Walt's influence has corrupted Jesse, turning him into a killer, and Skyler, turning her into a criminal as well. One of the most telling moments of the season was when she criticized Walt for buying expensive champagne -- not because he was celebrating a criminal act, but because it was too expensive and might raise suspicion.
Creator Vince Gilligan has worked out a 16-episode series finale for next year with AMC, and it's almost impossible to guess in which direction the show will be heading. One thing is for certain -- the ride will be unforgettable.
MONDAY'S BEST BETS: First, Macon's own Nancy Grace had a "wardrobe malfunction" on "Dancing With The Stars" (ABC, 8 p.m.) Last week, she apparently passed gas on the air. What's she going to do this week? One shudders at the possibilities. It's followed by a new "Castle" at 10 p.m.
CBS' sitcoms are new, as is "Hawaii Five-0" at 10 p.m. I'm sorry, but last week's save by McGarrett suddenly catching the guy falling out of the airplane was beyond ridiculous. The show seems more bent on stunts and car chases these days than good storytelling.
NBC has "The Sing-Off," followed by a "Prime Suspect" rerun at 10 p.m. to fill in for the yanked "Playboy Club."
Fox has one more week to keep me interested in "Terra Nova" before I drop it, and it's the same deal with "House."
The CW airs new episodes of "Gossip Girl" and "Hart of Dixie" from 8-10 p.m.