Breaking Bad finale review: Felina

Review Paul Martinovic 1 Oct 2013 - 06:58

Paul salutes the passing of Breaking Bad; brilliant, all-consuming storytelling that will never be forgotten by its audience...

This review contains spoilers.

5.16 Felina

“The chemistry must be respected.” - Walter White

It’s been a source of tension worthy of the show itself: would Breaking Bad manage to tie-up the unmitigated tension and nigh-on flawless action-drama of the past five series in a way that would stay true to the characters and overall ‘vision’ of the show, while also not feeling like a terrible anti-climax in the wake of the insanity that preceded it?

Well, I can only envisage two types of reactions to Felina, the Breaking Bad finale: 1) that was perfect, or 2) that was a little too perfect.

In terms of closure, this finale was staggeringly eager to please: there’s not a plot point of note (sorry Huell and Ted Beneke) that didn’t get addressed and gracefully concluded in some way. And Walt got to go out pretty much exactly on his own terms – Vince Gilligan had hinted prior to the finale that the end felt like “kind of” a victory for Walt, but considering what had taken place before it, this was probably the best possible ending he could ever have hoped for. So for those who felt Walt needed to be brought further to account for his crimes, this episodic equivalent of a victory lap might prove unsatisfactory.

Really, I think that the ‘finale’ of Breaking Bad should be seen as the final three episodes in this half-season, as they accomplish a neat trick: they give Walt all three of the likely endings many had predicted for him. Firstly, there’s the all-out apocalyptic ending of Ozymandias, which sees his dual empires of family and methamphetamine crumble in the messiest, most unpleasant way possible. Then there’s Granite State, which sees Walt (and Jesse) totally impotent, detached and alone, and staring down the slow onset of decay, leading to death. And then there’s Felina, which gives Walt the chance to go out with a bang and redeem himself – even if it is only to himself.

In keeping with this atmosphere of score-settling vengeance Walt’s return to Alberquque felt very much like the return of an ageing gunslinger, and the bullet-strewn finale felt reminiscent of The Wild Bunch or the Dollars trilogy. As I’ve mentioned many times in these recaps, Breaking Bad loves a Western reference: partly because tipping your hat towards the striking imagery conjured up the likes of Leone and Ford isn’t the worst stylistic decision you can make, but mainly because it’s arguably the place where film and television audiences really first became aware of the American anti-hero.

The Law of the Old West meant men could be violent and still the good guys, employing an ‘it’s either him or me’ mentality. The Western (along with film noir, another notable influence) was the first place where audiences saw lines of morality being blurred into shades of grey, something that Breaking Bad has in effect built an entire series around. Of course, where Breaking Bad deviated from these films was to put the less appealing (i.e. less macho and honourable) personality traits of a true ‘anti-hero’ under an unforgiving spotlight by relocating to the modern world, where Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name is bitchy and passive-aggressive towards his wife while William Holden suffers panic attacks and whines about not being given enough credit by his boss.

As well as exuding an outlaw weariness, it was also notable how Walt appeared to drift in and out of scenes in this episode like a spectre: again and again Walt would be revealed only after a subtle camera movement, or he would seem to materialise out of the scenery in the background (or even in the foreground). Walt’s presence was then often greeted with the kind of reaction that you’d imagine these characters would reserve for an encounter with a real ghost, and in effect, it felt like Walt haunting these people for the last time before finally disappearing to the afterlife.

Except he’s not, of course: the people he doesn’t end up killing will likely be haunted by the vision of Walt forever. Or, in the unlucky case of Gretchen and Elliot, will be haunted by the vision of two crack hitmen stalking their every move: two hitmen who, in reality, are a couple of stoners with a neat sideline in Star Trek fan fiction in Badger and Skinny Pete. In a way, this reveal sums Walt’s visit to his former Gray Matter colleagues up: I’m sure Walt has fantasised about visiting the pair and lording up his status as a kingpin many times since his empire-building began, and he makes sure to make use of his new-found powers of intimidation by taunting them sadistically with a lurid description of their own assassinations.

But it’s all for show: for all his bravado, he is effectively coming to them with his cap in hand, asking for help. His money and power are gone, and all he has left is his ability to wheedle and coerce, and his willingness to do so. The only thing that has changed since they first offered him their help way back in the early days of the show is that he’s become a bigger thug.

Then there’s Skyler, for whom the spectre of Walt will likely never go away. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the final run of episodes of Breaking Bad is how it has brought the Walt and Skyler relationship right back to the fore, even while the bodies have been dropping and blood has been spilling elsewhere. The most powerful moments in Ozymandias and Granite State both highlighted the tragedy of what has become of their marriage, and so it was again here, in a beautifully shot and played scene where Walt (somewhat improbably) got to meet up with Skyler for a final goodbye.

