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Breaking Bad – S4E12 Analysis

In which Brock is poisoned.

If you don’t follow Breaking Bad, skip this post. If, like me, you’re completely hooked, you may find the following of interest.

I clicked into the Slate.com discussion of the most recent episode of Breaking Bad. To say that I am disappointed with the weak reasoning and shallow understanding of plot and character expressed there could win an award for understatement.
Walt poisoned Brock! Gus poisoned Brock! Saul poisoned Brock!

Jumped up Jesus on skis! Brock is just sick. He has not been poisoned at all. The entire idea stems solely from Jesse’s missing cigarette containing the vial of ricin with which he was supposed to kill Gus Fring. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, let’s dispense with the ridiculous…

Walt did not poison Brock. He had no opportunity to retrieve the vial of poison from Pinkman’s cigarettes and has absolutely no motive to poison the child.

Gus did not poison Brock. The only possible motive would be to motivate Jesse to kill Walter but it would be just as likely that Jesse would finger Tyrus (more on that below) and Gus Fring does NOT flip coins.

Saul did not poison Brock. He had no way of even knowing the vial of poison was in Jesse’s cigarette, and absolutely no motive to poison a child.

Tyrus is the only character who had opportunity to rifle through Jesse’s things (in the lab). He found the vial hidden in the cigarette. Even without knowing what it was he took it and, being the loyal henchman that he is, told Gus about finding the hidden vial.

At the hospital, Jesse told Gus that Brock had been poisoned. As he was walking back to his car, Gus put it together (with no small help stemming from the fact that he, himself, had just poisoned the entire Mexican cartel).
Gus’s logic: Jesse thinks Brock has been poisoned. He thinks that because the vial is missing (which Gus knows)…thus the vial contains poison. Walt is the only possible source for a vial of poison. Gus is going back to get some answers from Pinkman.

Prediction: Next big conflict will be between Gus and MIKE.
Mike likes Jesse (who saved his life) and has a strong (and unique) sense of justice – “No more half measures.”
Gus will live. He’s too strong a character to be written out of the show at this stage of the game. Tyrus, however, is a dead man. He’ll be looking for work on CSI: Miami after next week.

[I can also explain why the briefcase in Pulp Fiction did NOT contain Marcellus Wallace’s immortal soul.]

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15 Responses

  1. Why would Tyrus poison Brock if you say Gus has no motive to HAVE him poisoned? He wouldn’t just do it without an order from Gus. Walt knows about the ricin and he has a motive, Saul makes rent payment deliveries to Andrea’s house directly, information Walt is easily privy to, and Huell shook Jesse down and is clearly seen putting something in his own pocket afterward if you watch closely. Walt didn’t necessarily poison Brock with ricin, but he definitely needs Jesse to think that’s what happened, hence having the smoke removed by Saul/Huell. Saul is losing it and ready to hightail it out of there, so obviously something has happened with him to get him riled up. I think he’s done something beyond his boundaries and now he’s afraid that Gus will find out he had a hand in Walt’s plan to take Gus down, and if it fails or Gus figures it out early enough, then Saul is as dead as Walt, hence the panic.

    • I didn’t say Tyrus poisoned Brock. I SAID BROCK WAS NOT POISONED AT ALL.
      Tyrus merely took the vial of poison when he searched Jesse’s clothes at the lab…without even knowing what it was.
      I am perpetually shocked at the lengths people will go to fill in back story in support of propositions that are plainly contradicted by the laws of nature.
      At LEAST read the bit before arguing with me.

      • BTW, your own theory that Brock became mysteriously and seriously ill (but NOT poisoned) the exact same day that a vial containing poison goes missing from Jesse’s possession is much more ludicrous and unbelievable than machinations from either Gus or Heisenberg.

        You mentioned that you believe Walt is incompetent at everything but chemistry. He certainly wasn’t incompetent when he planned and carried out the coercion of money from and acquiescence of Tuco – or the methodical execution of two drug dealers – or when he foresaw Gus’ plan to replace him, then countered with the plan to murder Gale, getting Jesse to get Gale’s address, then expertly lying and tricking a seasoned professional killer like Mike to allow him to use his phone.

        Your reasoning holds no water.

  2. You seem to be missing quite a lot of clues (they are subtle – to be sure – but present nonetheless) in S4E12 – and throughout Season 4 in general.

    Fact: Saul not only visits Andrea and Brock weekly – but the show went out of it’s way to show that Saul has rapport with the boy (telling him a cute story in ‘Hermanos’).

