After just over a week’s worth of reflection, my mind hasn’t changed. I still think the Breaking Bad finale was perfect, and I’m hardly alone. It was tight (TIGHT. Tight.), concise, and exactly what we needed. This show has never been about broad, unanswered questions or making a spectacle of itself. It was about as realistic as a show centered around a dying chemistry teacher’s meth empire could get. It had its share of over-the-top moments – Gus straightening his tie with half of a face, hydrofluoric acid and an assortment of body parts burning through a bathtub – but they took away nothing from the plot. Gilligan did the inevitable, tying up every loose end in the process, and presented it in a nice, neat package wrapped with a crystal blue bow.
And there has still been some blowback. Some felt it was boring and too orderly, others felt that not enough happened. Some went out of the way to craft intricate alternate theories, like Norm MacDonald’s “Walt died in the car” idea. The problem with things likes this is that they discredit the creator’s intentions. MacDonald’s theory is implausible not because of facts, but because it directly contradicts the show’s structure. It has never been vague or open-ended. Before “Felina” aired, it felt almost impossible to hear about the episode without mentions of shows like LOST in the same breath. The two shows had brilliant endings, but they were vastly different and appropriate for their respective genres. There’s no reason to combine the two because a flexible LOST-like ending would never work for a show like Breaking Bad.
For me, there’s nothing more satisfying television-wise than seeing something come full-circle. Nods to early episodes and closed plotlines fill me with so much (probably too much) joy. Maybe Walt blamed Gretchen and Elliot for much of this mess. We don’t know exactly what happened with him and Gray Matter, but something tells me he likely wouldn’t have had to pursue drug manufacturing to pay his medical bills and take care of his family if he were as wealthy as the Schwartzes. So to him, paying them a visit before the final showdown was his way of attacking the root of the problem, even though he didn’t hurt them – nor did he ever intend to. The show’s last scene was even more gratifying. He’s in a lab, probably thinking about how it pales in comparison to their previous workspaces, and he leaves a bloody handprint on a piece of equipment, a physical component of himself left on something that used to be his livelihood. All of this on top of Jesse escaping, Walt admitting that he wasn’t in it solely for his family, and the total destruction of some of the baddest bad guys we know, made it the perfect ending to a perfect show.
We may not ever experience a television show like this again. I’m honestly okay with that. Breaking Bad completely altered the way I look at television, films, books. It set a new precedent for other writers, other creators, and they’re constantly going to be upping their standards to catch up to it. I miss it already.
Confession time: I am a recent Breaking Bad bandwagoner. I mean, it’s barely been a year since I started watching. I popped in season one mid-June of 2012 and barreled through the whole thing just in time for the season five (first half) premiere. When the first couple of seasons aired, I had some interest, but not enough to seek out a download link. I think I even vaguely remember being annoyed that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul beat out a few Lost actors at the 2010 Emmys, which seems a little bizarre to me now. I want to go back in time and tell myself, “WATCH IT. You will learn, child.”
So it’s only been a year, but it feels like many more. After the pilot, I knew there was no going back. This show has absolutely consumed me since then. I’ve been nervous for the finale ever since, not due to a lack of faith in Gilligan & Co., but because I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to these characters just yet. While “Felina” was utterly nerve-wracking, a fingernail-destroyer of an episode, it did leave us with some solace. When was the last time we thought that about anything on Breaking Bad? It was the perfect end to a perfect show that never dipped or even approached a downhill slope.
The episode title guaranteed us three things: blood (iron, Fe), meth (lithium, Li), and tears (sodium, Na). A simple, straightforward formula that really could be the overarching theme of the show as a whole, but nothing else was needed. Walt’s death was inevitable, so Gilligan got in, got out, and got it done, but not before tying up every remaining loose end. He even gets continuations of almost every flashforward: leaving Denny’s, retrieving the ricin coupled with a particularly painful flashback to Hank prodding Walt to inject a little more excitement into his life from the pilot. Nothing was extravagant, save for a few masterful cinematography moments – the reveal of Walt behind the pillar in Skyler’s kitchen comes to mind.