How did Vince Gilligan and his team of geniuses do it? How is it that the Breaking Bad finale was so dramatic and so muted at the same time? Dramatic because, well shit, look what happened. Muted because, now that we think about it, we expected it all along. It’s over. It couldn’t be more definitive.
So I won’t go into it. I don’t need to. Suffice to say:
Here’s 5 of my personal best moments from the Breaking Bad finale.
5. Schwartz’s House
How ominous was Walt in the first moments in Gretchen and Elliott’s house?! Meandering calmly around while they unsuspectingly chit-chatted in the kitchen. When he closed the door, I presumed that Gretchen and Elliott would certainly never see Charlie Rose again. It’s a testament to how far Breaking Bad has taken Walter that he doesn’t ever have to say or do anything anymore to instil fear. Just his presence and his silence is enough to make us, and whoever he happens to be looming over, quiver in our boots.
Dare I say that the best part of this scene was not the surprise of Walt’s reason for being there, but Badger and Skinny Pete putting in a final appearance as his “assassins”. It was a) a welcome sprinkling of comedy, b) nice to say goodbye to them too, and c) a good way for Walt to make sure his family gets the money whilst not letting the Schwartz’s off the hook for belittling his role in Grey Matter Technologies.
4. “Five minutes”
Wait… What? Five minutes? Who is she talking to? OH CHRIST, WALT’S ALREADY THERE!
I was glad to see Walt return to see Skyler. Like him, I was troubled by his last phone call with her. I didn’t want them to end like that. Skyler, now a chain-smoker, seemed very hardened. Or perhaps just accepting, defeated, out of fight. She wasn’t afraid of Walt. She knew he wasn’t staying. After breaking down upon the realisation that he was giving her closure on Hank, she let him say goodbye to Holly. And suddenly she looked soft again, like she was looking at her husband, Walter White and not at Heisenberg, the callous drug lord saying goodbye one final time. The look on her face spoke ten gazillion words. Among them, “I hate you”, “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “I understand”, and “goodbye”.
3. Did he just poison her?
Walt’s deceit of Lydia and Todd in the quaint little café was obvious. At least it was obvious to everyone but Todd and Lydia who hilariously assumed they’d outwitted him. We, on the other hand, assumed that was just manipulating his way into the Nazi stronghold to unleash hell. And, while we weren’t wrong, the moment Lydia poured her beloved Stevia into the tea and we realised that she’d just become one of Heisenberg’s final victims, was all kinds of brilliant.
2. The Big Finale
We saw Walt assembling his contraption in the desert a few scenes previously. He hummed peacefully to himself as the M60 instruction manual flapped in the wind and he used the car key to activate the oscillating thingy. We had a fair idea of who the effort was being made for. We just didn’t fully understand his method.
I can just barely comprehend the feeling of triumph that swelled over me when Walt hit the button and the rounds started tearing through the nazi club house. It was spectacular and felt like it went on forever. It continued long after everyone was down. Walt was clearly taking no chances. It would have been foolish, even for Heisenberg, to think that he could have taken on Jack and his merry band of white supremacists without the aid of a remote activated, oscillating M60 machine gun.
Most beautiful? He saved Jesse.
According to Vince Gilligan in an ‘Inside the Episode’ clip, “right up to the cusp of that moment, he was going to kill Jesse.” Walt was genuinely pretty irked when he realised that Jesse was still alive and making the blue meth. He went to the Nazi compound intending to kill everybody. Then they brought Jesse in, shackled, small and broken, too dead to even react to Walt’s presence. And we saw Walt see Jesse; his partner, his student, his friend, the one who bought him that watch that he left on the payphone outside the diner, now a shadow of himself, someone’s property. There was no redemption in killing Jesse. Even though part of me thought that, like a sick dog, it would have been kinder to just put him out of his misery, it was emotionally unburdening to see Walt do good and set him free.
1. Walt’s Death
It was always going to happen really, wasn’t it?
After R.J Mitte (Walt Jr./Flynn) said in an interview that the ending was “inevitable”, I thought that maybe the cancer would get Walt after all. Even going into ‘Felina’, as he coughed in the car, I wondered if he would just collapse at any moment.
But Walter White stayed with us to the very end. It would have been uncouth for him to die of cancer. He’s Heisenberg and he calls the shots. And so it was with his death. Struck in the gut by a bullet of his own orchestration whilst saving his partner, they exchanged that look that there are actually no words to describe but we all still implicitly understood, Jesse took his freedom and Walter went to die, on his own terms, in the one place where he had always been at peace; in the lab.
And he really did look at peace didn’t he? Looking at the meth equipment as the police rushed to the scene, he looked serene and nostalgic. He seemed proud. He seemed contentedly resigned to this ending. His time had come and his ducks were in a row. His family would get the money. His meth empire was no more at the hands of Lydia and the Nazis. And Jesse Pinkman had taken his own life back (“Then do it yourself.”). There were no more ends to tie. There was no other way to say goodbye to Walter. He was ready to die and we were ready to watch.
It was so gruesome and so beautiful. It was so sad but such a relief. It left us feeling empty and liberated at the same time. And it was, as Vince Gilligan had promised us all along, conclusive.
Somehow ‘Felina’ managed to be both everything and nothing I expected it to be. As sad as it is to say goodbye to the best thing to happen to television thus far in my lifetime, the ending was horrendously satisfying. I feel released. It’s over and I have no more questions.
Except whether or not Saul is managing that Cinnabon in Omaha.
A couple of other good moments:
Jesse’s wood-working dream
It was in Season 3 when Jesse told the story at his NA meeting about how he made the wooden box in high school.
“I built it out of Peruvian walnut with inlaid zebrawood . It was fitted with pegas, no screws. I sanded it for days, until it was as smooth as glass. Then I rubbed all the wood with tung oil so it was rich and dark. It even smelled good. It was perfect.”
The group leader had told him that it wasn’t too late, that he could take adult woodworking classes at the university. Jesse then admitted that he hadn’t given the box to his mom like he told them but had traded it for an ounce of weed. That scene showed us what Jesse could have been, or might have been, if he could have, or would have made better choices. And this scene in ‘Felina’ did the same. It reminded us that Jesse could have been a different person. He cared once. He had passion for something. Alas, we were jolted from the hazy woodworking fantasy back to the reality of Jesse’s lessons unlearned, to his prison meth lab, where his decisions had put him.
I just thought it was a poignant scene; pretty and affecting.
Marie still caring about Skyler
Remember in season one when she was just Skyler’s crazy, kleptomaniac, compulsive liar sister? Yeah, just barely, right?
Marie has been there for Skyler through everything. She was there for Walt’s cancer. She stood by her through the gambling lie. She was even somewhat sympathetic for her sister when the truth came out, offering her a bone at the carwash when she thought Hank was booking Walt.
And now we saw her again, reaching out to Skyler, warning her that Walt was back in town and pleading with her to “be on the lookout, okay?”. As far as Marie was concerned, Walt killed Hank. Skyler knew what Walt was and what he was capable of. Marie could have been forgiven for never speaking to her sister again. She could have been forgiven for wanting her sister to burn for her part in all the devastation. But she didn’t. She was the one doing all the forgiving. She still cared. She was still kind and soft, looking out for her family.