Several years ago I was the best man at my brother’s wedding, I wrote a speech and practiced it in front of the mirror enough times I thought I would be ready when the moment arrived, instead, when I was handed the microphone I got out about three words and started to cry and had to cut my speech short; emotion trumped preparation and I was unable to communicate the message I wanted to share.
I am a little concerned that writing about the Breaking Bad finale may lead me to the same place. Of course, I’m not equating the emotion of a supremely well-done TV series finale with the wedding of my only brother, but I just want to do right by a program that has brought me hours of entertainment, and show respect to Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan who managed to do something rare in the realm of television; find perfection in ending a series.
There really is no other way to say it, the ending was perfect; every loose end was tied up, every question was answered, the people who deserved a bit of a break got one and those who needed to be punished for their evil got what was coming to them. Significantly too, Walt was finally honest with himself and his wife, and perhaps earned a bit of redemption in the minds of viewers like me who have grown uncomfortable with his increasing evil.
Walt was able to find a clever way to provide for his children’s future. Toward the end of last week’s episode he saw Gretchen and Eliot on Charlie Rose, and didn’t much like what he heard. Walt stole a car, crossed the country and made his way to the Schwartz’s home, where he gave them nearly ten million dollars, and instructions on how to get it to Walt Jr. As a parting gift, he gave them a little bit of fear too, convincing the pair if his instructions weren’t followed they would be killed. I never really liked these people, I found them smug and self-impressed and the fact they will be looking over their shoulders for at least a while isn’t a terrible thing in my mind. In the Charlie Rose interview they didn’t give Walt credit for his contribution to their company, and to the fortune that resulted, so to his thinking burdening them the way he did was their penance for wronging him.
Walt was able to help Skyler out of her trouble with the law. He supplied the coordinates to where Hank and Gomez’s remains could be found; this, Walt thought, would provide the leverage she needed to make a deal. Also, in one of the most poignant moments of the series, Walt admitted to Skyler he didn’t do it for his family, he did it because he liked doing it and because he was good at it.
Walt poisoned Lydia with ricin. Did she deserve to die? Well, she certainly didn’t mind giving the order for other people to die, though she was never one for getting her hands dirty with that sort of business.
Walt killed uncle Jack and the other thugs who hung out with him. Walt rigged up a machine gun with a remote control, mounted it in the trunk of his car and made sure he parked it in the right spot. When the opportunity came, he hit the deck, taking Jesse Pinkman with him to the ground, and pushed the button – in short order a lot of very bad people were dead.
Walt saved Jesse. Walt discovered that the blue meth was still being made, and assumed Jesse was voluntarily cooking for uncle Jack, I think he went to the compound to kill Jesse along with the others, however once he discovered the situation plans changed.
Jesse killed Todd. Seriously, I have hated this dude since he shot that little boy on the dirt bike, it is hard to know whether Todd was an evil genius or a very lucky moron, either way, he had imprisoned and tortured Jesse and watching the life being choked from him with the chains he used to do it was quite satisfying.
Walt told Lydia he killed her. This was also satisfying; in what Lydia thought would be her moment of triumph, ending Walt’s life, she called the deceased Todd’s phone which Walt answered, it took her a few moments to figure out it wasn’t Todd on the other end of the line. Walt shared with her he had killed everyone, and asked if she wasn’t feeling well, and then told her she was already dead, and how he did it.
Walt died. I thought for a brief moment the program was going to fade away without that happening, leaving us to forever speculate about what became of Walt. I personally would have wondered if the police caught him, the government then paid for his treatment and his cancer went into remission so he could go to trial and be imprisoned. There are myriad possibilities I could have come up with, none of them as satisfying as the one we got. Walt collapsed and died just as the police were arriving at the compound.
I am going to wait until next summer, and then watch this whole series from start to finish, I need some time to let it all sink in, but I am, at this moment, thinking this may have been my favorite series ending of all time.
Ultimately, in my mind, Breaking Bad was about dying. Or rather, how one man chose to deal with his impending death. Walt was living a decent life when he was diagnosed with cancer, but teaching high school chemistry and working at a car wash for an abusive jerk was certainly not his best life, or perhaps a better way of saying it is he wasn’t living the life he wanted. I do think initially Walt was looking for a way to pay his medical bills and provide for his family, but once he got into it, and discovered how good he was at being a criminal mastermind, he had no choice but to continue; in a weird way Walt found his bliss. If you doubt my reasoning, think for a moment of the final scene, Walt picks up the mask, and walks through the lab he had constructed with a true look of satisfaction on his face, there is no question that he loved his creation; here, not teaching chemistry to disinterested teenagers is where he belonged.
Rarely have I felt so much emotion in watching a television series end, I don’t believe I am alone in this either, in the coming days I look forward to reading what other bloggers think of this finale, and I will spend time reading viewer comments as well. Vince Gilligan can be proud of what he accomplished. What did you think of the final episode? Did they miss anything? Were there any questions you wanted answered that weren’t addressed? What are you going to watch now that this series has ended?
– John Morton