Breaking Bad is now over and TV fans around the world are left wondering what show to watch next. Vince Gilligan’s drama about a school teacher turned drug kingpin has mesmerized fans throughout its all too short five season run, and it introduced some of TV’s most memorable characters. The talented cast highlighted by Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul deserve every accolade and award laid upon their names. Without them Breaking Bad fans across the world will be left with a void in their hearts now that the final curtain has closed on the show, and Walt and Jesse’s fates have been sealed. Thankfully, the final act before the curtain call is easily one of the greatest series finales in TV history, and for the first time in a long time a majority of fans felt satisfied with the way a TV show ended, and I definitely count myself amongst them.
(Spoilers below, proceed at your own risk.)
“Just get me home”
“Felina” begins with a feeble and aged Walter White struggling to leave his prison of sorts in New Hampshire to make one last triumphant return to his former home. He has clearly accepted his fate in regards to his health and his legal problems, which has spurred him into one last fight to make things as right as physically possible. Walter White has finally made a return, but it’s plain to see that Heisenberg has clearly changed the once timid teacher for better, and for worse.
The key moment in the opening scene that hints at Walt’s last ditch effort for some sort of redemption is when the iced over car he’s in is approached by police officers. Fearing he’d been caught before his plan could be enacted he reached out to the universe with one simple, but very heartfelt statement – “Just get me home.” If you believe in karma and/or fate this scene most definitely supports the notion of a higher power having plans for even people like Walt. The police did indeed not pay his iced over hiding spot any attention, effectively allowing him to get home to set the universe back in order in his own Heisenberg way.
The decrepit and dying Walt has come full circle by this scene. He’s been humbled by his exile and the state of chaos it left his family in. His Heisenberg hubris has waned, making it much easier to sympathize for this intriguing character once again after his darkest season yet, which has been full of nothing but betrayal and treachery. Personally, I’ve always been a Walt sympathizer, but he was even wearing down my opinion of him this last season and a half, so it was refreshing, yet sad, to see him come around when it was obviously too late.
Walter White’s final reunion tour
The episode follows Walt back to where everything began, but along the way he made some very key stops to set his final plan in motion, and in a way each stop tied up nearly every open thread penned by the series’ writing team. Walt’s first stop was to check in on his former Gray Matter partners Elliot and Gretchen, and based on the end of the previous episode it seemed as if this was going to be another act of Heisenberg revenge. Gilligan and his team crafted this scene perfectly to make it seem as if Walt was indeed stalking his former colleagues to punish them for downplaying his role with Gray Matter on the Charlie Rose show.
Rather than exacting revenge, Walt surprisingly uses his criminal mastermind skills to blackmail (love how Badger and Skinny Pete were woven into this scene) his former friends into ensuring that Skyler and Flynn get the money he compromised his life values for. Ultimately it was Walt’s character flaws that led him off the deep end, but his family’s wellbeing is what started him down his dark path in the first place. The good in him still wants to guarantee his family’s financial security, and his brilliant hoax he pulled on Gretchen and Elliot allowed him to proceed knowing that his crimes weren’t all for not.
Walt’s reunion tour continued with an emotional return to his wife Skyler, who is now chain smoking and clearly mentally destroyed, living in what looked like government housing. Walt’s effects on his family are made completely clear by Skyler’s emotional state, which is a reminder of the power of his former arrogance that has evidently been humbled by now.
In a brilliant use of cinematography the audience is shown a conversation between Skyler and Marie, who have seemingly settled some of their differences, in which they discuss the fact that Walt has been seen about town. The magic came in the fact that Walt was with Skyler during this whole phone call, but he wasn’t seen thanks to a cleverly placed camera and a door frame. Even with all of the pain he’s put her through she didn’t rat him out, and Walt rewarded her with an admission that she’d been seeking for quite some time.
For the first time ever Walt conceded the fact that he may have started cooking meth to help his family, but in reality he took it to the level he did because he enjoyed being a kingpin. In one of the most memorable exchanges of dialogue in the series, Walt redeems himself in the eyes of his wife by admitting that, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it,” in reference to his rise to infamy. With that one simple admission Walt took a giant leap towards the quasi-redemption he so eagerly wanted back in the frigid mountains of New Hampshire, and he regained a small sliver of respect from at least one person he dearly loves. It was quite sad to see Walt say goodbye to his young daughter, and even more depressing to watch him gaze at his son from a distance knowing that he’ll never be able to redeem himself in his eyes, but such is the life of a criminal.
“Guess I got what I deserve”
The last act of Breaking Bad’s finale featured Walt’s last step towards redemption, and in this case violent revenge. Walt clearly knows his time is up – be it in the form of his bad health, or the fact that he’s a wanted man who has come out of hiding in a very nonchalant manner. He makes his presence known to those who screwed him over the hardest, namely Lydia, Todd, and Jack’s band of Neo-Nazis, which sets the final events of Breaking Bad into action. It didn’t take much guessing to realize Walt’s intentions with these degenerates and evil doers. Early on it’s made clear that Walt has built an automatic turret of sorts to exact bloody revenge on Jack and his crew, and as a fan I was eager to see how it played out.
