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Breaking Bad Recap: “Full Measure” (Season 3 Finale)

June 14, 2010

Walt and Mike head their separate ways.

Hmm.  Is it safe to call the show Broken Bad now?  I have held out hope, despite all the signs pointing otherwise, that Walt is still a decent human being.  Guess I was wrong.  The season finale of Breaking Bad was a mixed bag, as far as I am concerned.  Let me be clear, I thoroughly enjoyed it, but  with so many story lines swirling around (Skylar? Hank? The cartel vs. Gus?) I was left wanting a little.  Who didn’t want to see Hank open a can of whup-ass on someone this season?  Looks like Hank’s reckoning day will have to wait for another season.  So be it.

(Spoilers for the season finale of Breaking Bad.) The writers chose to end season three with a Walt/Jesse centric episode.  This is the episode that has absolutely confirmed the fact that Walt has gone to the dark side.  He has sold his soul to the devil, and then some.  We’ve seen the characters of Walt and Jesse transpose throughout the series .  Jesse was a strung out loser with questionable morals and penchant for the rock and roll lifestyle.  Really, nothing he would have done would have surprised us.  Now, he serves as the moral compass of the dysfunctional duo.

Walt was initially drawn to a life of crime out of necessity.  He was dying, and cooking meth was a quick way for him to make cash to leave his family.  Now he has become a comon thug, routinely participating in atrocities he never could have imagined before.

“Full Measure” began with a flashback to Walt and Skylar buying their home when she was pregnant with Walt Jr.  Walt is sporting a full head of hair (anyone else find it completely bizarre to see Bryan Cranston with hair again?).  We get a little insight into Walt’s previous relationship with money and materialism.  Apparently, this (the current White residence) was not the first choice for Walt.

He tries to convince a guarded Skylar to keep looking elsewhere, “Why buy a starter house?  Why be cautious, we have no where to go but up!”  This is a brilliant way to let us know that things did indeed go downward for Walt.  They still live in that “starter house,” so obviously things didn’t go according to plan for young Walt. I also thought this might be tipping us off a bit to why Walt keeps cooking, even though he doesn’t have to.  Does he have some deep-rooted issues about making money and feeling inadequate doing so?   It certainly makes perfect sense. Will he be overcompensating forever for past (perceived) shortcomings?

The next scene cuts to the desert.  Walt is in his (dented) car watching the horizon.  An SUV slowly enters the landscape, and Walt dons his “Heisenberg” hat and exits his vehicle. He ends up confronting Mike, who is pissed that he has not slept because he has been cleaning up Walt’s mess.

“You said no half measure,” Walt replies.

“Funny how words can be so open to interpretation,” says Mike.

Is it just me?  I think Mike was very clear on what he was alluding to last week.  Didn’t Walt do exactly what Mike was inferring he should do?

Gus gets out of the car and gives Walt a tongue lashing.  The only excuse for Walt’s lapse in judgement must be a medical ailment.  Walt assures him that this is not the case, and calls Gus out on possibly putting a hit on the eleven year old (Tomas.)  Mike looks at Walt like he is nuts.

Walt offers up two scenarios.  1) They kill him, and hunt down Jesse.  2) They let him keep cooking, and forget about the rest.

At the end of the day, Gus is a business man, so he agrees to let Walt continue, but he will choose the assistant.  We all know where this is going.

Enter dorky but reliable lab assistant Gale.  Walt and Gale resume their symbiotic lab relationship, only this time Gus has a guard on the mezzanine watching them at all times.  I think we all know that Gale is being groomed for Walt’s position, so every query he makes seems particularly sinister. Walt seems on to that as well, because he remains elusive when he answers any questions about the procedures.

After work, Gale is visited at his apartment by Gus, who divulges that Walt has cancer, and that Gale is next in line to run the lab. Gus stresses that he has a “desire for continuity” and he wants everything done the same way.  Gale suggests having one or two more cooks, but when Gus gives him the stink eye he realizes that is not the direction Gus wishes to go.

The next day in the lab, there is a brand new dynamic between Gale and Walt.  Gale does a poor job of disguising his desire to know the procedures, and this seems to trigger Walt’s suspicion.

Mike visits Saul, in order to get Jesse’s address.  Saul claims ignorance, but says he will leave his desk for a bit (to make a Nescafe!), and hints that whatever Mike finds on his desk is fair game.  What a predictable schmuck.

Next, Saul drives Walt to the Lazer Base building, where he further tries to convince Walt that this is the place to launder his money. Once inside, Jesse emerges!  He has been in town the whole time. Saul actually did not sell him out.