Ostensibly, Walt was there to give her the lottery ticket that will give up the location of Hank and Gomez’s bodies and act as a crucial bargaining chip in her ongoing struggles with the DEA. But perhaps more importantly, Walt handed over this piece of paper knowing that it would act as closure for Skyler (and closure for Marie), while also making her aware that he wasn’t directly responsible for Hank’s death. Of course Skyler doesn’t have to believe him when he says this: but his admission that he embarked on his criminal life not in the interests of the family but for himself, and because he “liked it” as it made him “feel alive”, marks perhaps the most honest moment he has ever shared with his wife. It’s an interesting quirk of his character, and one that I think says a lot about the nature of screen anti-heroes, that in many ways Walt’s dishonesty has always felt like his most detestable quality, despite his penchant for murder, emotional abuses and intimidation; so it feels cathartic to finally hear him admit he just gets off on being terrible to people.

But then his apparently selfless actions towards Skyler here seem to contradict the idea that Walt is just an outright bad guy. He’s clearly capable of concern for others, and even altruism: but what he makes clear to Skyler is that while he loved her, and loved his family, ultimately he prized the thrill of criminal power that gave his own life meaning and allowed him to stave off the reality of his oncoming death over any of their feelings or ultimate interests. It’s only now, after he has lost everything and come to terms with his own mortality, in the knowledge that his death can no longer be postponed, that he can finally admit that both to her, and to himself.

And so Walt marches into an almost certain death in a showdown with Uncle Jack and the neo-Nazis: but not before a mini-confrontation with Lydia and Todd, where he manages to finagle an invitation into the gang’s compound. Lydia has managed to maintain her whole unlikely existence by carefully avoiding impurities, both in her diet (non-dairy, naturally) and in her personal life, keeping her drug-dealing cohorts at several arms lengths while consistently wearing the horrified expression of someone who has just smelled 300 farts at once. So it’s a delicious irony that she should die (we can assume) from ricin poisoning as a result of her predilection for non-carb, non-calorie sweetener.

With her out the way, Walt heads into the compound with his M60 artillery hidden in his car trunk, Django-style. As it turns out, the M60 proves to be overkill, decimating Uncle Jack’s cohorts in seconds but continuing to shoot up the cabin for what feels like an age afterwards: but, as one of the minions casually remarks to Walt when assessing his car “there’s no replacement for displacement” (a saying popular among American muscle car enthusisasts meaning essentially that the bigger the engine, the more power your car will have and the more effective it will be. This is Walt’s testimonial, and he’s not about to take chances by underplaying it.

But before then, Walt came face-to-face one last time with Jesse. Bedraggled and covered in scars, Jesse had taken to daydreaming about the satisfaction that comes from quality carpentry (it’s left ambigious as to whether this is a flashback to the shop class he mentions in Problem Dog, a fantasy sequence, or even a flash-forward) in order to escape from his reality of meth servitude.

When confronted with Jesse’s situation, Walt has his ‘throwing the Emperor into the reactor’ moment, and decides to save him, pushing him out of the way of the machine gun fire. It’s unclear if this was always Walt’s intention, but once Walt disposes of the gurgling Uncle Jack (mid-sentence, just as Jack murdered Hank) and Jesse strangles Todd (which, no matter what side of the morality divide you fall on, I think we can all agree was 100% justified), Walt sees the opportunity for a perfect ending – death at the hands of Jesse, thereby giving Jesse the revenge he clearly craved, and Walt a convenient way out. Jesse, in his only lines of the episode, asks Walt to tell him directly that he wants him to kill him, and when he does, Jesse refuses. And like that, he’s gone, smashing through the gates in a stolen car, screaming with emotion and his eyes wet with tears. How perfect that Jesse’s final act in Breaking Bad is to finally, finally disobey Walt, and take some long-overdue responsibility into his own hands. Why, it’s almost a happy ending for poor, poor Jesse.

What was interesting about Walt’s final big gambit here was how it acted almost as a mirror image to his memorable infiltration of Tuco’s lair in series one, where he heads into the belly of the beast and manages to escape by flinging a synthesised explosive at the ground. It’s arguably this early success, and particularly Walt’s ecstatic reaction to it, that serves to really draw him into the underworld after his initial dabbling, and to convince him that he might not only survive in this world, but thrive. Here, however, his big explosive plan is designed to get him out of that world by tying up a loose end, and feels a lot more muted as a result. In fact, it’s Jesse who is the one joyfully pounding on the wheel, as he drives at 100mph away from a world he never wants to be a part of again.

