Sep 30 2013
What a difference a week makes. Last week, I was reviewing the universally derided Dexter series finale which might be one of the worst of all time. Now? We’re turning to Breaking Bad which had a final episode that is bound to be far less scrutinized.
I think people are right to say that the show peaked with Ozymandias, the third-to-last episode of the series where we watched Walter White’s world crumble around him. Everything since then has just been clean-up. Not that it’s bad, but it’s simply impossible to match the intensity of the earlier episode.
In truth, this was an almost unexpectedly happy and predictable ending for Breaking Bad, which again, isn’t meant to be an insult. While we had no idea how things would play out a few episodes ago, since Ozymandias, most have had a pretty clear picture of how the pieces were all adding up. The long-held mysteries of the machine gun and the Ricin were revealing themselves. Walt would use the gun on the Nazis who stole his fortune and killed Hank, and the Ricin would likely be for Lydia, forever putting white powder in her coffee on a regular basis (though I’ll admit I didn’t make that connection myself initially).
And really, that’s exactly what happened, not to mention Walt got to tie up a bunch of other loose ends over the course of the night.
He ensured that his money would go to his family in the end, nine million dollars that the Schwartzs now MUST give to Walt Jr. lest they be killed by the country’s two best hitmen, Badger and Skinny Pete, in the world’s best callback appearance.
Walt then got to make up with Skyler to some degree, giving her the location of Hank’s body (which will somehow get her out of trouble in a way I don’t quite understand). The most telling part of that exchange however, was when Walt finally admits the truth. He liked being a meth kingpin, and was doing it more for him than his family. It “made him feel alive” he says, and it’s the first honest admission he’s made in a long while.
Then we get to the revengin’. First, Walt uses Lydia’s clockwork schedule to her disadvantage. As soon as they focused on that one last packet of Stevia, I knew all the speculation was true. And in case that wasn’t obvious enough, the zoom on the swirling powder should have been a clue. And in case THAT wasn’t enough, Walt actually talks to her on the phone to tell her that she’s dying of Ricin poison. I think that last bit may have been too much, and they could have left it with the subtlety of the coffee shop.
Also not subtle was Walt’s handling of the neo-Nazis, but that’s okay. The whole event played out like the end of a particularly raucous Tarantino movie, which was fan-freaking-tastic. I do wonder about the logistics of Walt’s plan, that he would be able to park his car in exactly the right place and every Nazi would be standing in exactly the range of the 100 degree arc of the sentry turret. It’s a bit of luck, but I think we’ve heard that Walt always tends to have luck on his side.
The spray of bullets conveniently left alive both Todd, who is cathartically strangled by Jesse in one of the most satisfying moments of any show ever, and Jack, who is killed in a way that mirrors Hank’s murder, and Walt shows he no longer cares where the rest of his millions are.
In the firefight, it’s revealed Walt took a sentry gun bullet for Jesse, and despite all the hate Jesse has for him, he won’t be the one to kill Walt. He’s free, and the smile on his face as he busts out of the compound is the first we’ve seen from him in what feels like years now. Since the magnet heist, maybe?
Walt succumbs to his own injuries, reminiscing about his blue meth in the lab. The police arrive right as he expires, but I suppose there could be a fan theory or two that he’s really just in a coma or something and gets revived to stand trial in a surprise season six. But nah, let’s just admit he’s dead, and that’s alright.
This was a finale’s finale, with nearly no ambiguity whatsoever, unlike The Sopranos, which had the most ambiguous finale of all time. Even great shows have struggled with bad finales, so I understand why Breaking Bad went “safe” here by giving fans absolutely everything they wanted save Jesse yelling “Yeah bitch!” as he strangled Todd. Yes, Walt dies broke, hated and alone, but he redeems himself as a hero between getting his money to his family, revealing Hank’s location, killing the nazis and Lydia and freeing Jesse. That’s quite a laundry list of accomplishments over the course of a single day.
And you know what? I don’t mind. The thing about giving fans exactly what they want…is that you give fans everything they want. And they’re happy. I’m happy. If the screen cut to black just as Walt was fumbling with his keys on the pool table, would that have made the finale better, more mysterious? I don’t think so, and there isn’t much of anything I’d change about this last episode at all.
With a show as good as Breaking Bad, I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised that they planned for a satisfying ending like this, but stranger things have happened, and it could have gone poorly. But as it stands, Breaking Bad ends on a high note, and cements its place in TV history with “Felina.”
What did you think?
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