Walt and Jesse have a talk, and Walt divulges that he believes Gus is ready to kill him and let Gale take over.  He bluntly says to Jesse, “You know what we have to do.”  Walt is being watched, so he tells Jesse that he needs to find Gale’s address.

Jesse pleads with Walt, saying that there must be a better way . Walt pulls out, ” I saved your life Jesse, are you going to save me?”  Jesus.  What’s a dude to do?

Walt heads home and is spending some time with Holly when his phone rings.  Jesse has found Gale’s address.  Walt leaves to do the dirty deed, but he is intercepted by one of Gus’s employees.  Walt is taken to the lab under the pretense of a chemical leak, but he knows that this is the end of the rope for him.  At the lab, he begs Mike for mercy, and offers up Jesse’s whereabouts as collateral.  The bait is taken, and Walt calls Jesse, who inquires whether or not Walt has taken care of Gale.  Walt explains that no, he can’t do that now, and it is up to Jesse.  The phone is wrestled away, and Walt shouts that Jesse must go do it, and that they are going to kill him.

When Mike wants to know what was going on, Walt coldly instructs Mike to not pull the trigger because, ” Your boss is going to need me.” He recites Gale’s address.

For the final scene, we see a terrified Jesse focusing a gun on Gale.  Jesse is trembling, and has bloodshot eyes.  He is clearly conflicted.  He pulls the trigger.  End of season.

A few thoughts:  did you enjoy the little scene where we got to see the true capability of Mike?  His take down of a multitude of people was telling of exactly how calculating he is.  I certainly have a little more respect for him now.  I had no idea he was that much of a bad-ass.  They have to be setting him up for a bigger role next season, right?

I initially thought that Walt was just selling out Jesse (at the end), but then it seemed part of a plan.   Was Walt really giving up Jesse, or was he trying to send him a  message?

What are Walt’s motivations, at this point?  He is way beyond self preservation.

Did you like the finale, or did you want to see more story lines resolved?

Thanks for reading the recaps this season.  For an archive of season three recaps, click here.


13 Responses to “ Breaking Bad Recap: “Full Measure” (Season 3 Finale) ”

  1. Dylan on June 14, 2010 at 12:40 am

    As far as Mike’s allusion I thought it was quite clear he considered Jesse the problematic side of the equation; considered from his perspective I couldn’t see it any other way–businessman Mike functions in an ethically different mode from family man Mike. Business is addition and subtraction and Jesse was just unnecessary complication.

    The climax I thought less of a stimulus than that of “One Minute” and even “Half-Measure.” But I concede that was surely meditated. After six seasons of Lost I’m not angry for the dangling-ends and lack of closure in closing the season; it’s to be expected, but how does this set up the next season? Are we looking at an entire season of Walt/Jesse evading, will it be resolved early (but if so how does that season climax?), will Gus actually use Walt in the lab again (doesn’t seem plausible to me)?

  2. Brad on June 14, 2010 at 1:02 am

    I felt that the ending of “Full Measure” was ambiguous. After watching a second time I noticed that as we stare down the barrel of Jesse’s gun, he moves it to the side (possibly away from Gale) before pulling the trigger. Did he shoot Gale or was someone else in the apartment? I don’t want to wait a year to find out, but I guess I have no choice. I believe Walt and Jesse will both end up on the lam, doubtful that he will still be cooking for Gus. I had predicted that Walt would take out Gus during this episode and take over his business, could be a possible arc in season 4. With Skyler’s new involvement in Walt’s affairs I’m eager to see her reaction to these events because it seemed like she was going to start working with Walt.

  3. Robert Jay on June 14, 2010 at 1:15 am

    I was fascinated with they finale~ however, i did feel that it left me wanting more. I believe the true climax was in “half measure” i think they should have stopped it rite there~ this episode or finale i felt was a waste of an hour and unneccessary. I will wait around for season 4 and like always i know a new plot will be in line full of danger & adventure, i trust that the producers and creaters of breaking bad know exactly whats in store for the viewers! I feel that season 4 will be action packed and more intense than any of the other seasons combined… be prepared viewers more is in store than what meets the eye!

  4. Mattp702 on June 14, 2010 at 1:30 am

    By the end of the episode, it was very clear that Walt was not sending Jesse a cryptic message, nor was he selling him out. Walt in fact told Jesse exactly what was happening, and that he needed to kill Gale himself.

  5. BrBa on June 14, 2010 at 1:51 am

    Are people led to thinking that they were they really going to kill Walt? I kind of got the feeling that Gus was truly going to retire Walt and not kill him yet – don’t understand why he would choose his two junkie dealers over Walt’s entrepreneurship.

