Well, I gave you a day. Actually, I gave myself a day. I needed it to decompress and pull all of my thoughts together regarding the end of ‘Breaking Bad’.
Given the fact that the last two episodes were so disturbing they caused me to lose some sleep, I wasn’t sure what to expect with the finale. Why was Walt loading up on guns? Who painted Heisenberg on the wall? Who is the ricin for? Would Carol the neighbor be ok? We were going to get all of our answers, finally.
It’s hard to judge the finale of a series like ‘Breaking Bad’. Similar to ‘The Sopranos’, ‘The Wire’ and others before it, when a show is so perfectly done it makes the finale that much more difficult. How do you cash out and appropriately deliver the perfect sendoff in only 60(ish) minutes? How can you give fans everything they want while closing the story lines of iconic characters, never to be heard from again?
As my wife points out I have yet to like a series finale of any show. It’s hard for me because so many shows veer from what made it great to try and deliver that big finale, that big moment. Instead they should just give us more of what made us love the show in the first place. I feel ‘Breaking Bad’ succeeded at this.
There was a lot I loved about the finale. I feel Gilligan balanced the intensity of the last few weeks (and what we’ve come to expect, really) with humorous moments, such as seeing Badger and Skinny Pete. The moment Walt channeled his inner Mike to threaten Elliott (“If we’re gonna go that route you’re going to need a bigger knife.”)
I thought in typical ‘Bad’ fashion they left no stone unturned, staying very linear with the storyline, paying attention to the details (Marty Robbins anyone? Yes he has a song called El Paso that is about a Mexican girl named Felina – and yes the final episode was called Felina, an anagram for ‘Finale’…I see what you did there Vince Gilligan) and letting Walt be Walt…all while delivering what we all needed to gain closure. For me that came in a few specific ways:
Walt confesses. When Walt is talking to Skyler (in her ‘One Day at a Time’ meets ‘The Wire’ apartment) she, and all of us, are expecting to hear one more time how he did all of this for the family. Instead we hear what the show is basically built on: Walt did all of this…for Walt. He ‘liked it’. It made him feel alive. It was in him all along. The show was about discovering that Walter White was Heisenberg all along. It just took him until episode 62 to admit it.
Holly White. Man, this kid had really been through it the past few weeks. Aunt Marie trying to rip her from mom’s arms; Walt taking her and strapping her into that beater truck, changing her diaper in a gas station bathroom before finally dumping her in a fire truck; crazy Opie/Todd and his gang paying a visit. It was nice to finally see her in a crib with a moment of peace.
The money. He already lost $77M. Could we have dealt with him losing the last $11M sympathy barrel Uncle Jack gave him? Sure, I don’t really know how Walt made it from the bar back to his cabin, loaded and fit all the money in his trunk. But hey, he did and now it’s in a trust fund for Walter Jr. Would anyone had hated Gilligan if Walt lost the money (kind of a poetic justice)? No. But while we all knew there was a price to pay for breaking bad, we were all still rooting for Walt.
The ricin. For a long time I felt the ricin was a red herring. Something to keep people hanging on and talking about. I read at the start of this season that it would ultimately be for Lydia. I never agreed; I thought she was too insignificant. But as time went on and we realized that she is the inspiration for Todd, thus being linked to his actions, she had to go.
Jesse. Finally sprung from the meth leash he was on we last saw Jesse laughing like a crazy, giddy kid, feeling ‘The Need for Speed’. Oh, no, that was just the trailer for Aaron Paul’s next movie. But seriously, we did see him finally breaking free from the world of Heisenberg. And as great as the reality of that was it was more satisfying to see Jesse have a moment of peace, working with wood, making something wholesome with his hands. A quick note about Aaron Paul – of all the amazing acting in this series I have to say Paul leaves me the most impressed.
The final scene. From the minute they announced the show would be ending there was only one way to do it – with Walter dying by his own hand. Whether that was ingesting his own creation (the ricin) or just allowing it to happen (cancer) he has been in control from day one of this ride after seemingly never being in control. I didn’t know it would be from failing to treat a gun wound but no matter. Hell, even if Jesse did it, essentially it would be by his own ‘hand’ – Jesse is as much Walt’s creation as the meth itself. The added touch to this outcome that I loved was where Walt died. Alone, with his lab, his work, his meth. Alone with only the validation that he was as great, as significant, in real life as he was in his own mind. I mean, really, at the end of our days we only want to matter. It was through these terrible acts and events that Walt finally validated that he did.