    Fact: Walter spins the gun a 3rd time and it lands on what appears to be a Hyacinth plant. The camera literally pans to it – making it center screen – as Walter’s face changes from resignation to calculation. Hyacinth is poisonous as well – but much less deadly than ricin.

    Fact: When Huell frisks Jesse, not only is the camera setup in such a way that you can’t see his left hand move to Jesse’s pockets, but you can CLEARLY see it enter his own pocket when the frisk is finished – why on Earth does Gilligan include that if it’s not part of the plan (or a red herring to make you suspect Walt at the very least).

    Fact: Walter is not shown for the entire day and night after the morning spin-the-gun scene (Jesse visits him the following morning). He doesn’t answer his phone to 3 different calls – what is he doing??

    You say Walt has no motive to poison Brock – huh?!? He has TONS of motive – he’s facing a murderous thug with no allies – his entire family is in danger – and his former partner has been cajoled into switching sides. He HAS to get help in order to get close to Gus – and this is his answer.

    IMO, Walt’s (or I should say Heisenberg’s) plan is well-conceived and perfectly executed – based on his astute knowledge of Jesse’s pysche and history – his intelligence – and his knowledge of chemistry (the boy has been poisoned with something else other than ricin – Hyacinth, wolf’s bane, etc – the stealing of the cigarette is just a smokescreen to trigger Jesse’s suspicions).

    It does involve some risk – but certainly no more risk than he faces awaiting retaliation from Gus alone in his house. Remember – this is the last stand – all bets are off and risks MUST be taken. He just has to convince Saul – by hook or by crook – to get on board with the plan. Once he accomplishes that, what can go wrong with the plan?

    A) Jesse catches Huell grabbing his cigarettes: Huell makes up some story about hearing about the deadly poison in the pack from Walt. The plan is simply aborted with no loss.

    B) Saul is unable to deliver the poison to the boy: The plan is simply aborted with no loss. But the writers have established that it’s likely Saul could give him some candy, etc, without too much difficulty, based on the previous episode’s interactions between the two.

    C) Jesse doesn’t put 2+2 together – and doesn’t think it was poison: A followup call by Saul might prod Jesse in the right direction.

    D) Jesse thinks it was Gus immediately: Either Jesse kills Gus and/or gets killed – not the hoped-for effect – but still a stay-of-execution for Heisenberg in either case.

    E) Jesse thinks it was Walt and kills him without speaking to him: Highly unlikely, given their history together – and the fact that Jesse is not the type to whom killing comes easily. But if he does, Walter has the same fate (death) that he would surely have if he faces Gus alone with no allies.

    And finally:

    F) Jesse thinks it was Walt and comes to confront him: Walter anticipates this – leaves the empty gun within reach of Jesse – and then proceeds to play his ‘part’ expertly. Watch the scene again – it’s Heisenberg all over – exactly the same guy we saw sobbing to Mike in last season’s finale, convincing him (and us) that he would sellout Jesse (in order to use his phone) – and then turning on a dime into the cold, calculating person he has become.

    Walt has constructed this false scenario so perfectly to Jesse – with the gun pressed against his forehead, yelling at Jesse to kill him if he doesn’t believe him – that it will be difficult (if not impossible) for Gus to convince Jesse that he didn’t do it.

    It now appears that Gus has figured out Walt’s plan – and might force Jesse to return with him – thereby taking him ‘hostage’ – so to speak. This MIGHT cause a confrontation between Gus and Mike – with Mike siding with his young protege – which would solve Walt’s problems again.

    I thought this week’s episode of Breaking Bad was brilliant – and perfectly in keeping with the stated themes of Gilligan – and in the overall arc of the series; i.e. Walter White’s descent.

    What’s amazing is that the BB writers are so perfectly achieving the EXACT effect that they have been talking about for years: dragging the audience, kicking and screaming, while the ‘hero’ is being shifted from protagonist to antagonist.

    Most viewers appear to be in one of the stages of ‘anger’ or ‘denial’- after a season of watching WW display almost a constant arrogance; a disregard for anyone outside his immediate family (sometimes even IN his family – as with the ‘I’m the one who knocks’ speech to Skylar – or his veiled boasts to Hank), and an insufferable lack of compassion, empathy, or the tiniest modicum of understanding for Jesse Pinkman, viewers STILL want to believe that he’s not THAT bad that he would poison a child he doesn’t know. Wow – a fantastic, highly-effective deconstruction of the entire notion of the classic Greek narrative structure.

    Fantastic writing – kudus to the entire Breaking Bad team for a brilliant idea – and the gumption to do something that they KNOW will alienate a portion of their audience – but remain true to their distinct and dark vision.

