As you might expect, this feature contains Breaking Bad spoilers.
Possibly the most highly-anticipated television event since the Gold Blend Couple set down their mugs, the impending climax of Breaking Bad has inspired a lot of fevered speculation. At times, it’s felt as though every fifth thing on the internet has concerned Walter White in some way. 0.20 of an internet? That’s a lot, even if a full third of that was made up of people saying that ‘he enters Witness Protection and that’s how Malcolm in the Middle starts.’ If you’re one of them, write out one hundred times ‘I must not copy jokes from the internet’.
Fortunately, Den of Geek readers are a smarter bunch than that and many of you have been making superbly smart comments under our weekly episode recaps, for which thanks are due. Our recaps have been among the most popular pages on the site for the past few weeks and your comments have been great, even if RichieC’s new avi is a little bit frightening.
Thanks especially to Alex G, who noted that Walt’s circumstances have their “own inertia”, and that his own actions “opened him up to being robbed blind and seeing Hank killed in front of him, by people who explicitly aren’t his intellectual equals, but are willing to play the game as hard as it needs to be played – ‘full measures’, if you will”.
It’s a really solid point and one that has tremendous respect for the show’s writing team. Respect that, we’re sure you all agree, is richly deserved. Vince Gilligan and his crew have built a reputation for tight plotting and attention to detail that make Walt’s ultimate destination as unpredictable as it is inevitable. Still, it’d be rude not to at least have a stab at guessing where this all goes, wouldn’t it?
Speaking in advance of the knuckle-whitening final eight episodes, Gilligan refused to be drawn on his intended ending to the show. As a writer with a reputation for making adjustments to his plans on the fly, it’s possible that at that stage, even he did not know how it all ends. All he could say at the time was that he intended to end “on a high note, in a way that will satisfy everyone”.
A high note? Given what we’ve seen and collectively suffered through over the past few weeks, this seems a bit of a reach for the characters at least. Still, I Believe in Vince Gilligan. And so should you.
What do we know now?
We know that 308 Negra Arroyo Lane has been trashed, vandalised and abandoned. There’s a fence around it to stop ghoulish trespassers. We know that the Whites’ former neighbour, Carol, with whom they were previously on friendly terms, looks at Walt like she’s seen a ghost. We know that his cancer has returned, quite possibly for the last time. We know that he is heavily armed, effectively disguised and that he has some intended purpose for the tiny phial of ricin he had sequestered in his old house.
We know that he has nothing more to lose.
In dramatic terms, Walt’s tragedy is complete. The momentum that Alex described has finally destroyed the very thing he set out to save, namely his family. His final attempt to pass money to his children has failed and Walt Jr., sorry, Flynn, has rejected him outright. Skyler is living in a DEA-surveilled hell. He has failed in his aims but the momentum created by his ego has not stopped. There are a few scores still to be settled. As he said himself, “it can’t all be for nothing”.
He’d all but thrown in the towel when he saw the Charlie Rose interview with Elliott and Gretchen. It told him three things, each of which were damaging to his ego. He learned that Jesse is still alive and cooking, contrary to his explicit command, that blue meth (HIS product) was back on the streets without his involvement and that the Schwartzes have been busily diminishing his role in the founding of their company. This will not stand. Crucially, both of his personae are offended; the Schwartzes insulted Walter White, the Nazis, and Heisenberg.
Uncle Jack and Operation Blue (meth)? They’ve gotta go. The assault rifle is clearly intended for them, but, as with the Dothraki horde, only a fool would face them in open battle. They might come across a bit hillbilly but they aren’t to be messed with lightly. Even if we just count the things we’ve seen them do, they’ve taken out ten prisoners, a rival drug gang and two armed DEA agents. The penultimate episode showed us just how hard they are prepared to play the game, which is to say very hard indeed. If he’s to stand any chance of beating them, Walt must use his unique strength, namely his brain. He must outthink them. Massive shootout? I don’t think so. Something more cunning is in store for these guys.
From Walt’s, as opposed to Heisenberg’s, point of view, Elliott and Gretchen cannot go unpunished. Or unexploited. Walt has a couple of problems that he could solve in one go here. He wants to get his money to his children, the Elliott and Gretchen Schwartz Foundation would be a helpful front, and something of a step up from Walt Jr’s Save Walter White begging bowl site. Obviously their association with Walt is damaging to them, they’d need to be compelled to help him. He’ll probably insist on them admitting to his face that he, not Elliott, was the real brains behind Gray Matter. A spot of blackmail, perhaps? A little bit more elegant than a packet of ricin ramen noodles. God, they used to live on that stuff.
Lydia is also a potentially useful tool. She’s been superintending the intercontinental exportation of huge quantities of drugs for quite some time. It remains possible that she will be persuaded to help Walt to clean his money. I’m going to go out on a limb here and state that she will not touch Meth Damon with a bargepole, no matter how smartly he dresses for their café meetings. Sorry Todd, but you’re out of luck with this one.
Given all that’s happened to him, it’s hard to use the words ‘luck’ and ‘Jesse’ in a sentence unaccompanied by the word ‘change’. I really hope that it does, I think we all do. While it would be great to see him escape his current incarceration as well as the wider circumstances of his life, it’d be particularly sweet if Walt had given him the keys to his escape. 93% purity? He’s definitely learned something from his old master, what about a little chemical escape? It’d be a neat shout back to the opening episode and would mean that, despite being to blame for his situation, Walt would also be partly responsible for his escape. One last Yeah! Science! wouldn’t go amiss either. Just as long as he leaves some Nazis for Walt.
And what of Walt? Walt’s time is up. He’s been turned from Mr Chips into Scarface, and we all know what happened to him. It can’t be the cancer, it just can’t. His ego wouldn’t tolerate death by anything beyond his control and neither would the narrative. As a tragic figure, Walt’s final end must result from his own actions. Is the ricin for him? It’s a nasty way to go, but at least it’d be his way. As I said, after he’d retrieved it from the house, Carol looked like she’d seen a ghost. Maybe she had…
Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. We won’t know until the finale airs… but until then, what do you think is going to happen?
Breaking Bad concludes for good with its final episode this Sunday the 29th of September on AMC, available on Monday the 30th on Netflix in the UK.
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