I’m not sure if you’re happy how it ended but this wasn’t something Vince Gilligan took lightly – if you read his interview in Entertainment Weekly the day after the finale, you’ll see they kicked around a lot of options. Personally I would’ve been happy with any of them but I always thought it should end like this. Afterall, like I said, there is a price to pay. Even as viewers rooting for him to get away with this we knew it would never be forever.
Now, as I mentioned, I have problems with finales. And ‘Breaking Bad’ came as close as any series has come in some time. However, I did have some issues with it. The finale felt a little ‘paper clipped’ together for me – several great scenes or acts all tied together, loosely, which was a departure from the tightly written episodes we have come to expect.
The ‘just go with it’ factor was very high here as well. The ‘just go with it’ factor is something I use to judge movies where every little thing has to go right – some hard to believe, some not – for the outcome to be what it is. We had a few of those on Sunday, specifically:
Badger and Skinny Pete. Man, we love those guys but good thing Walt caught them on such short notice. When they weren’t high. And they made it up to wherever he was.
Walter White, reporter. So Walt called The New York Times the one day a temp was answering the phones, giving out someone’s personal address, no questions asked. Lucky.
HOW DID WALT GET THE RICIN IN THE STEVIA PACKET???
Apparently the New Mexico branch of the DEA are the most oblivious people on the face of the earth. Walt got in AND out of Skyler’s apartment while it was under surveillance, and did so with ease.
I would be more likely to buy Walt creating some lethal odorless, colorless gas that killed Uncle Jack and the gang v. a remote-controlled machine gun on a garage door opener.
WHAT IF WALT WOULDN’T HAVE BEEN ABLE TO PARK THE CAR THERE, PERFECTLY?
WHAT IF UNCLE JACK’S COUSIN KEPT THE REMOTE?
See, when all these things start to add up you can see – it has a high ‘just go with it factor’. But, all that said, the episode was still a fitting end to a perfect show and may be one of the best endings for a show of this caliber. And it doesn’t do anything to diminish ‘Breaking Bad’ as one of the best TV shows of all time, thanks large in part to Vince Gilligan’s genius and mad attention to detail. If you don’t believe me, just look at some of the gems buried in the finale:
As I mentioned, the Marty Robbins song in the beginning is a nice tie to the name of the finale – but take a closer look at the meaning of the song in relation to the meaning of the show (from the L.A. Times): It’s the tale of a man who takes up with a Mexican woman named Felina, knowing full well that he could die for getting wrapped up in the violent world that surrounds her. But he goes in knowingly — “Cradled by two loving arms that I’ll die for / One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.”
Speaking of Felina – twitter was a buzz with the fact that the Breaking Bad treatment of Felina is actually Fe (iron); Li (lithium) and Na (sodium). Or…blood, meth and tears. (Courtesy Nick Bilton)
So…the watch. On top of the payphone. What’s the deal? Well, from the Gilligan ‘Talking Bad’ interview after the show, it was his way of cutting ties, for good, with Jesse, who gave him the watch, as well as a way to wrap up the flash forward scene at Denny’s when he didn’t have a watch on. Yea. I know.
A lot was made of the ending song, Baby Blue by Badfinger. Yes, Walt got what he deserved. But to me, the more chilling and appropriate song was the fantastic song played over the preview of the final episode, aired at the end of the second-to-last episode and before the finale. It’s called ‘Line of Fire’ by a Swedish band named Junip. The lyrics…it’s like the song was written just for this:
What would you do
If it all came back to you
Each crest of each wave
Bright as lightning
What would you say
If you had to leave today
Leave everything behind
Even though for once you’re shining
If put to the test
Would you step back from the line of fire
Hold everything back
All emotions and desires
Convince yourself to be someone else
And hold back from the world
Your lack of confidence
What you choose to believe in
Dictates your rise or your fall
Dictates your rise or your fall
I could go on. And on. But the fact is the episode, while maybe not the greatest ‘Breaking Bad’ episode (Ozymandias, Cornered and Face Off can fight that out.) did right by the series, the creator, the character and the fans. Not many shows can say that…bitch!