    • Fact: Saul not only visits Andrea and Brock weekly – but the show went out of it’s way to show that Saul has rapport with the boy (telling him a cute story in ‘Hermanos’).

      Not persuasive.

      Fact: Walter spins the gun a 3rd time and it lands on what appears to be a Hyacinth plant. The camera literally pans to it – making it center screen – as Walter’s face changes from resignation to calculation. Hyacinth is poisonous as well – but much less deadly than ricin.

      A complete stretch.

      Fact: When Huell frisks Jesse, not only is the camera setup in such a way that you can’t see his left hand move to Jesse’s pockets, but you can CLEARLY see it enter his own pocket when the frisk is finished – why on Earth does Gilligan include that if it’s not part of the plan (or a red herring to make you suspect Walt at the very least).

      How did Huell know the smokes were there? Why would he grab a pack of smokes? Wouldn’t he hunting for a gun…something? A pack of smokes? Back to ‘How did he know they were there?’

      Fact: Walter is not shown for the entire day and night after the morning spin-the-gun scene (Jesse visits him the following morning). He doesn’t answer his phone to 3 different calls – what is he doing??

      Who cares what he was doing? WHERE and WHEN did have opportunity to access Pinkman’s smokes?

      You say Walt has no motive to poison Brock – huh?!? He has TONS of motive – he’s facing a murderous thug with no allies – his entire family is in danger – and his former partner has been cajoled into switching sides. He HAS to get help in order to get close to Gus – and this is his answer.

      Wild speculation bordering on madness.

      IMO, Walt’s (or I should say Heisenberg’s) plan is well-conceived and perfectly executed – based on his astute knowledge of Jesse’s pysche and history – his intelligence – and his knowledge of chemistry (the boy has been poisoned with something else other than ricin – Hyacinth, wolf’s bane, etc – the stealing of the cigarette is just a smokescreen to trigger Jesse’s suspicions).

      Walt is genius at chemistry. At pretty much everything else, he’s almost incompetent. Yet you want to make him out as some sort of tertiary level criminal mastermind. Ain’t buying it.

      It does involve some risk – but certainly no more risk than he faces awaiting retaliation from Gus alone in his house. Remember – this is the last stand – all bets are off and risks MUST be taken. He just has to convince Saul – by hook or by crook – to get on board with the plan. Once he accomplishes that, what can go wrong with the plan?

      A) Jesse catches Huell grabbing his cigarettes: Huell makes up some story about hearing about the deadly poison in the pack from Walt. The plan is simply aborted with no loss.

      Huell heard about poison from Walt? And Walt told Huell why? MORE IMPORTANTLY, since Walt did not and would not have mentioned shit about the ricin to anyone (much less Saul or Huell!), how would Huell have even the foggiest idea to make up a story about hearing about a poison he had never heard of???

      B) Saul is unable to deliver the poison to the boy: The plan is simply aborted with no loss. But the writers have established that it’s likely Saul could give him some candy, etc, without too much difficulty, based on the previous episode’s interactions between the two.

      C) Jesse doesn’t put 2+2 together – and doesn’t think it was poison: A followup call by Saul might prod Jesse in the right direction.

      D) Jesse thinks it was Gus immediately: Either Jesse kills Gus and/or gets killed – not the hoped-for effect – but still a stay-of-execution for Heisenberg in either case.

      E) Jesse thinks it was Walt and kills him without speaking to him: Highly unlikely, given their history together – and the fact that Jesse is not the type to whom killing comes easily. But if he does, Walter has the same fate (death) that he would surely have if he faces Gus alone with no allies.

      And finally:

      F) Jesse thinks it was Walt and comes to confront him: Walter anticipates this – leaves the empty gun within reach of Jesse – and then proceeds to play his ‘part’ expertly. Watch the scene again – it’s Heisenberg all over – exactly the same guy we saw sobbing to Mike in last season’s finale, convincing him (and us) that he would sellout Jesse (in order to use his phone) – and then turning on a dime into the cold, calculating person he has become.

      Walt has constructed this false scenario so perfectly to Jesse – with the gun pressed against his forehead, yelling at Jesse to kill him if he doesn’t believe him – that it will be difficult (if not impossible) for Gus to convince Jesse that he didn’t do it.

      It now appears that Gus has figured out Walt’s plan – and might force Jesse to return with him – thereby taking him ‘hostage’ – so to speak. This MIGHT cause a confrontation between Gus and Mike – with Mike siding with his young protege – which would solve Walt’s problems again.

