Between the lackluster finale of Dexter and the amazing writing of the past five seasons of Breaking Bad, it almost didn’t matter where we wound up. We have already witnessed amazing character development of all of Bad’s major characters and unless the writers wrote the finale while partaking of the Crystal Blue Persuasion, there was no undoing it. That said the writers from Dexter had better pay attention so they don’t screw up whatever they write next.
THERE ARE SPOILERS BELOW, DUH. Also, while we’re talking about things – some of my links are for mature audiences only.
There are a few things that make the Bad finale, and really the entire show, so great.
1. You only know one thing. Walter White is going to die. I mean, he’s been dying of cancer the whole show. You have no idea how – the cancer or his choices – but you know the man is going to die.
2. Because he’s going to die, you have no idea what he’s capable of doing. Walter, until Hank’s death at the hands of Jack, Todd and their crew, seemed to have no line that could not be crossed. The only seeming exception was killing Jesse. Killing Jesse was brought up again and again, and Walt would never allow it – despite it clearly being the best option almost every time it’s brought up.
3. Regardless of what he spent 50 years of his life doing, Walt found his special purpose. (No, not that special purpose.) The more he realized that he loved what he did – the more we wanted to hate him… But he always drew us back in – and this was never less true than the finale.
4. Closure. No coy cut to black (I’m looking at you Sopranos). No pseudo spirituality with no surprises (*ahem, Lost). Vince Gilligan and the other writers finished their damn story. They didn’t leave it open to interpretation (unless you somehow think Walt survived, in which case you probably need to quit reading this to get back to huffing paint fumes) and they didn’t use any cheap cop-out endings or saves. They logically and creatively ended a story that had run it’s course.
Now, for specifics. The second to last episode, Granite Slate, leaves you with the distinct feeling that Walt has had another case of pride f’n with him, and you know he’s got murder on the brain. So the first thing he does is find his college pals Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz. He hides in plain sight and very creepily stalks the couple as they come home from New York. And just like every great noir and/or western revenge flick, he kills them in a murderous rage before starting his main killing spree… Except he doesn’t. He guilts them (and then just in case that doesn’t work threatens them with death from beyond the grave) into giving his family his last 9,720,000 dollars and change via a trust to Junior. You have one last moment of thinking maybe there’s hope for Walt… He isn’t completely Heisenberg yet… and if that’s true maybe he’ll live…
At the close of this scene, we get one last peek at the two characters that grew the least in this show – Badger and Skinny Pete, and it just warms your heart to see them.
Then we have my favorite scene… a flashback of Jesse creating the wooden box that he spoke of in rehab in season three, episode 9 (Kafkaesque). It was the moment that he seemed to have found a purpose, maybe even true happiness, until he traded it for an ounce of weed. But here we see one final glimpse of the Jesse that could have been, before being yanked into the reality of his slavery.
Next, Walt sets up his meet with the Neo Nazis to exact his revenge and slyly poisons Lydia (revealed in the final moments if you missed the very intense shot of her putting Stevia in her tea) in the process.
The next scene seals the fact that Walt is dead and Heisenberg is left. He says goodbye to Skyler in her crappy, tiny apartment and finally has a moment of truth with her. He tells her that he didn’t do all this for the family. Easily the best line in the finale, Walt says, “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was, really . . . I was alive.” After his moment of honesty he gives Skyler the location of Hank’s body, looks over his sleeping daughter, and sneaks out the back door where he watches as Junior comes home from school. He has said his final goodbye and Walter White is effectively dead. Heisenberg moves toward his own Swan Song in true Heisenberg style.
Walt shows up at the hideout, talks his way out of being shot right away so that he can figure out what is going on with Jesse. Once he realizes what they’ve done to Jesse, Walt, in his oddly paternal way, drives Jesse to the ground and covers him with his own body while the M60 machine gun he bought at the beginning of season five (in a very un-Lost like flash forward) is activated, pops out of the trunk and kills damn near everyone in the room. Todd is left for Jesse to finish (and let’s face it, Jesse deserved at least one win). Walt reminds us one last time that he never did this for the money when he kills Jack who survived the initial onslaught and is begging for his life by promising to return the stolen 70 million dollars. He then offers Jesse the chance for closure by giving Jesse the gun and telling Jesse to kill Walt. For a moment you think he might, but then Jesse proves that deep down he really is good by telling Walt to do it himself if he wants to die.
Jesse takes off, while Walt takes a phone call to Lydia for one last gloat about the fact that he’s killed her and everyone else, and then he goes and dies in the new lab while the police arrive.
That’s it. The dying Walt took care of his family and the no-options-left Heisenberg protects his product, his name, and his legacy by killing anyone who still had any desire at all to keep Crystal Blue Persuasion going. With his empire secured from the pilfering of others (by it’s utter destruction), he is free to die as well. We have closure, Walt’s journey ends with no lame mysteries or spin-off/sequel setups.
Thank you Vince Gilligan, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul and the rest of the amazing cast and crew for a journey that challenged us as viewers and put the rest of dramatic television on notice. Now hurry up on the Better Call Saul prequel series!