At this point, I think it’s germane to salute the way Vince Gilligan and his writers have meticulously constructed the world of Breaking Bad. When listening to him and the other writers talk in interviews, it’s clear that his democratic approach to writing and storytelling (he trusts his writers enough to direct their own episodes, and according to Brett Martin's recent book Difficult Men is a genuinely kind and thoughtful man to work for and be around – decidedly unusual qualities for a television showrunner, if the book is to believed) led to an atmosphere where writers could suggest almost any idea, and it would then be discussed and debated by the team in earnest. It’s only through working out every single possibility that the show could arrive at its own peculiar sense of rhythm and reason, where every development feels at once completely unpredictable and yet the most logical possible outcome.

This controlled but creative method of hammering out a story is, perhaps not coincidentally, the same way any good chemist approaches chemistry: because it contains diverse aspects and elements that won’t always react the same way or the way you might expect them to, its creation by nature is unpredictable. As a result, you need to use your intuition to find your way through, and establish order within the chaos.

That’s exactly how Walt approached his meth cooking, and how he dealt with the volatile elements of the criminal underworld. He knows every reaction breeds a reaction, so he always needed to be thinking several moves ahead. But it also trained him to be aware that there was always an element of unpredictability that needed be accounted for, and to always be ready to think on your feet.

The (literally) cold open for Felina showcases this neatly, showing Walt as he desperately tries to get a car working in order to get back home. As he struggles, it sounds as if he’s praying, asking for help to just get him out of there so he can put his plan in motion. If Walt was a God-fearing man, Breaking Bad would immediately make no sense, so it can’t be a literal prayer; instead I think this is Walt acknowledging the role that the uncontrollable, unpredictable element of his life, the one thing he is unable to manipulate and control, has played in getting him to where he is.

This inherent instability to everything is the reason why a 100% cook is impossible; it’s the reason why Hank decided to read Leaves of Grass on the can, of all things; but it’s also a huge part of the reason why Walt has reached the point in his life he has. Walt is a bad guy – perhaps he always was – but his ‘breaking bad’ was facilitated by doors suddenly being opened at just the right time. It was ultimately his decision to go through them, and now he has to live with the consequences of his actions: but they were opened all the same. That’s why he knows if he can just get lucky at the moment where it counts, he can rely on his unparalleled ability to plot an incredibly complicated scheme, gain vengeance on those who wronged him, and go out on his own terms. And sure enough, shortly after his prayer to the gods of chemistry, the keys to the kingdom fall directly in his lap.

When he wistfully looks over the lab equipment in the compound in the episode’s final scene, you can see that, after everything, he’s overwhelmed by his love of chemistry and its combination of absolute certainty and total, seat-of-the-pants intuition. And he’s in thrall to the way his life has turned out by exactly the same token: for all his genius and foresight, who would have thought that his decision to cook meth would have brought him here? Hell, who would have thought his cancer diagnosis would bring him to this point? Every action has a reaction. There’s a grim inevitability to everything, and yet nothing is certain.

And as Badfinger’s Baby Blue kicks in on the soundtrack (another astute power-pop soundtrack choice), and Walter White finally slumps to his death, you have to ask yourself as a viewer: who would have thought a show about an irredeemable, cancer-stricken meth-dealer would have such a sizable impact on not just TV, but pop culture as a whole? Who would have thought the dad from Malcolm in the Middle would have one of the all-time great screen performances in him? Who would have thought it would have stayed this good, for this long?

That, then, was Breaking Bad: a brilliant, maddening, shocking, all-consuming piece of storytelling that will never be forgotten by all those who saw it. It raised the bar for what television can achieve, had the guts and the vision to go out on its own terms, and in the process gave us all a new-found respect for chemistry.

Read Paul's review of the previous episode, Granite State, here.

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"Guess I got what I deserve. Kept you waiting there, too long my love."

Enough said.

Superb series! Superb reviews! Thank you.

Very nice, though maybe a little simplifying in terms of moralities, Walter was a bad guy, probably, but not sure why its then necessary to say that he maybe always was. Maybe he suffered from extreme ambition irreconcilable with reality, something that the episode Fly touches upon, thats why he maybe left Gray Matter, maybe the reality of the business itself wasnt up to par with his absolute no compromises chemistry mode, maybe he just couldnt work as a team. On the other hand he was always prepared to face the consequences of his actions, while Jesse was not, and Jesse was literally responsible for bringing both the empire and family down, which of course does not extricate Walt, but the relationship there would warrant a bigger analysis, because it is more complex then Walt bad, Jesse poor etc. In a way Jesse was the most unpredictable element and propably the most direct manifestation of the inherent instability mentioned in the review.

