I was expecting something really bad or big to happen during last night’s Breaking Bad. Like, really big as in “goodbye, main character”—whoever fate picked. But “End Times” reveled in teasing us by bringing things to the brink without quite providing the, uh, release. It was, in short, torture. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t love every second of it.

“End Times” didn’t kill anyone, but it reeked of death for an hour. The meth business, Brock, Hank, Skyler, Jesse, Gus, and Walter all had targets on their backs. When Gomez checked out the laundry with a drug dog, it seemed to be the end of Gus’s drug business. When Skyler went out on the deck for a cigarette, I thought a sniper might put a bullet through her skull. When Gus told Jesse there would be “an appropriate response,” I was certain that Andrea and her son Brock were screwed. When Jesse grabbed Walt’s gun and went El Pollo Loco on him, I thought—for just a split second—that Walt’s time was up. And of course, when Gus strolled toward his car in the parking garage while Walt thumbed a detonator on the roof of a nearby building, I figured that Gus would either bite it or see Walt and pull some Scanners sh*t and make Walt’s head explode with his mind.

Ahhhhhhh! It’s almost too much to handle, and that’s exactly how we’re supposed to feel. Breaking Bad is kind of like a bully who pretends to dead arm you over and over but never quite does it; we’re going to flinch everytime he cocks his arm, and when we least expect it, he’ll wail on us. Now we’re headed into the finale completely paranoid and aware that Breaking Bad can kill anyone at any time.

All right, let’s talk about Brock and the case of the missing extra-poisonous cigarette. I like that we don’t know who poisoned him because it puts us in the characters’ heads. We all have our suspicions regarding how it happened and who’s responsible, but we don’t have airtight evidence on anyone. I think we can safely assume it wasn’t Jesse or Walter, and that points all fingers at Gus. If it was Gus, as Walter suspects, and he really orchestrated the most elaborate plan ever to get Jesse to hold a gun to Walt’s forehead, then kudos to him. But come on, is that really plausible? It takes more than just a hint of suspicion to get one-time friends and business partners to want to kill each other.

I get that Gus is a smart cookie (I’d want him on my team, for sure) and that he’s trying to pit Jesse and Walter against each other, but if I were Jesse I wouldn’t believe Walter could do such a thing. Walter isn’t in the business of petty payback, and he knows that Jesse is keeping him alive. Once Gus told Jesse there would be an “appropriate response,” I would have gone knocking on Gus’s door before Walter’s. And who’s to say the kid didn’t just rummage through Jesse’s jacket and do himself in? That’s what kids do, and that’s why I make sure I hide all my instruments of death in my pants pockets. The whole situation is wonderfully ambiguous, and even if we never find out who poisoned Brock, I’ll be okay with that. The point was to increase suspicion and paranoia, and it did the trick.

Speaking of increasing suspicion, how did Gus know to walk away from his car? Is he like The Mentalist now? Was he acting on a hunch? Was he tipped off? It was another intentionally vague sequence that has me completely boggled. But unlike the mystery of the missing Ricin cigarette, I want to know what happened before the season is up. And I think we’ll find out during next week’s finale.

“End Times” placed Breaking Bad in an interesting position. We have plenty of suspects and plenty of motives, but no working plans for murder; so far, every attempt we’ve seen has failed. In these situations, where quick thinkers have the advantage, I like Walter’s chances. But that’s too obvious, isn’t it?

Notes:
– How did the show pull off the spinning gun thing? And what was the symbolism of the gun pointing to the plant on Walt’s last twirl?

– The shots of Jesse moving through the hospital to tell Andrea about the poison were fantastic and really set the tone for Jesse’s panic.

– Has Gus realized that Walter tipped off Hank yet? Walter certainly thinks so. How depressing was it to watch him sit in a dark house waiting to die?

– As good as this episode was, I thought it was a step down in quality from the last few.

– Who do you think will die in the finale? I still think Gus has to go. He’s the obstacle that’s preventing Walter from fully becoming Heisenberg. By the way, the title of the finale is “Face Off.” I can’t wait for Walter to get a face transplant with Gus.


Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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