'Breaking Bad' Finale Was An Enormously Satisfying Conclusion
October 2nd, 2013 10:45am EDT
Wow. I can't believe it's really over. This show is one of the best - if not the best - examples of television I have ever seen. And while the finale actually wasn't the strongest episode of the season, (that honor remains firmly with Ozymandias) it was still an enormously satisfying conclusion. I really feel like Breaking Bad was a show that respected its viewers. It trusted us to be intelligent. It didn't mess around with our expectations, and it gave us a product of extremely high quality.
So. In this final episode we see Walt go to Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz in their fancy home, ambushing them while they are enjoying an evening alone. He brings in his money and tells them to give it to Walter Jr. when he turns eighteen. In order to solidify this command, Walt threatens them with snipers waiting outside. We later see that the snipers are nothing more than Badger and Skinny Pete with laser pointers. From them, Walt learns that the blue meth is still circulating in the area, and he determines that Jesse is still alive and cooking for Jack.
This scene was really chilling. Walt was so calm about breaking into the Schwartz's home. He didn't sneak around or try and be quiet. He just calmly entered their house and waited to be noticed. It almost seemed like he was having fun as he threatened them with imminent death. I also have to respect Walt's plan, here. He may have found the only way to successfully get that money to his family.
Next, we transition to Walt interrupting a conversation between Todd and Lydia. He tries to convince them to allow him to cook again - he says he's broke, and that he's found a new and better way to cook. As is clear to the audience watching, something else is going on here. He's not really as desperate as he's pretending to be.
I liked this scene because Lydia is clearly no longer afraid of Walt. She pities him, even. It shows how much everyone's perceptions of the great Heisenberg have changed. However, the not-so-funny joke is on her. Walt replaced the Stevia she puts in her tea with ricin, and as we see at the very end of the episode, her death is imminent.
Marie calls Skyler to report something about Walt - he was seen at the old house (fetching the hidden ricin). Although things between Marie and Skyler are still tense, Marie makes Sykler promise to be careful, since Walt might try to get to her. Skyler agrees. Then, as she and Marie hang up, the camera pans up to show Walt already in the kitchen with her. This was a fantastic trick and I didn't see it coming.
Walt is there to give Skyler the coordinates to where Hank and Gomez are buried. He also requests permission to see his children one last time. Skyler grants him this last favor. And of course this scene has the line in it that's already becoming famous. Walter White admits: "I did it for me." This was such an important moment of realization for the character. He has been saying - insisting - for such a long time that his family is his motivation. But that hasn't been true for quite a while. He still loves his family, obviously, but a lot of what he did was for his own personal glory and enjoyment.
Honestly, this little scene here contained the only part of the episode I took issue with. Almost all of the main characters get a very satisfying ending. Skyler gets one last scene with Walt, Hank's body will be recovered, Lydia dies, Jesse - well, we'll get to Jesse. But I didn't feel like Walter Jr. or Marie got the ending they might have deserved after such a long journey on the show. Now, because of time constraints, this makes sense. Also, I liked how the episode focused so closely on Walt's particular journey. It might have been out of place to give more attention to Marie or to Flynn. I'm not sure. However, it was one point in the episode where I felt a little let down.
But now for the epic conclusion. Walt shows up to Jack's hangout. He pretends he wants to work with them. Jack orders him to be killed. Walt, seemingly desperate, accuses Jack of partnering up with Jesse. This insults Jack, who says he would never partner with a rat like Jesse. Jesse is brought into the room, where Walt sees that he is indeed a prisoner, not a partner. Walt, seemingly out of nowhere, tackles Jesse to the ground. Then, he presses a button on his car keys. It sets off a rigged machine gun in his car, which mows everyone down. Oh my God. People are dying left and right. After the bullets cease, everyone is dead, with four exceptions: Jack has been shot but is still breathing, Todd managed to stay out of the way of the gunfire all together, and Jesse and Walt are alive because Walt pushed them out of the way. Walt, however, has been hit by a stray bullet and is bleeding.
The insanity continues: Jesse, in a fit of rage, strangles Todd with the chains binding him. Jack tries to stay alive by telling Walt that he'll never find his money if he's dead, but Walt cuts off this very logical statement by shooting Jack in the head. Jesse gets the key off of Todd's corpse and unlocks himself. He faces Walt, who is holding a gun.
Walt pushes the gun over to Jesse. Jesse holds it on him. He's shaking. Crying. Walt tells him to do it. Jesse... can't. As Walt gets a phone call from Lydia and informs her of her impending death, Jesse walks away. The two of them share a last look. Jesse looks at Walt with gratitude, then gets into Jack's car, driving away with maniacal glee.
This exit for Jesse's character was perfect. He got one last moment to express his connection to Walt, and he escaped from his torment. We don't know where he's going, or if he'll manage to find a way to be alright. But we know that he is free. Of all the characters on this show, he is perhaps the only one who has a chance of starting over fresh. For such a dark journey, Jesse's last moment pointed to an oddly hopeful future.
Then there's of course what all of this means for Walt's character. He took down the entire operation. He killed Jack, and Todd, and Lydia... he made sure no traces of his business were left. And yet? He let Jesse live. I believe he was planning to kill Jesse along with everyone else. But once he saw that Jesse was a victim? He changed his mind. Literally nobody else is spared, but Jesse gets to go free. From a practical standpoint, it doesn't make much sense. But from an emotional one... Walt's connection with Jesse was strong enough to cut through at the very end.
The episode ends as Walt, succumbing to his blood loss, collapses to the ground. The camera circles above him as he dies in a pool of his own blood, among the equipment he used to build his now dead empire. The police show up, and Breaking Bad ends.
And what an ending. It's enormously fitting for Walt's character. He finishes what he needs to do and then... he's done. He dies. I honestly couldn't have imagined a better way to wrap things up for him. It's the only way that our protagonist can have some sense of completion, or maybe even peace. No matter how evil Walter became, I think it was important for the audience to see him finish what he started.
So. This finale, barring the one small flaw I mentioned above, was absolutely stunning. I was extremely satisfied with this conclusion. I'll miss this show, but it was probably smart to end it while everything was still so strong. Breaking Bad never slipped up, it never faltered, and it gave us a truly artistic experience for five amazing seasons.
Breaking Bad as a completed project is honestly unparalleled in its plot consistency and creativity, the extraordinary development of the characters, the superb acting, and more. As a whole, I can give this show no less than a perfect score.
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