I thought it was perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Going into this episode all I wanted was for it to be true to everything that had gone before, and it certainly was. I appreciate the way all the threads were wrapped up. I know some people have commented that they would've liked some aspects left to their imagination and that's fine, but for me this was what I wanted. It was always Walt's story. End of story. Done.

Walt was a good man doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. At some time he became Heisenberg, a man who loved the power, empire and legacy he was building. In the last episode we saw both sides of Walt finally doing the right thing in the wrong situation.

"...and in other news, sales of Stevia plummeted across the USA today..."

We just have to speculate ourselves about Huell. My bet is that by now he's bought himself a set of steak knives, a miracle cleaning product and something called an abdominizer that sadly didn't change his life. He's also discovered God.

Totally agree with all this. Great Review.

Brilliant review. You really nailed this series.

Just wanted to say that you're reviews have been consistently excellent: imaginative, in depth and interesting. Without doubt the best I've found on the web. Reading them a day or so after the show became part of my routine...anyway...thanks a lot for them. You've got skills, dude.

Superb review as always. Thanks for seeing us through the series

Expected Heisenberg full on in Scarface mode, but it was just Walter White tying up all loose ends. Brilliantly tricked again, especially while at the Schwartz' house. Could have gone in each direction from there. The creepy hiding in the dark, coming in and looking at the photographs while the couple stands right behind the wall. Brilliant.

Jesse's finally free! Yes to that. Had tears in my eyes at the carpenter-flash forward (I want it to be one!). Perfect. Plain and simple.

Thanks to Vince Gilligan and team. You made my day.

Spot on review, as always. Kudos for holding it up that well all along the final episodes. Best reviews I could find.

I won't miss Breaking Bad, because it ended at the height of it. I will miss it's quality standard which will hopefully inspire other writers, perhaps even in the movie business. I wish...

Loved it, but maybe it was a little too perfect? It just seemed after WW managed to turn on the engine so quickly in the frozen car, after his pleading with God, maybe it all went a bit too perfectly. The way he was moving like a ghost from place to place, perfectly wrapping everything up could attest to this. Whatever the truth, what a bloody series!

Paul, as much as I am going to miss Breaking Bad, I am going to miss reading your reviews just as much. A flawless series and flawless, insightful reviews. My Monday evenings and Tuesday morning wont be the same for a long time!
Thanks for the journey....its been emotional.....bitch!

Wow. That is all. Just wow.

What are we supposed to do now then??

No more Breaking Bad? No more Den of Geek reviews??

I can't just go cold turkey? You gotta give us something for the pain!!

Superb series and a perfect review. We must all be grateful for this experience,no?
Sadly I tried to persuade several friends to watch this with me and they missed the zeitgeist. How long in a lifetime before a repeat of such an experience? We have been so privileged .

Great review.

A. Speculate about Better Call Saul, until we finally we realise it can never be a good.

Wasn't he trying to (inexpertly) hotwire the car initially i.e. before the prayer? Then afterwards, and after the police car had moved on, he checked the sun visor and the keys fell into his lap.

Richie C - you sum it up perfectly and I agree totally with how you describe Walt as a good man doing some bad/tough things for the right reasons. I have been amazed by the amount of people who have simply painted him as an evil man slowly becoming worse. I havent thought this at all. He has always tried to do the best he can - other people and other circumstances got in the way of that. To say that he was evil to be ambitious and proud of some of the things he has done is just plain unrealistic - he is human, and a good person - and acted a hell of a lot better than most would in the circumstances. It wasnt his ego that made him do some of the bad things - it was always about survival. His ego, drive and ambition came to the fore when it came to the chemistry, the product, the job, and he was not evil in any way when it came to that side of things - just professional. In fact I have not looked upon him as evil at any point througout - pushed to the limit many times, but not evil. Never. The fact that he had any empathy left by the end is admirable. It seems that the majority feel he is the bad guy in all this - and that Jesse is the victim - somehow the good guy. I dont see that at all. Jesse has shown no gratitude to Walt the whole way through the show - granted he would be pushed to feel it by the end due to his messed up state physically and mentally - but right from the start he has pushed Walt to the limit and not shown any respect, remorse or gratitude for the life Walt gave him - one he chose to take and wanted - and pretty much done his best to mess up. It his often overlooked how often Jesse has been the cause of the problems throughout the series. Even at the end when Walt gave Jesse the chance to finish him, I felt Walt owed Jesse no more than Jesse owed Walt. But I seem to be in the minority by having this opinion throughout. Will miss it. Fantastic show.

