09
Oct
13

My Thoughts On The End Of Breaking Bad

HeisenbergIt was with a mixture of anticipation, excitement and sadness that I watched the finale of Breaking Bad a few weeks back.

I loved that show because it was impossible to predict what was going to happen next. The writers of the show are unbelievable story-tellers and their grasp of character development and dialogue is equal to none.

Except maybe The Wire. In fact, I’d say that The Wire and Breaking Bad are probably my two best TV series of all time, so you better believe watching the final episode play out the other night was emotional.

But did it work? Did it manage to do the impossible and end one of TVs most popular series in a satisfying way that was true to the characters and the show?

That’s a tough question to answer. As a general rule, there is no good way to end a TV series as tight as Breaking Bad for the simple reason that everyone watching is going to be bummed that it’s over.

I definitely felt that after the final episode ended. This feeling of “Huh… so that’s that…” And while I think they tied up the series neatly at the end and did manage to provide a satisfying ending a part of me still wanted to see more.

 

 

It was only after two days spent reflecting on the show’s ending that I picked up on the subtle nuances of that final episode, all of which were deliberately underplayed to heighten their impact.

What follows are a whole bunch of SPOILERS! that you probably shouldn’t read if you haven’t seen the final episode yet. You have been warned.

The central theme of Breaking Bad was just that, Walter White’s decline from being a normal, repressed, law-abiding cog in the machine to becoming a ruthless drug lord in charge of a multi-million dollar meth ring.

It’s the zero to hero story turned on its head because in this instance, Walt’s “hero” status is won at the expense of everyone he supposedly loves. His family is made to suffer directly as a result of his growing lust for power and don’t even get me started on the multitude of fucked up things he puts Jesse through.

Over the course of the show, he grows to become a master manipulator and uses his vastly superior intellect (“Science bitch!”) and his growing ruthlessness to murder the fuck out of anyone who stands between him and his ultimate goal, “looking after his family”.

 

 

We realise early on in the series (pretty much around the time he is given a clean bill of health following his chemo) that his motivations have gone far beyond just looking after his family and he’s starting to get into some pretty fucked up shit purely for the thrill of it.

Eventually, Walt becomes a monster. His humanity hangs by a thread that frays more with each episode and good people start getting killed all around him as a result.

Then we get to the second last episode where things get so out of control that Walt opts to disappear completely and contacts the “vacuum cleaner salesman” who sets him up with a new identity and a cabin in the woods 8 miles from civilisation where Walt lays low for awhile.

One month later the change in Walt is immediately noticeable. The boiling rage that used to drive him has simmered down and, left with nothing but time to reflect on the damage he’s caused, he’s become a shell of the person he used to be.

 

 

The combination of isolation and his fading health leaves him completely ravaged. For the first time in god knows how many episodes, I actually felt a distant twinge of sympathy for him.

This was amplified when he breaks the golden rule of not leaving the cabin and heads to the nearest bar to call his son. He tries to convince Walt Jnr to accept some money from him, but Walt Jnr basically tells Walt to get fucked. Walt calls the police shortly thereafter and turns himself in.

Of course, this sympathy disappeared completely in the final minutes of the episode when Walt watches an interview on the bar’s TV with his former partners from Grey Matter, Elliot and Gretchen. In the interview they publicly state that they are donating millions of dollars to meth relief programs in order to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were not involved with Walt’s criminal dealings in any way.

That boiling rage that consumed Walt instantly returns, as does our lack of sympathy with him. It’s clear that nothing has changed. “Heisenberg”, the monster that Walt has become, is still alive and kicking and itching for some kind of revenge.

 

 

He flees the bar before the cops can get there to presumably track Elliot and Gretchen down and enact some kind of brutal revenge on them.

In light of this, the final episode is a master stroke of storytelling because it overthrows expectations completely.

Walt does track Elliot and Gretchen down, but it isn’t to do something terrible to them. He asks for them to put all his meth money in a trust fund for Walt Jnr. He knows that they will be beyond scrutiny and that that’s the only way he’ll be able to ensure that his family is looked after.

Sure, he threatens their lives if they don’t carry out his wishes, saying he’s hired two of the best hitmen money can buy to make sure they keep their word (at which point, two laser sights are shone on Gretchen and Elliot. But his intentions are still pure and the laser “sights” are just laser pointers he’s paid Skinny Pete and Badger to shine when he gives the signal, the “hitmen” he’s hired is just a bluff.

 

 

The part of the episode that really saved Walt for me though was when he confronts Skyler, now living in a shit-hole house, and confesses to the location of Hank’s body so that Skyler can use that information to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecutor and DEA.

The dialogue that follows, for me, was some of the best in the series.

“Skyler,” Walt says, “all those things I did, you need to understand…”

“If I have to hear one more time,” Skyler replies, furious, “that you did this for the family…”

“I did it for me,” Walt replies. “I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really… I was alive…”

 

 

A kind of acceptance washes over Skyler, a kind of resignation. Instead of losing it completely at Walt’s confession, she nods, smiles sadly at him and, after agreeing to let him see his baby daughter one last time, watches him shuffle out of her life forever.

The other highlight of the final episode was undoubtedly the brilliantly executed and brutally satisfying revenge Walt takes on Jack and the members of his piece-of-shit gang. Watching the remote controlled M60 that Walt jury rigs from the parts of a garage door opener mow all those fuckers down was a “Fuck yeah!” moment equal to none.

Walt achieves his final redemption in that moment when he not only saves Jesse but also executes Jack (who, despite getting shot to shit, is somehow still alive when the M60 runs out of bullets). It’s a great scene – Jack picks up his still-lit cigarette, puts it back in his mouth calm-as-can-be and starts trying to bribe Walt with all the money they stole from him.

 

 

Walt doesn’t even let him finish his sentence before putting a bullet in his head.

And so it was not without a large degree of satisfaction that I watched the final scene play out when Walt limps nostalgically around the meth lab Jack’s gang had set up while he slowly bleeds out from a stray bullet he caught in the ribs.

The cops arrive moments after Walt collapses dead, with the ghost of a smile on his weathered face.

 

 

It was a great show, possibly one of the best I’ve ever seen, and though there was no easy way to end it, they managed to accomplish the impossible and have Walt die a good and honourable death.

To everyone who made the show possible, every one of you did an excellent job.

Now if anyone needs me, I’ll be tracking down my old highschool chemistry teacher… Winking smile

-ST


1 Response to “My Thoughts On The End Of Breaking Bad”


  1. 1 dp
    October 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    It was too clean for me. From a series that delivered so many incredible twists the ending was probably the most probable scenario, yet few would have though it would be so… normal.

    Perhaps that in itself is an unexpected twist, but I can’t help but feel that this was the least “Breaking Bad” episode of all.

    Also we never find out what really happened with him and Gretchen/Elliot and stupid, holier-than-thou Marie never gets her comeuppance…

    So yes, it was a good ending. But I guess that, as with any breakup, it leaves questions unanswered and denies closure.

    The end of a beautiful, fascinating, excruciating relationship with an ordinary person faced with dilemmas we could, and eventually will, face in life. It may not be Cancer vs Meth, but we all eventually reach fulcrums which test us.

    Bravo. I loved every minute of it. Except the last 10.


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