Goodbye Walter White. Goodbye Heisenberg. Goodbye Breaking Bad.
Yes, we saw this end coming. Ever since the show's creator Vince Gilligan said we would see, "Mr Chips turn to Scarface," we knew that Walt's descent from mild-mannered chemistry teacher to ruthless meth kingpin would have to come to an end. But for a show that has escalated and intensified over subsequent episodes, to see it finally climax in this finale was both satisfying and saddening. Like a batch of his own crystal blue meth, years of hard work making Breaking Bad was paid off with the perfect product - our final fix of perhaps the greatest television drama of all time.
For a show that's expanded it's cast of characters, Felina remained tightly focused on Walter White. For much of the episode he appeared almost as a ghost, an often out of focus figure wandering back into the lives of the people who thought they'd never see him again. His appearance at the home of Gretchen & Elliot is one of the surprising moments that neatly ties back in to the show's origins. Trapising around their decadent home, equipped with state of the art security and a remote control fireplace, their lives are the model of both what Walt aspired to for his family, and the life he could have had if he stayed with Grey Matter.
Walt saw in the couples' television appearance a chance to get his money through to his family, knowing that a combination of their guilt and his intimidation would see that they would keep their word. The irony is not lost on them that if Walt had stayed in their start-up then his murderous meth empire would never have happened. And yet the same ego that caused Walt to break from them in the first place comes to the fore when he forces the couple to pile up the money he's earned before saying, "Use my money, never yours".
"I was alive."
We saw Walt's full emotional spectrum in the finale, from the menacing Heisenberg persona he plays to Gretchen and Elliot, the bumbling desperate man in front of Todd and Lydia, the honest and repentant presence to Skyler and finally the violent mastermind that sees him take out Uncle Jack's gang. It's hard to pinpoint a favourite moment, but his frank final exchange with Skyler was certainly the most rewarding. We knew if couldn't end with his malicious final phone call to her in which all his hatred and anger came to the fore, and knowing the end is in sight, he finally reveals the truth that we needed to hear.
"I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it, and I was alive."
Despite dying from cancer, you got the impression that Walt had never really reached his potential (for better or worse) until he took up making meth. His constant lines to Skyler that he always had his family at heart belied his true interest; that the meth he made fuelled his ego. As he previously noted, he was never in the meth business of the money business, but the empire business.
It made sense to have Walt right front and centre, but it was surprising how little we saw of the likes of Skyler, Flynn and Marie. Whilst many people, myself included, predicted a violent end would befall the White family, in the end the real tragedy for Walt was the he was removed from ever being again with those he loved. Watching Flynn through a window enter the cheap apartment he shares with Skyler, we see Walt's resignation that despite the money left behind his son will always hate him. With Walt giving away the location of the grave of Hank and Gomez, the White family and Marie will never get their old lives back, but they will at least have closure.
As will Jesse, who after it seemed was destined for a grisly fate, managed to escape the nightmare he has lived in ever since his former chemistry teacher paid him a visit in the very first episode. His idyllic memory of dedicating loving time and care towards woodworking is contrasted with the slavery he has endured for months mass-producing methamphetamine. Walt's showdown with Uncle Jack is more about revenge than saving Jesse, but we are rewarded with a final exchange between the two before Walt's protege rides off to freedom.
And what a showdown it is. Using his smarts earlier in recruiting Badger and Skinny Pete to mock sniper rifles with laser pointers, he crafts one final scientific device through using his car battery to turn a machine gun into an automated turret. Following the mantra of "outnumbered but never outgunned," in a flash he activates the device to unleash a hail of bullets into the Neo Nazi gang. Todd, the sociopath who has brutally murdered single mothers and children, is finally killed at the hands of Jesse, a fitting revenge after what he did to Andrea. And Uncle Jack, who had already made up his mind about killing Hank before Walt could plea for his safety, is satisfyingly subjected to the same treatment as his attempts to persuade Walt to spare him in exchange for the money are ignored and his brains splatter the camera.
The online theories about the ricin being for Lydia also came true, with the woman who refused to get her hands dirty suffering death at the hands of her herbal tea. With the drug empire brought down, with Jesse released, and with final words offered to his family, Walt has served his purpose and the only thing left is to die. It's a nice touch that with a bullet from the turret gun hitting him in the side, he manufactured his own death. Left alone with the chemistry equipment that has caused so much pain and suffering, but also kept Walt feeling alive, he finally collapses knowing that his mission is complete.
The final shot, as the camera pulls away from a dead Walt being discovered by police, brings to mind how Gale was discovered at his home in season four. For a gangster like Walt, his downfall was the only outcome. He might die alone, surrounded by only the instruments that brought about his destruction, but it comes to a certain extent on his own terms. This finale will live long in the memory. A fitting end to an outstanding television series, I'm feeling the withdrawal symptoms already.
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