'Breaking Bad': What the Critics Are Saying
The penultimate season of AMC's Breaking Bad came to an end with the Oct. 9 finale, and critics and fans seem fairly unanimous in their praise of the episode that offered equal parts resolution and unanswered questions.
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"Face Off," a double entendre if ever there were one, followed Walter's (Bryan Cranston) showdown with with rival meth distributors and included the literal face-melting of gangster Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito).
The Hollywood Reporter’s chief TV critic Tim Goodman was on board with the episode, calling it a "compelling, fulfilling restart button for the last 16 episodes."
He was less impressed with the dramatic reveal of Gus' gory demise.
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"That wasn’t the shocker it may have been -- I just saw it coming. And I loved the execution of it right until Gus walked out of the room like Terminator – face off! -- when the bomb exploded," he writes. "I thought that was a little too much, honestly."
Slate's Jessica Grose shares Goodman's lack of surprise with the dispatching of Gus.
"Though this episode delivered when it came to quality, it was the first episode in recent memory where I didn’t feel like every move was unpredictable," she writes. "I didn’t think Gus would survive the season finale, and he didn’t -- though I was impressed with the plotting around Gus’ murder."
CNN's Carl Williott had few objects to the finale, praising the show for the suspense it held onto throughout Season 4, besting some of the previous outings.
"This run, more than the others, favored finesse over fireworks. The meticulous structure led to a gradual swell of tension that crept up like flood waters. By the end of last night’s episode, the water was up to chin level. And in a matter of minutes, it all receded. Sweet relief," he writes.
Trying to draw parallels for fans not intimately acquainted with the series, several critics pointed to two iconic HBO shows.
Paste writer Brent Koepp sees a similarity to the structure and storytelling of The Wire.
"In a lot of ways, I see a lot of similarities between Breaking Bad and The Wire, the latter being a show that didn’t hammer its audience over the head constantly with flashy moments, but instead expected the audience to be patient and see what all the plot threads and groundwork were building up to," he writes.
While New York Magazine writer Logan Hill makes a bolder statement: "Was The Sopranos really ever any better than this show? I'd say no."
TVGuide critic Matt Roush makes no such comparisons, but does seem to qualify Breaking Bad as a stand-out among TV series.
"This episode -- written and directed by Vince Gilligan with a superior blend of suspense and pitch-black humor -- is a textbook example of how to provide resolution for a spectacular season while leaving us anxiously wondering 'what next?' " he writes.
What's next will come some time in 2012, when AMC begins to roll out the final 16 episodes.