We are at the end of an era. The very last episode of Breaking Bad played to the heartstrings of millions of fans Sunday night and gave many of true sense of satisfaction. Often times, the best TV series don’t run long enough before being cancelled and ones that do run past three seasons start to stink like a rotting corpse on Walking Dead. Whether you were a fan of Dexter, Seinfeld, Lost or The Sopranos, disappointment gets even the best of them–but not Breaking Bad. There was no ambiguity, no room for interpretation, no loose dangling threads twisting in the wind.
Thankfully creator Vince Gilligan, cast and crew gave us a worthwhile and memorable finale, proper closure to accompany all the mental scarring along the way. Regardless if you were in Team Walt, Team Jesse, Team Hank, or Team Gus, there was no way one could refuse to stand up and applaud the Walter White (Bryan Cranston). There was no hubris left, no arrogance present, but there was intimidation. Heisenberg was still alive. He did not surrender and he did not commit suicide. Walter White went out on his own terms. It was not the most spine-chilling episode or the most suspenseful; there are so many to choose to fit those and many other superlatives. But “Felina” could probably be best categorized as Walter’s most honest episode, and the send off that was needed to finish off the series.
To disregard Walter’s good fortune would be ignoring a huge element of his success. This season seemed to show that his luck was running out, that everything was coming to a head, but the forces of nature, science or whatever you believe was watching Walter’s back these five seasons intervened again. Needing a getaway car, Walter found the keys to a old white Volvo in the visor.
Walter: Just get me home,” and I’ll do the rest.
Walter sucks up his pride
In an unexpected turn, the Schwartzs were spared and instead of the Charlie Rose appearance motivating Walt to act out all of his anger, he swallowed his pride and tricks Elliott (Adam Godley) and Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) to create an irrevocable trust for Flynn (R.J. Mitte) instead. He needed the assistance of Badger (Matt L. Jones) and Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) to make sure the job was done; he orchestrated a grand way to get them involved in his plan and showed at the same time that he was still a bad ass. I had completely discounted Jesse’s (Aaron Paul) friends to make a final appearance and assist; I couldn’t come up with a plausible string to connect Walter’s assault on the Schwartzs to Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen) but this was such a smart way to do it.
I was disappointed not learn more about their history as business partners. Why did he become the teacher and give up the chance to be a part of a business, and doing what he liked to do the most, working in chemistry? Was it just as simple as love? It could have provided us with just that extra bit of information to understand Walter’s motivations. The opportunity was certainly there, but for whatever reason it was not a part of the final tale.
Walter’s Watch and Redemption
He was so proud to get the watch as a gift, but he realized that his friendship with Jesse was over. Perhaps he realized everything he had done to Jesse was evil, or how he spent more time with Jesse than his own son. Maybe he realized that his friendship with Jesse was meaningless as was the money, since it cost him his family and Hank’s life. There was no use looking at the clock when you know there’s no escaping death. He went after Jesse with the intent to kill him for continuing to use his formula to cook meth, but upon discovering him shackled and beaten, he knew he had to save him and do right.
The White Knight
We know that Gilligan is a fan of Westerns, and he’s gone on record to say that he was inspired by John Wayne in “The Searchers” for the fate of Jesse and Walt. In Walter’s final run he hid and lurked in the shadows at the Schwartz’s home undetected and in his visit to Skyler. The remote control rig for the M60 was “McGuyver-esque” and the way he pretended to be David Linn of the New York Times surprised me. Let’s not forget jumping on Jesse and protecting him one more time and taking a bullet. He went out a hero, but he did take a long time to come around. Forget about Scarface, Walter turned into the goddamn Batman.