      I thought this week’s episode of Breaking Bad was brilliant – and perfectly in keeping with the stated themes of Gilligan – and in the overall arc of the series; i.e. Walter White’s descent.

      What’s amazing is that the BB writers are so perfectly achieving the EXACT effect that they have been talking about for years: dragging the audience, kicking and screaming, while the ‘hero’ is being shifted from protagonist to antagonist.

      Most viewers appear to be in one of the stages of ‘anger’ or ‘denial’- after a season of watching WW display almost a constant arrogance; a disregard for anyone outside his immediate family (sometimes even IN his family – as with the ‘I’m the one who knocks’ speech to Skylar – or his veiled boasts to Hank), and an insufferable lack of compassion, empathy, or the tiniest modicum of understanding for Jesse Pinkman, viewers STILL want to believe that he’s not THAT bad that he would poison a child he doesn’t know. Wow – a fantastic, highly-effective deconstruction of the entire notion of the classic Greek narrative structure.

      Fantastic writing – kudus to the entire Breaking Bad team for a brilliant idea – and the gumption to do something that they KNOW will alienate a portion of their audience – but remain true to their distinct and dark vision.

      You are insane. The most fantastic bit of pure imagination I’ve ever encountered. Unencumbered by facts or reason.

      • “You are insane. The most fantastic bit of pure imagination I’ve ever encountered. Unencumbered by facts or reason.”

        I mentioned a few facts – echoed by scores of other fans across the web – which you responded to with phrases like ‘Not persuasive’ and ‘A complete stretch’ – along with other highly cogent rebuttals.

        If you digest the material on the Breaking Bad website – and the public pronouncements by Gilligan & Co. – AND the response to the episode by the fans – it’s obvious that they intended the answer (to who poisoned Brock) to be ambiguous until the final.

        If that’s true (and I believe it is), all of the possible evidence and/or red herrings point less to insanity on my part – and more to either your own obliviousness or total lack of imagination.

        • Of course, time will tell.
          I do this professionally.
          As I posted, the only reason ANYONE thinks Brock was poisoned is because Jesse couldn’t find the cigarette.
          Work from there.
          If you do, most of what you posit falls apart.

  3. Unca Avi, why you so wrong alla time?

    • I LEARNED FROM YOU, OKAY?

      • Everybody dead. Walt wins. Except maybe he forgot to figure out what winning means. Pretty soon the entire Galindo cartel’s going to be at his door looking for their coke and guns and that 700 large they fronted him for the first shipment. No wait…that’s Sons of Anarchy. Who’s this Walt again?

  4. Lmao, so you were totally totally dead wrong on almost everything and it was all so obvious. Good show.

  5. LOL you said: “Of course, time will tell.
    I do this professionally.
    As I posted, the only reason ANYONE thinks Brock was poisoned is because Jesse couldn’t find the cigarette.
    Work from there.
    If you do, most of what you posit falls apart.”

    Maybe you should find a new profession.

  6. Walt did indeed poison Brock. He used Lily of the Valley. As one of the above posts mentions, the gun points to the plant in his yard in the next to last episode when Walt is desperately seeking a solution to the problem of Gus. Jesse tells Walt the Drs. said Brock had ingested Lily of the Valley. And the final scene of the final episode returns to that plant in Walt’s yard and pans in close so we can actually read the nursery tag- Lily of the Valley. I don’t understand how you missed this. You need to watch again.
    Vince Gilligan has said time and again that his purpose in creating the show was to show the slow turn of Mr.Chips into Scarface. Walt poisons Brock because it is the one thing he can think of that will get Jesse back on his team when he desperately needs his help. His character has indeed changed to the point where he will do whatever he needs to to save him self and his family. And it works. Mission accomplished.

    • I didn’t miss it. The post was written before the final episode. Without going back to check, I think I said Walt didn’t poison Brock with RICIN (although I might be wrong…I’m just too lazy to check).
      Disappointed they killed Gus Fring. IMO, he was the best part of the show. Now I’ll have to make do with being afraid of Mike.

    • Considering the show is largely about following a reasonably decent man down the slippery and highly profitable slope (fantastic touch), I agree that this is the far most likely option.

      But, as Gus’ thugs were in the backyard, there is a small possibility that Gus wanted to set Walt up by using some of Walt’s own plant. Since I’m not sure how long that plant was there, it could also potentially have been put there by Gus as some “chess move” to bait Walt into doing it himself or a “message” to Walt that he did it. Neither of which is above Gus’ character.

      Small chance, but still enough wiggle room to not be 100% sure. Not hitting you over the head with a hammer is another nice touch.

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