Attention: Spoiler Alert! (No, but like really: Spoiler Alert.)
It was never going to be a happy ending for Walter White.
After watching a high school chemistry teacher transition into the Scarface of New Mexico over the course of five television seasons, it was hard to imagine a different ultimate fate. Breaking Bad is one of the best shows of our generation—maybe one of the greatest of all time. Acting, directing, writing, and overall execution are only some of the aspects that make this show special. Last night we were treated to another bullet point of its greatness—the story concluded with an actual ending. Show runners try too hard to “wow” people with endings, as opposed to give a show an ending it deserves and has earned. I by no means was wowed by this one specific episode, but will always be enchanted by the show overall. This one episode is just a larger part of the story that Vince Gillian wanted to tell.
After eluding the police, Walt leaves New Hampshire for his New Mexico home. His first stop: Gray Matter’s co-founders, Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz’s home. Walt breaks in and threatens his co-founders into, through back channels, donating the ever-dwindling meth money to Flynn on his 18th birthday. We then are matched up to the cold opening moments from previous episodes, as Walt receives the machine gun and retrieves the Ricin tablet.
Before he makes his final stop to the Neo-Nazis, Walt has to cross a few more ‘to do’s’ off of his bucket list quest. Crashing the Todd and Lydia meeting, Walt secretly poisons the businesswoman’s sugar. Then, in what was the best scene in the episode, Walt has one last conversation with Skyler. He gives her the lotto ticket with the coordinates to where Hank and Gomez are buried as leverage for her trial. After one last good-bye to Holly, he’s on his way to the end.
Walt drives into the Nazi compound, his cover that he found a way to make blue meth with out the Methylamine to keep cost and stress down. Of course, the Nazis are under orders to kill Heisenberg, but Walt essentially criticizes Uncle Jack’s ability to keep his hit promises, as he didn’t kill Jesse. Avoiding death one more time, when Jesse is brought into the room, Walt knocks him to the ground and activates the spring loaded machine gun in the trunk of his car, killing all of the Nazi’s. Jesses then strangles the life out of Todd and Walt finishes off Uncle Jack, knowing he’ll never see the rest of his money again.
Walt and Jesse are then engrossed in one last showdown. This time, Jesse refuses to kill Walt, as Walt wants him to supply death. Jesse spitefully tells his former mentor to do it himself after seeing that Walt was hit in the guy during the rain of bullets. As Jesse rides off, a physically free man (he’ll never be mentally free), Walt takes one last walk through the meth lab, dying as the police arrive and take over the site.
And that was Breaking Bad, folks.
When the credits rolled, I wasn’t excited or happy. I wasn’t furious or sad. I was content and pleased. I was satisfied. All major loose ends were tied up and every character’s story was concluded. The show had an ending. Walter White’s journey has been told with a beginning, middle, and end. Granted, the last few episodes were more intense, action packed, and maybe even more thrilling then this last installment, but they all made up the ending to Breaking Bad. This last half of season five included some of the best hours this show has ever produced.
Post finale, I felt that everything had ended almost too neatly. All of Walt’s final plans were almost too successful; as he was able to die knowing that he got what he wanted in the current circumstance. As Jesse pointed out towards the end of this final season, Mr. White has had all the luck in the world on his side. Once again, he does, but when you look at the bigger picture of his accomplishments versus his failure, he by no means has all the luck. Sure, he was successful in his current situation, but actually look at the current situation. Walter Jr. will get the money his father always intended for him, but has no father figure. His trust and faith is shattered. Holly will grow up with only the horror stories of Heisenberg with a mother who has been mentally crippled by the entire ordeal. In attempting to make his family better off, he has destroyed them and gets to exit early, leaving them to deal with the wake of destruction. Sure, his plans go accordingly in the context of cleaning up all his loose ends, but in the overall scheme of life, he has ruined these innocent peoples’ present and future. Nothing is neat. He got his revenge on those who did him wrong, but nothing will absolve him of the Heisenberg crimes. What started out as a way to save his family, eventually destroyed it. Walt failed as a father and husband, the two ways in which he defined himself.
What did Walt learn? What was the moral of Breaking Bad? Greed, hubris, and ignorance will always be a part of the conversation. It’s a televised Shakespearian drama of the highest quality with moral and ethical questions that will linger on even as other shows take the pop culture spotlight. Breaking Bad is now a part of the pantheon of great shows to which all others will be compared. It has earned that right.
In the finale’s best scene, Walter says one last good-bye to Skyler, finally coming to terms with and admitting the fact that all of his actions were for his own selfish reasons. “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really—I was alive.” Breaking Bad is a huge success for AMC, TV, and pop culture in general, but I watched it for me, not to be a part of the conversation. It is one of the most satisfying and consistent pieces of television I’ve ever had the chance to watch live. It will be sorely missed, but now I get to think about it as a whole show that told a story the right way. ‘Felina’ was a perfect way to end a perfect series.
A few other thoughts:
- I wish there had been more Jesse moments, but the daydream of building a box was a nice touch.
- Was the Lydia phone call necessary? Was that to off set another triumph moment for a dying Mr. White, or the writing staff spelling out a moment views already put together?
- The final song is Badfinger’s “Baby Blue.”
- The use of Badger and Skinny Pete with the laser pens through the windows was a great
- Poor Huell, as he’s probably still sitting in the safe house.
- Are you excited for Better Call Saul spin off? I don’t know if I am or not.
- Like Shakespeare, I believe that Walt died on his own birthday. (I may have to recheck that fact.)
- I can’t get over the fact that a TV show actually has a great beginning middle and end, like any story should. Thank you Vince Gilligan for being an actual storyteller and for never taking your audience for granted.
This is why we watch TV.
Keep on Watchin’!