Walter Wins Again
No, he didn’t get the warm embrace from his family, and no, he and Jesse never got to race go-carts together. Walter never got his full $80 million, but he did get more than enough to set up his two children and wife with enough for college or whatever. He did it with drug money. Blood money. And ultimately did it living a lifestyle that was the antithesis to Hank. We don’t know what Flynn’s reaction is going to be, but given his loving nature towards his sister and mother, he’ll probably use it as Walter intended it. Providing his family with enough money to take away most worries wasn’t enough in the end to be considered a father or husband, but in Walt’s mind it was. He never did this for them, but knowing the medical bills of fighting cancer on top the cost of living ruins families everyday.
It’s a harsh truth of living in this country, and it’s why Breaking Bad speaks to so many middle class Americans. The dream in America is no longer to live in a house with a white picket fence, get married and 2.5 kids. It’s living without debt. It’s living while exercising passion. And it’s living an entire life without experiencing cancer or some other tragic disease. Walter got an extension in life–two years– by doing the work that he loved; he left a legacy, no matter what you think of it morally, and he still set his family up. He lived out his version of the dream, no matter how twisted a path it was. Those who were looking for Walter to get his just desserts will have to deal with that ending.
Color at Work
It’s always fun looking at the wardrobe of each character and finding out what other messages they say or reinforce. The white Volvo, covered in snow, provided him the temporary cover needed to avoid the police that he brought on with his desperate phone call into the lead investigator of his case. The color of the car along with the snow, kept Walter’s color theme of white in the last half of the season as his disguise in plain sight. Meanwhile he wore a black parka to symbolize the cancer taking over him, covered in death. He switched to a lighter green jacket as he drove west, to eat at Denny’s, to get the ricin from his destroyed home and to drop in on Lydia (who is wearing the “cornflower” blue blouse), Todd and the Schwartzs. In Lydia’s final scene, she is seen gripping an orange pillow–that color has always been the color of caution, murder, or death.
Walter changed into beige khakis and coat once he got back to Albuquerque; he put a buttoned green shirt for Skyler, symbolizing envy. No longer caring about money or power, his envy is for her and his son’s love, which he’ll never get again. He wants to be able to be with his family, but cannot. He is there to say his final goodbye.
And an interesting switch in color schemes, Marie’s prominent color was beige to match he sister, even though she did wear a dark purple skirt, it was almost black, still grieving for Hank. It was Jack though who wore the royal color of purple and didn’t see his demise coming.
Todd, Uncle Jack and Lydia’s; plus the Breaking Bad orphanage
Jesse got the definitive “f*ck yeah!” moment of the finale – a gratifying death if there ever was one. If nothing more than to get justice for Drew Sharp. We can all agree that Andrea getting drawn into the body count was just crushing, but Sharp probably saw nothing outside of three men high-fiving each other. Uncle Jack was asking to be killed from the first moment we met him.
I don’t agree with how Jack took on the role of the series’ villain when it seemed too me that the greatest villain was Walter White. Todd and his uncle watered that down some and if there was a big problem with the final season that would have been it. Gilligan left room for redemption and it made for a great ending, but this series has taken darker turns and admittedly, it could have been a lot more grim.
Lydia’s fate did come down as many surmised, as the recipient of the ricin. I couldn’t connect Walt’s jump from the Schwartzs to the Arians, but that’s why Badger and Skinny Pete were such a pleasant surprise. Lydia died a slow and painful death, cursing her love for Stevia.
Lydia’s death though leaves an unsettling trail of orphans or parental figures taken away from young children, as her daughter will soon find her mother dead in a more graceful way than what Mike had planned for her. Going back to “Peekaboo” and the child of Spooge’s (David Ury) girlfriend (Dale Dickey) we’ve seen children be left to fend for themselves. There’s Brock (Ian Posada), then there’s Mike’s granddaughter Kaylee (Kaija Roze Bales) but we can assume she still has her mother, but Mike was a big part of her life. Not to mention there’s Holly White, who will undoubtedly need therapy some day when she finds out the truth about her father.