Yes, I've never seen him as evil either. There was a discussion on here sometime ago, something like 'When did you lose Walt?'. Well I never lost him. Now I'm not saying I'd go as far as starting my own meth empire but in the situations he was faced with I'm not sure I'd react any differently, in fact I hope I'd be able to react as well as Walt did.

I just wanted to say how much I've enjoyed your post-show analysis of Breaking Bad. It's not an understatement to say that these articles have enhanced my viewing, made an incredible TV experience even better. Thank you so much.

Agreed. For me it goes back to when he had the 'mexican guy' in the basement. He was trying to be nice to this undoubtedly 'bad' guy - but eventually realised that this guy was going to kill him if he didnt first. How Walt went about doing this - obviously his first time, as it would be for most people - was brilliantly played. How would normal people like Walt or you and I deal with that kill or be killed situation. Thats when it all changed for Walt. But he didnt become blood thirsty at all. He just realised how things had to be from that point - and being tough just came that little bit easier from then on. That doesnt make him evil. If it did then you could say the same thing about soldiers in war who have to become a certain way to do what they are there for. Things change due to circumstances.

I'm going to miss these reviews. They were always a great post script to each episode. Thanks for writing them.

I was happy with the ending, it felt fitting, but what a series, I'm going to struggle to find something that touches the way, did anyone else think that Walt had a touch of Gordon Freeman about him in the finale?

The writing in these reviews are almost as good as the writing in Breaking Bad. Well done Paul, its been a blast.

Yep, you're right RichieC, it's a bug!

Excellent review as usual, and a good point about the western references. To me the finale had echoes of The Shootist, John Wayne's last film, in which he played a man dying of lung cancer who decided it was better to go out in a blaze of glory and take some bad guys with him. No doubt we'll be picking over pop culture references in Breaking Bad for years to come, after all that's all we have left now :(

Thanks a lot for all of your kind words throughout these reviews, both for this series and the previous ones. It's been a pleasure writing them and being able to catch up with all the things I missed thanks to your comments.

For those of you who enjoyed the style of these pieces, please direct just as much credit to Simon, Ryan, and the rest of the staff at Den of Geek. I don't think I would have been allowed to publish reviews that are this in-depth, tangential and (let's face it) long anywhere else on the web - so thank you for trusting me and letting me prattle on. Den of Geek is the best website for this reason.

Everyone else - WHAT DO WE DO NOW

ah that was a joy to read...

Thanks Paul for the excellent insightful reviews you've written - appreciate your work. Always looked forward to reading your reviews after watching BB as it was the 1st go-to page to indulge in the afterthoughts on what was a compelling piece of TV.
Agree that DoG is the best around as it has the best contributions.
What do we do now? Well that's the good thing about us lot we always find something else to engage in.

For me it was just perfect. I was in tears from the woodwork scene on. Absolutely bereft that it's finished.

Completely agree with this. I was with Walt all the way as

Yes he loved the power and the way it made him fell but the most
evil things he did was to protect his family and those close to him.

Killing Jane stopped Jesse from an inevitable overdose, killing Gail saved his family being murdered by Gus, poisoning Brock was his way to kill to Gus and prevent Hank from being killed and even the dvd to implement Hank was done to ensure his wife and kids kept the money. He lost himself to the power when he refused to do the right thing and kill Todd after the kid was shot on the train heist,

Your reviews have been utterly brilliant, insightful and consistent.. almost as good as the episodes themselves. Top, top work.

There are rarely people in the world who are absolutely evil and vile through and through (Justin Bieber being an exception). And I think it goes to show us through strong writing of the human condition that things are never black and white. All of us have multiple facets of our personality that given certain circumstances could swing erratically in either direction on a continuum of good versus bad.

The perfect definitive review for a perfect finale episode. Your reviews have been utterly brilliant, insightful and consistent... almost as good as the episodes themselves. Top, top work.

(lovingly ripped off from the episode 'Fly') " Look, I feel like I'm running out of ways to explain this to you, but once more I shall try. Justin Bieber is a major problem for us: He is ruining music, and we need to destroy him and every trace of him so we can listen to the radio again. Failing that, we're dead."

A random thought from one particular bit of the finale, which got me thinking throughout about the whole five seasons (which may/may not be obvious I'm sure you'll tell me!), was whether Walter White actually suffered from Multiple Personality Disorder (i.e. Walt & Heisenberg)?

The moment it felt like that for me was right at the beginning, where Walt is looking for a way to start the car. He struggles, trying to find a means of opening up the dash to hot wire it (which presumably would have been a fruitless exercise) and ends up hurting himself.

When the police arrive Walt sits their prone, pleading quietly 'just get me home' twice. Suddenly his eyes change - they scrunch up a bit and his face takes on a mean expression. Is this Heisenberg actually 'taking over' from Walt? 'Miraculously' he thinks to try behind the visor and sure enough there are the keys. He coolly bangs the snow off the window and he's off.