Walt cleverly pitches a plan to Lydia and Todd to help them cook more meth in the guise that he needed one more pay day. He’s figured out that Jesse is still alive and cooking his blue meth so he concocts a pitch that will get him into the HQ of Jack and Todd’s drug enterprise. It’s not clear what his plans for Jesse are, although it seems as if his fate is the same one he has planned for the Neo-Nazis. With his plan in motion he’s given a final meeting with the men who stole his money and buried his brother-in-law in its place, and the audience is left to wonder just what is up Walt’s sleeve.
He eventually makes it to the compound where Jesse has been held hostage and treated like a slave to the point where he’s become a zombie. In a very sad scene Jesse is seen working with wood like a carpenter, which gives the impression that his lot in life has improved, but in reality it was just a day dream he’s concocted to cope with the awful situation he’s been in. This poor kid who got tangled up in a nightmare through his own bad choices and Walt’s manipulations has more than paid for his sins, and seeing the state he’s in is quite disturbing and emotional.
Heisenberg’s first victim has more than felt the consequences of being linked to his schemes, so the audience is left to wonder how Walt will deal with Jesse in the end. Would he attempt to kill him like he clearly had planned for the Neo-Nazis, or would he spare him in one final act of redemption to complete his journey home? The answer was both touching and sad, but supportive of Walt’s character that ultimately has always been about doing what’s right, even if Heisenberg took him over to the dark side.
The final scene played out in gory fashion, and felt like something out of a Tarantino movie. In his last act of revenge and ultimately redemption, Walt enabled his .50 caliber gun turret to obliterate every one of Jack’s forces in one bold stroke. Watching these scumbags fall was both satisfying and just. Walt may have broke bad and did evil things, but Jack and Todd’s crew were born to be terrors. They had to pay dearly for their crimes against Walt, and they paid with their lives in a bloody symphony of bullets and carnage.
In a surprise, but not unexpected move Walt throws himself on top of the emotionally battered shell of a human that is Jesse to save him from the barrage of mini-missiles being fired at everyone in the room, and in turn seals his own demise. Once again Walt managed, in some small way to redeem himself with another character that he truly did care for. Even with all of the hate between Jesse and Walt he still decided to save him, and in turn to save his own soul.
Thanks to Walt Jesse was able to strangle Todd with his chains in a form of deep poetic justice, and at the same time Walt was able to blow Jack’s brains out, which felt disturbingly rewarding to watch. The true gem of this scene though is the final confrontation between Walt and Jesse. Walt was the man who condemned Jesse to his life of bondage, and Jesse was the man who ratted out Walt, so when they were face to face again and Jesse had a gun, it wouldn’t have been surprising if he was the one to end Walt’s life after Walt clearly gave him a chance to. Rather than doing one more thing that Walt wanted, Jesse goes his own way to leave his former teacher to die on his own. Jesse Pinkman finally freed himself from Heisenberg.
While Walt informed Lydia that she too was going to die by his hand, effectively ending his revenge spree, Jesse and Walt exchanged curious smiles to signal that their story was through. It was a touching moment, and a fitting end for their adventure. Watching Jesse speed away screaming with joy was as happy of an ending that Breaking Bad could’ve given this troubled character, and even though his final fate will never be known, the openness of it allows fans to give Jesse the ending they want.
The final scene was just as poetic and perfect as Jesse’s, and featured one of the best music tracks to highlight Walt’s final demise. Hearing “Baby Blue” by Badfinger not only fit the moment, which featured Walt checking out a meth lab that cooked his formula for the last time, but the lyrics also summed up why Walt ended up in the predicament he found himself in while he lay dying in Jack’s barn. Love him or hate him Walter White eventually embodied the lyrics “Guess I got what I deserve”, and for all of his Heisenberg efforts he ultimately paid for them with his life. Walter White is no more, and his end couldn’t have been played out any better.
Breaking Bad’s “Felina” managed to do what so many major TV franchises have failed to do when they end, which is to tie up nearly every single plot thread. By the end Walter White, a tragic hero of sorts, managed to redeem himself in some small way in the eyes of the ones he so dearly loved and it made sense. By blackmailing his former friends he ensured that his family would indeed get the money he lost his soul for. Giving Skyler the GPS coordinates for Hank’s grave allowed her to escape the legal battle his empire left her in. Saving Jesse allowed Walt to die knowing that he righted as many wrongs as possible, and saved a former partner that he once thought of as a son.
Darth Vader took over the man known as Anakin Skywalker, and Heisenberg took over the man known as Walter White, but just like the Sith Lord, Walt too was able to reclaim his former self by sacrificing his life for his friend and family. Simply perfect, that is how Breaking Bad will forever be remembered.
Images via [Ursula Coyote for AMC]