If you don’t know how Breaking Bad ended, and don’t wish to… then try to erase the above image from your brain, and realize there will be words to follow that will basically ruin everything for you.
“The whole thing felt kinda shady, like, morality-wise?”
Breaking Bad has ended… Walter White is dead… long live Walter White.
The great morality tale that was Walter White’s journey from Mr. Chips to Scarface has finally reached it’s conclusion, and I couldn’t have imagined a more appropriate and satisfying ending to what amounts to a nearly flawless 62 episodes of television gold. When Vince Gilligan set out to bring us this tale, I can’t imagine he could have guessed that what he was creating would become the monumental achievement that is became… but fortunately for us, he embarked on that journey, and AMC allowed him the freedom to bring the story of a put-upon chemistry teacher who turns to cooking meth and becomes an emperor.
The episode title confused me. I had no idea what it referred to… but thanks to that whole world wide web thingy, the answer was easy to find. Not only is it an anagram of “finale”, but is also a reference to a Marty Robbins cowboy ballad titled, “El Paso”. The relevant lyrics are thus: “Back in El Paso, my life would be worthless. Everything’s gone in life; nothing is left. It’s been so long since I’ve seen the young maiden; My love is stronger than my fear of death. … Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel a deep burning pain in my side. Though I am trying to stay in the saddle, I’m getting weary, unable to ride.” Sound familiar?
I would like to point out that I believe the story of Heisenberg, and the true end of Breaking Bad, occurred two episodes previous with Ozymandias. In that episode, Heisenberg is essentially destroyed… his family has now been touched by murder, the police now know who he is and are closing in on him, he has turned his back on his former partner who is now being forced into slavery in order to continue cooking for the white supremacists, all of his money (save a paltry $11M) is gone, and the episode ends with Walt heading off into the sunset to begin his new life as Mr. Lambert.
The final two episodes act as more of an epilogue than anything else… the tying up of all loose ends. Granite State shows us how far he has fallen, and Felina brings us all the closure we need in order to move on. The end of Granite State teased us with the notion of Gretchen and Elliot becoming the recipient of Walt’s anger and bruised ego… but no. In one of the greatest scenes of the finale, the tension mounts early as Walt quietly stalks into their gorgeous new home, a glimpse of what Walt could have had had he been more ambitious earlier in life, and instead of spewing vitriol and pain, he asks a favor… deliver his remaining money to his son upon his 18th birthday, making sure that he never knows it’s his. And in a master stroke, Walt terrifies them with the fear of instant death from the shadows if they don’t comply… little do they know, that instant death comes in the form of Badger and Skinny Pete armed with laser pointers.
Walt then surprises Lydia and Todd by showing up at the diner he and Lydia used to meet up at, showing us the danger of keeping too tight of a regiment for yourself. Thanks to some creative camera work, and Lydia lingering on what would become a Chekov’s packet of Stevia, we get the understanding that Walt has laced the artificial sweetener with some all natural castor bean extract. And he manages to set up a meeting with Todd and Jack in the process.
In yet another creative bit of camera work, we see Marie calling Skyler, who is sitting in her crappy apartment, destitute and smoking all alone, and Marie telling Skyler that Walt is back in town… but he won’t be able to get near her. She mocks his belief that he is some sort of criminal master… and with a simple swing of the camera, and a well placed pillar, we see Walt is standing in Skyler’s kitchen. And in this scene, we finally get an honest Walt. A Walter White that finally admits that everything he did was for him, not the family, and that the pride he took in a job well done made him feel more alive than he ever had… and that is the most honest moment in the series. He then does his family one final solid… he gives Skyler the coordinates to where Hank and Gomez is buried.
The final scene is an incredible mix of everything that makes this show so spectacular… the tension of a meeting between people who would both have the other party dead, knowing that the M60 is still unaccounted for in the story (although we saw some sort of set up for the gun in the desert, but I didn’t know what to makes of that), and finally having Walt and slave-Jesse come face to face. As Walt slams into Jesse, presumably to kick his ass, Walt triggers the gun, which pops up out of the trunk of his car and blasts each and every neo-Nazi a number of new holes… unfortunately, one of those bullets also pierces Walt’s side (is that a Jesus reference?). Jesse finally gets to kill his captor, Todd, and has the chance to kill Walt… when Walt asks for his death, Jesse denies him, a sign that he is finally his own man and will take orders from no one… not even Mr. White… and Jesse jumps into a car and is free.
If you didn’t cheer, cry, or get completely stoked when Jesse gave out that yell, there is something wrong with you. A brief moment of utter joy and relief.
In the end, Walt doesn’t succumb to the cancer… he doesn’t care about the money insofar as what was needed beyond taking care of his children (or really just Walt Jr… I guess he doesn’t care about Holly’s future)… and he completed his cycle of revenge and making sure that everything was wrapped up in a nice bloody bow, and his phone call to Lydia informing her of her impending death was brilliant… but it was a bullet from his own killing device that finally does him in… and he takes his final walk through a pristine lab, brimming with pride in the fact that he taught Jesse well. I admit, I thought he was going to do one last cook… but when he takes the gas mask and finally crumples to the floor, we see Walter White die. Heisenberg died two episodes back… now it was Walter’s time. A beautiful, perfect image of Walt splayed out, mask in hand…
One little aspect of that final scene that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere… this also allows Walt to exonerate Jesse. When the police come onto the scene, they will find a room full of very dead racists and Walt dead in the lab. As far as they will be concerned, Heisenberg produced all of the recent blue meth, not Jesse… so he will now be free to disappear in Alaska or wherever he so chooses without the law chasing after him. This I believe to be the final gift of Walter to Jesse… in his way, he took the fall.
That’s about it. I’m sad that it’s over… but so very pleased with how it all ended. Felina will go down in history as one of the all-time greatest finales to what is arguably the greatest drama ever produced. Thanks to everyone who brought Breaking Bad into our living rooms… and may Walter White finally rest in peace.
The final question… what’s next Mr. Gilligan?
But I feel good,
Cornelius J. Blahg