Similarly with Gretchen and Elliot, seemingly a desperate Walt gets the deal to transfer the money. Then the eyes seem to scrunch again, and out comes Heisenberg (assisted by Skinny Pete and Badger) with the threat of sniper assassination if they fail to come through for him.

I haven't bothered to look into this any more, as its just a thought and not really explored explicitly by Vince Gilligan at any point. But it did get me thinking whether Walt going into Heisenberg mode was more than a coping mechanism, and more a dissociative mental illness, which nice old Mr White succumbed to when faced with the desperate prognosis of possible terminal cancer? It would have been an interesting conclusion if Walt had very little recollection of anything (aside from the cooks) and Heisenberg gave him the power to build his blue crystal empire and crush his enemies. Walt went along for the ride but let Heisenberg do the nasty stuff.

Or, maybe I'm reading too much into it!



Spoilers below...

Here goes...

Has anyone heard the theory that Walt actually dies of hypothermia in the car at the beginning? After three episodes of brutal reality in which Walt's luck runs clean out as he encounters forces he couldn't realistically control, the finale seems a little too poetic, a little too daydreamy and suddenly everything goes Walt's way again.

What if the last thing he's doing is sitting in that car, listening to the cassette of Marty Robbins' El Paso and playing out his daydream of what would happen if he could get away?

Evidence for: With so much story to tell, why even feature the opening car sequence (aside from a not entirely essential allusion to the pilot)? The car keys are suddenly, almost magically, there! Such an extreme and explicit shot of the old tape on the car floor makes it text as opposed to subtext. Walt actually singing along with the song "alone on a hilltop" while overlooking the gangs hideout. The gun machine is a tad too MacGuyver, even for Walt. That atypically heavy-handed shot of the ricin-tea-sweetner should have had a caption: "SUBLIMINAL RICIN SHOT".

Evidence against: Nothing actually directly alludes that this may be a fantasy or dying daydream sequence during the episode. I like the ending. I don't want it to be that multi-layered. Walt gets the ending he deserves.

Thanks for these reviews. I've read (mostly excellent) reviews all across the internet and yours have always been the most rewarding. Until Better Call Saul (which I'm not in)...

Re: Car keys: surely that was another reference, this time to Terminator 2 "Are we learning yet?" It might have been a subtle red herring, to prime the audience to think Walt was going to go in full Terminator mode blowing everyone away with the M60. And then VG subverts that expectation by having Walt score a victory over his ex-partners with a couple of laser pointers.
Or maybe I'm reading too much into this :)

Am I the only one thinking that on the first scene where Walt is trying to start the car and he says "Just get me home and I will do the rest" is not some religious thing, but Heisemberg talking to Walt? after all didn't he had two personalities?

I completely agree with your view, I though I was the only one on this

Just snuck another look at the episode- second time around it's a lot, lot sadder. I've read some accounts that talk of Walt's victory, and his redemption, but it's really hard to see this as a redeeming end. The sad thing is that he's where he wants to be- in the middle of the meth lab; and he's done what he set out to do- he's given his family the money. The sad thing is that, for him, this might be enough. He might understand himself- but he still has no idea of what he's lost.

- & can I ask for something: can the site keep these reviews up? They're by far the best on the series: every week, after the show, these are the reviews I've waited for, because they were the ones that really got the series- its ambiguity, its complexity, its rhythms, and its twisted sense of humour.

Props, Paul. Props & mad love.

Your review and thoughts are a pleasure to read. There were two scenes that I felt spoke volumes on the greatness of the show. I've watched these scenes a few times now, and each time it pulls on the heart.
1. Jesse hesitates from getting into the car and looks back at Walt. Why did he look back? Walt stares at him and nods slightly. Only then, does Jesse get into the car, but looks back again at Walt as he gets in. Some say he looked back with a half-smile. What did this non-verbal communication mean?
2. As a father of a 3 year old girl, it was very hard to watch Walt stroke Holly's hair as she slept. Knowing it would be the last time he would see his daughter, I cannot imagine how that feels without breaking down. Just as hard was seeing Skylar's face as he watches Walt. You can tell it wasn't hatred she was feeling. She looked like she saw how great a father the real Walt could have been for Holly, and she looked proud of that. Then Walt looks at Skylar, and her face is sadness. She looks like she wants to say something, but us unable to get it out. As Walt passes Skylar, her head drops sadly; a meek non-verbal goodbye, but the only one she can muster while her mind clashes between the two Walts she knows exists but only till tonight..