The phone conversation between Skyler and Marie did give hope for Skyler fans that they’ll be there to survive this. I knew that Marie couldn’t stay away and be angry forever, she loves her sister, nephew and niece too much. But it’s so bittersweet knowing that Hank is still on her mind, she’s still (understandably) harboring anger but still has no idea just how smart Walter was, which brings us to…
The last goodbyes
Walter appearing right after Marie told Skyler he’ll never get to her was both funny and indicative of Walter’s ability to surprise. Gilligan was still able to make us laugh at Marie’s expense. But as much as we expected this to be a memorable scene, this one may have been one of the best scenes of the entire series. First, seeing Skyler’s reflection in the microwave was such a lovely way to enter that scene since her back was turned to the viewer; it was the result of a happy accident according to Gilligan on Talking Bad. Everything that happened right after the scene was phenomenal. From Walter’s reveal of the lotto ticket coordinates to the burial site, to Skyler’s reaction that Hank and Steve’s murder is a full reality. She held so much in for so long and there was such a range of emotions that came pouring out. Then came the admission we’ve all been waiting for:
Skyler: If I have to hear one more time that you did this for the family
Walter: I did it for myself. I liked it. I was good at it. And… I was… I was alive.
Seeing him say goodbye to Holly and watch Flynn walk home through the windows of the laundry room added to the sadness, but it made sense. Nothing Walter would have said in person would have mattered to his son, who hasn’t experienced the grays of life yet. Walter didn’t deserve another opportunity to earn the trust of his son back, but as a parent, to watch Walt seeing his son for the last time, followed with an empty turn and walk away was hard. But there was a sense of pride in the choices his son made by himself.
I did take issue that no one wished Walter Happy Birthday. It’s understandable that Jesse wouldn’t remember since he was on and off drugs over the five seasons, but I expected a quick mention by Skyler, even after Walter offered it as a part of the story he wanted to tell the prosecutors.
Partners No More
Walter went out in a blaze of glory but as we mentioned above, he redeemed himself by saving Jesse, which brings us to the final confrontation between former partners. I’m proud that Jesse asked him to say that he wanted to be shot, but upon seeing he took a bullet for him, he put the gun down and told him to do it himself. He was done taking orders from him (“Rabid Dog”) and outside of Todd, Jesse was never a killer. Shooting Gayle still haunts him. He fired guns at Don Eladio’s pad out of self-preservation. To take Walter White’s life, would have only multiplied his nightmares and take away what little humanity he had left in him.
There’s a moment though when he jumps in that car when you think he might run Walter over. Instead, a simple nod shared between them was a final acknowledgement of their journey, but it was time for the divorce to be finalized. There’s a great moment as Walter takes in what Todd and Jack did to Jesse, Jack mocks the idea that he’d partner up with a rat, but everything he said was the truth, seen through Walt’s eyes.
Jack: Sure, he’s my partner. Hard working, good partner. 50/50 partner.
Jesse had his difficulties. As a fan of the show I wanted to strangle him in Seasons 1 and 2, but he was loyal, and eventually was just as good as Walt making crystal blue. He was his best student. Jesse’s delusion of creating a wooden box was a call back to his 12-step program, something he needed to get through Todd’s torture, but there’s so much potential still left in him and with all of the pain he’s caused, I have no doubt he will remain sober.
Certainly the British pop band Badfinger’s 1972 song, “Baby Blue” will undoubtedly get a surge downloads at iTunes, but Walter’s final walk through the lab that he created and designed with Jesse put him back in his element. A scientist died surrounded by his life’s greatest achievement, something he was proud to have created–despite its effect on the end users–and it shouldn’t have been any other way. He was with the one thing he loved the most, the one thing that renewed his life and made him feel alive when he was sentenced to death by cancer. He was already living a dead life, and the cancer woke him up. He probably would have performed one last cook if he could have mustered it. But as the cops arrived, all we can hope for is for Jesse to have escaped and find Brock. Walter lived life as he wanted but never planned for, not on the timetable of his sickness, but by his actions; he lost his family along the way, but “Felina” marks the final good deeds by a chemistry teacher who broke bad.