Quite an ending to the third season of Breaking Bad. "Full Measure" continued the tradition of keeping up the tension through plot twists you don't necessarily see coming.
The prologue, following third season protocol, starts with a scene from the past. Walt and pregnant Skyler are looking at their new house. He's a hot shot young chemist who's going places and doesn't think the place is good enough. We know the unfortunate, even bleak future he has in front of him. This is an old dramatic trick, but it usually works--we know the bitter, sad people of today, and we're given a glimpse of their young, hopeful past.
Back in the present, Walt, his car still banged up from killing two of Gus's dealers, meets Gus (with Mike and his other aide) in the middle of nowhere. (As I've said, the first season mocked these sorts of grandiose meeting places, but they've become commonplace on the show.)
They know what Walt did. Gus is so angry he lapses (intentionally?) into his Spanish accent. Walt says he has two options--kills him and Jesse, or move on and make money. Gus agrees to the latter. Apparently. I was suspicious, since it would leave us nowhere dramatically. The problem would be solved and we can go on without any fear. That's no way for a series finale to go. Besides, Gus is mad and we've seen how easily he kills. But we know he's also canny. He's probably biding his time. Down time with no cooking is costly.
Walt goes into work the next day, and, as we perhaps expected, good old Gale is his new assistant. Gale, everyone's favorite fall guy. And Walt is closely watched, now--the aide hangs around the lab--pretty boring work for a man of action.
Mike drops off his granddaughter (a character scene) and moves on to his business of the day. Turns out Gus hasn't heard the end of the Cartel, and they've sent some guys up to probe for weaknesses. Mike ruthlessly and efficiently takes them out, as well as sending a message to Gus's own people who may not be on the up and up. (And sending a message to network execs that he could star in his own series.) This is a guy you don't want to mess with. When he talks to Gus, we also find out, as anyone would expect, that they don't plan to let Pinkman go, either.
At Gale's place, he enjoys a little music ("Crapa Pelada") and putters around. I like this guy. It can't end well.
Gus makes a surprise visit. To what do I own this honor? Gus, as we expected, wants Gale to replace Walt. And soon. (We expected this earlier in the season, but now it's certain.) Gus puts it nicely--Walt is ill and needs to be replaced--but Gale gets this is serious and it can't wait. He recognizes Walt is a master, but he can learn quickly. (It's important that Walt makes meth like no one else or the whole plot falls apart.)
At the lab, Gale is more inquisitive than usual. Does Walt know what's happening?
At Saul's, Mike bursts in. He threatens Saul, wants him to give up Pinkman. As Saul later notes, this is just wrong--who works for whom here? (I often don't like when shows change power relationships this way.) Saul doesn't want to give up a client--it even goes against the little ethics he has--but he seems to be ready under duress. Jesse's in Virginia. Are we going out there? Does the show have a travel budget?
Next thing you know, Saul is showing Walt the laser tag place he wants him to buy, but Walt still doesn't seem interested. Aren't things too hot to worry about this now? But once they're inside the building, we're relieved to find out that Walt and Saul are in on it. They're not dupes. They know the car is bugged and they're being followed. Jesse, as we've guessed, is hiding in the joint as well. He and Walt have a serious talk, as serious as they've ever had.
Both know this is it. They're going to kill Walt as soon as Gale can take over. And they'll kill Jesse when they find him. Can Walt work out a deal first? They realize there's only one solution for now--kill Gale.
Walt has said they're not killers...but, in fact, he is. A ruthless, coldblooded killer. There have been a number of times on the show they were backed up against the wall, and every time, corpses followed, often at the hand of Walt. But Jesse has never had the heart. He makes what sounds to me like a good suggestion. Go to the cops. They'll love Walt's info, and gladly give him witness protection. Meanwhile, Jesse can take all his money and go on the lam.
Walt, sounding like a real gangsta, says no DEA under any circumstances. Walt knows production has to contine, Gus can't stop. That's his leverage. To keep it up, Walt will kill Gale. What's another body? Jesse can track him first, since he's the wild card. (Btw, I was expecting Hank to show up somehow, but I guess he's out of the picture. He can't even walk yet.)
We get a pan of Walt's house, mirroring the shot opening the show. Now it's a domestic scene, and Walt is holding his baby. He knows what he'll be doing very soon. Jesse calls him and gives him the address. Then tells him don't do it, go to the cops.
In the driveway, Gus's aide drives up and tells Walt there's a leak at the lab. Walt knows what this means, so I was surprised to see him take the ride. I figured he'd at least try to stop the guy along the way. At the site, Mike is there, ready to take Walt into the lab and take care of the "leak" for good. Does Walt have a plan?
He turns and begs Mike for a chance to talk to Gus. Mike says he can't do it. Time for full measures. Walt says he'll give up Jesse. Can't give an address, but can call him. Mike's interested. He calls Jesse and rather than giving him up, tells him to go shoot Gale. If Gale's gone, they can't shoot Walt. Good thinking. The aide rushes off while Mike stands there, for once not in control of the situation. Mike is smart, but Walt may just be smarter.
We cut to poor Gale, making tea and enjoying more exotic music. A knock on the door. He's getting more guests than usual lately. It's Jesse, who puts a gun to his head. "You don't have to do this." Jesse is in tears. He really isn't a killer. But he does it. (Some people apparently think he didn't shoot Gale, but I don't see any other interpretation.)
So put that in your pipe and smoke it. See you next year.