From Season 4 through to the first half of Season 5, I felt that Heisenberg had gone well beyond doing wrong things for right reasons. In my view, he was no longer acting in the best interests of his family, despite repeatedly claiming that he was, he was trying to fulfill his own emotional needs from never having achieved anything until becoming a meth cook. His pride in producing the best meth and making so much money from his abilities had far taken over his need to provide for his family. He had the chance to get out of the game with $5m but he refused it, damning both his family and Jesse and making it clear to Jesse he wasn't making that decision out of love.

I'd never say he become evil but at the start of season 5 I felt he had actually gone beyond anti-hero and had in fact become the villain of the show.

Are you kidding when you say that were Walt a god-fearing man the show would make no sense? Do you really believe 'god-fearing men' don't do evil? I'm pretty sure history shows they do an awful lot of evil, some of the worse ever done.

If only they had universal healthcare in the US.
Walt's cancer treatment would have been free.
Could have stopped all that murder and misery.


I agree at 100%, it's a relief to see I'm not alone thinking Walt is no evil!!! Walt never killed nobody out of malice:

-Krazy 8, Gus, the nazis...even Gale, all for survival. The situation lead to a point where he had no choice.

- Jane was a heroin addict, Walt didn't give her the drugs and she would have died sooner or later, plus she was taking Jesse straight to death too.

- The kid in the desert. Is Walt really responsible for Todd pulling the trigger? I don't think so.

-There's only one exception: Mike. Walt is out of his head there and it's an impulsive (perhaps necessary) reaction. And I don't see him very proud of that. He never feels happy or indifferent while inflicting pain (except Gus, and that is justified), that's because he's no evil.

When Walt says he felt alive and that he liked it, I think he refers to the power he had for how good he was at cooking. How special he felt. He was the best at something, which furthermore earned him a lot of money. It is not the killing, the dark side of the bussiness, that he liked. Everybody can understand that, don't we?

Bad intentions never guided him. If they had, he could have gotten Hank killed much earlier and, most of all, discretly. Same for Jesse, who he saved so many times. And then, he would still be happily cooking and getting rich, or just living out in peace with his family. I don't forget the greatest villain in the whole series is the health insurance system and the extravagant price they demand for their services. That goes unpunished.

I've not commented on one DoG before, despite being an avid reader, so first things first: I absolute love these reviews of Breaking Bad. I have genuinely gone back and rewatched episodes with a new perspective based on the insights made in these reviews.

Secondly, this was as good an ending as I could have hoped for. Everything was wrapped up a little too neatly, but that is not a bad thing, it was wish fulfilment and it served the show perfectly.

One thing I noticed, and I'm not sure if it's just me: At the very end, as he was bleeding out, Walt/Heisenberg walked into the meth lab, left a bloody handprint on the machinery, and died there. He needed to be found there, proving beyond doubt that blue meth was him and him alone, even when it wasn't. His last action was to confirm his legacy. Absolutely awesome show. I don't know where to go from here!

He's lost... endless and extremely expensive chemo sessions and a slow death surrounded by a dull, stupid family (do you remember how boring and stereotypical they were in the first episodes?). He's lost... living a life with nothing but regret and plain monotony. He's lost... not feeling alive. That end would have been sadder.

This way, even if things went horribly wrong, he lived a hell of adventure and tried to do things his way, not just following the path society had prepared for him and many of us, and that is worth a lot. I personnaly appreciate and even, in some way, admire it. Free will is life ;) !

Thank you Paul for all your exceptional Breaking Bad reviews. I will miss them just as much as I'll miss the show.

I havent seen an ending where it ended
i havent seen a story told like a story
i havent seen an actor encompass
i havent seen anything.........
like what ive seen in breaking bad.

And i dont think i will ever see it again.
Thank you so very much.

Nope. Reaching./ Unable to let go of one's own pet theory.

Walt tries to hotwire the car, fails. Is despondent. Spots police cruiser lights, says to the big feller... God.

"Help me with this, i'll do the rest"

Police cruiser passes. Believing this to be a sign Walt looks heavenwards. In doing so he spots the sun visor. Could there be spare keys here? Walt uses screwdriver to tilt sun visor down. Spare keys fall into Walt's lap.

Evidence for: Everything that occurred on screen.

This is why I'm wary of conspiracy theorists. The absence of information is not proof of anything.

Remember Walt & Mike? If he'd paused to think, things would be
different but one of Walt's key weaknesses is a tendency to react
irrationally under pressure. This is a character moment.

Walt pauses, sees a solution.

Honestly. I felt that a lot of the heavy handed stuff was there for the people tweeting and half watching the show.

Thanks so much for all your breaking bad reviews. WE have looked forward to them - they have been the most comprehensive, articulate and interesting on the web. :)

Wow. Just... wow.