    I am left thinking there could have been a real chemical leak, or Jesse shot a part of Gale to handicap him – arms or legs or something instead of killing him fully.

  6. Jim on June 14, 2010 at 1:53 am

    Gale is not dead. He shot to the side, or perhaps the guy that ran from the lab to try to save Gale. They will both be alive and greater insurance for Walt.

    Jesse is not a killer.

  7. G-Re-g on June 14, 2010 at 2:34 am

    Gale is deader than a doornail. “Breaking Bad” creator Vince Gilligan explains on The Onion AV Club that the camera dolly swivels so that the viewer can see the last thing Gale sees … a snub-nosed revolver pointed in his face. Jesse does not aim the gun away from Gale.

  8. Voidman on June 14, 2010 at 2:51 am

    I too thought Jesse move the gun to the side before he pulled the trigger, but when I viewed it again through the DVR it seemed like the camera swung in front of the gun making the illusion of Jesse’s arm swinging away from Gale. When the gun goes off it’s pointing directly at the screen.

  9. Dylan on June 14, 2010 at 3:41 am

    A chemical leak? Oh, it seems so plausible. No actually it’s a very thin veil if you examine its logic. Besides, Walt pleads with Mike, “You don’t have to do this,” in which case Mike could have replied, “It’s really just a leak relax.” And let me reaffirm, Gale is dead. Maybe viewers are spatially confused–I did not get that feel the 1st time I viewed it (actually the only time I viewed it).

    It makes sense. It leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths. It was cold-blooded murder. Gale balances out Tomas. He has seemingly little understanding for the drug world of which he is part; he is cultured, he read literature, he is mild, unassuming, he likes to cook, etc. He is an innocent. When he realizes his peril with Jesse his reaction is quite child-like. He cries (of course) in a sort of soft way, mumbles out a plea because he doesn’t understand the reason (is ignorant), is isolated, and is completely defenseless. There was very strong pathos in his part. In many ways Tomas was probably more corrupt than Gale appeared.

    And this is irony. Jesse was the one who initiated the fiasco by plotting to poison the thugs for their manipulation of Andrea’s kid brother Tomas. His first reaction if it can be said to be from conscience, launched a chain of events that ended up with him killing, in cold blood, probably like the thugs did, this child-like figure. Very good.

  10. adam on June 15, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    First, just to clear it up, Gale is dead. Here’s the link for what some people said above:

    Second, Shannon, I think that Walt made a mistake, and got away with it; we assume he will never make this mistake again. His mistake was believing he used a full measure when he actually employed a half measure. Yes, Walt killed the drug dealers, but that is only part of what he needed to do. Walt needed to clean up the scene, a task Mike later had to do. Walt needed to cover is own ass from Gus, a task no one took care of. If Walt used a full measure, no one would have known he was there. THAT is was Mike would call a full measure.

    Mike looked at Walt like he was nuts when he talked back to Gus, and it is the same look Mike had before he said the bit about words being open to interpretation. Walt did not do what Mike implied, Walt only did what he inferred from what Mike said.

  11. Shannon on June 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks for the link. I always thought that Jesse really did it, but my husband was one of those who felt like Jesse changed the direction of the gun at the last second. I said, so what, Gale could have moved to the side.
    Good observations, and I just loved that look that Mike gave Walt when he talked back to Gus.

  12. Cody on June 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Generally a good write-up, but I agree with Dylan that Mike was clearly implying that something needed to be done about Jesse, not the dealers.

    I also found the episode very underwhelming compared to “Half Measures.” Possibly because the audience was aware that Walt intended to murder Gale about 15 minutes before it actually happened. Combined with the fact that we know that Walt wasn’t going to die, the ending was obvious and stretched-out, and that robbed it of any dramatic tension or the kind of punch that the previous episode delivered.

    I further wasn’t a fan of Mike’s rampage, because his almost bored demeanour while dispatching four guys was so damn cartoonish compared to the realistic agonizing that other characters have gone through when killing people on the show. I mean, maybe he’s a psychopath, but his adrenaline doesn’t even get going. Between him and Tuco’s cousins, they’re throwing the psychological impact of murder aside in favour of over-the-top bullshit one can find in dozens of inferior shows.

    Maybe the fact that I saw it after all of my friends and they hyped it up ruined it for me, even though I managed to avoid spoilers.

  13. Shannon on June 22, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    @Cody I admire you for avoiding spoilers for so long. It is almost impossible in this day and age to do so. I can definitely see if this had been hyped for a few weeks to you that it would be a bit underwhelming. I still think Half Measures was far superior.