Thanks Vince et al for one of the most incredible storytelling experiences I've ever had the pleasure of utterly, obsessively immersing myself in.

Thanks Paul and Den of Geek for these reviews, among the very best on t'Internet.

... now what?

But a lot of people were killed, and his family was destroyed, because he exercised his free will. Was it worth it?

Great ending.

But it missed something I thought might have added a tiny epilogue cap to it. I thought that we would end with a "years later" bit where (the remaining White family had moved on, were ok) and 18 year old Holly would see the video that was made during Skyler's baby shower and it would end with her watching Walt's message to her. Might not have added anything, but simply have an epilogue feel to the end.

I really enjoyed the ending and think that the lasthalf of the season is a masterclass of tv - the finest I have ever seen. But one thing I can't figure out - and maybe I'm missing something obvious but ... why did Walt want to kill Lydia? What had she done to him specifically that meant he shoudl kill her? Did he assume she would order the Nazis to kill him? I get why the audience wanted her dead and why she deserved it but was Walt aware of anything she did to him to merit poisioning her?

She was harassing Walt's family and could implicate Skylar

He definitely became the villain of the show, and I think that was Vince Gilligans point in making this show. He wanted to turn the good guy, into the bad guy. And he did it superbly.

As soon as he killed Mike, that was it for me. He was now the shows main villain. That was the first time he killed someone out of rage, anger and an ego the size of Texas. Mike was just driving off, he was not a threat.

I realise Mike was no angel, but come on... we all loved that guy!

Paul - I really like your reviews. Intelligent, astute, and in-depth. Awesome read.

Just wow, finally a series finale that actually felt like one rather than just a poor excuse (Dexter for example) Paul summed it up when he said
"Who would have thought the dad from Malcolm in the Middle would have one of the all-time great screen performances in him? Who would have thought it would have stayed this good, for this long?"
And who would have thought a series about a Meth cooking chemistry teacher would go on to be arguably one of the best TV series ever made

I am not sure how Jessie has a clean slate. They never made it clear if the confession DVD was destroyed. The Nazi's watched it, but the cops might find it at the compound. Also, his girlfriend Andrea was found shot outside her house. He will be connected to that.

I am not sure how Jessie has a clean slate. They never made it clear if the confession DVD was destroyed. The Nazi's watched it, but the cops might find it at the compound. Also, his girlfriend Andrea was found shot outside her house. He will be connected to that.

This review was brilliant ! I've just finished breaking bad what an amazing series !

Gilligan has stated categorically that events in the finale did really happen, so that's all there is with regards it being a Walt fantasy ending. Gilligan mentioned two things that he says make it impossible for it to have been anything other than a reality; Jesse's woodworking fantasy and Jessie's enslavement. I don't buy the second one since it's clear that Walt could have worked out that Jesse was still in the hands of Uncle Jack, but it's not so easy to dismiss the woodwork fantasy. I had thought well why can't that have been Walt's fantasy? He clearly loved Jesse despite the bad blood, so could he not have a vision that would see Jesse doing something that he loved and being perfect at it - a wish fulfillment on Jesse's behalf before snapping back to Walt's "real" fantasy reality. I don't know if that makes sense. But the "wish fulfilment" fantasy would be something that makes sense to Walt himself, in that he himself could never achieve it - even given his genius he couldn't reach near 100% purity during a cook. So that theory kind of works but then you look back at Jesse's AA meeting and wooden box anecdote and it's clear that the fantasy is Jesse's. It has to be.

But the finale did have a very curious feel didn't it? He really did seem at death's door one moment and in the next (once he summons "help") the keys fall into his hand and he bangs the snow from the window in a gesture which was almost too perfect. Gilligan has accepted there are intentional nods and references to religion and perhaps this is the theme I favour; his final prayer answered by God or a higher power which afforded him every advantage to redeem himself before paying the price for his sins on earth. There's the Blood of Christ mountains which Walt mentions to the Schwartzes and then the injuries to both of his hands (from building the gun mount and trying to break into the ignition), along with the wound in the side which have all been highlighted as the Holy wounds by other commentators. And there's the scene from way back in the chemistry lab with Walt and the lab assistant analyzing the composition of the human body and coming up with 99% - something was missing but when the assistant asked about the soul, Walter rebuffed her.

Gilligan has stated "If religion is a reaction of man, and nothing more, it seems to me that it represents a human desire for wrongdoers to be punished… I want to
believe there’s a heaven. But I can’t not believe there’s a hell.”

I don't know which way Walt would be heading after all of that carnage, but there's enough to think he was given at least a chance to recognise his own soul.

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