“Guess I got what I deserved” Baby Blue by Badfinger
So ends the tale of Walter White, collapsed on the floor of a lab bleeding out but satisfied with his lot in life. Like the series Walter tied up the loose ends of his work and now could finally give up and let it all wash over him. No one is likely to forget his name, his legacy was secured.
Yet after 62 episodes and two years (story wise) did Walter really get what he deserved? It is the question that is already dividing fans and critics of the show since the finale aired. Some say he got away with far too much, others were happy to see him get a kind of victory.
There has been fierce debate about fans that are Team Walt and firm believers that he is still a hero, a badass to root for and those who believe that he cannot and should not be allowed to get away with what he has done. I’ve always been in the latter camp, I turned on Walt around mid-S3 and by S4 was actively supporting Hank’s ongoing investigation into Heisenberg whilst dreaming up scenarios of Jesse and Skyler teaming up to take down the man who had ruined their lives. In ‘Felina’ though Walter mostly won in his own way.
He devised a plan to get Flynn his money (whether his son ever accepts it is another question), he took out Uncle Jack and the Nazis who had been using his Blue Meth and had taken his money (as well as killed Hank), he even poisoned Lydia and took pleasure in terrifying his ex partners Elliot and Gretchen. He outsmarted everyone with his fancy machine gun car and managed to stay out of police custody. All of this is a win for Walter and yet despite that I couldn’t help but be satisfied by the finale.
Walter White may have won, may have felt alive for one last time as his master plan yet his life was over, his relationship with his family over. He had to transform into something terrible and bad in order to feel something, to proof he was someone. That is truly a horrible loss.
He didn’t get the justice he deserved not by a long shot, in a fair world Hank and Steve arrest in the desert would have been a success, he would have faced jail and even if the cancer had killed him at least there would have been an illusion of justice being served. Yet it has been clear for a very long time that his fate wouldn’t be so easily wrapped up.
Walter White deserved death and he got it, he didn’t deserve the love of his family and by the end he didn’t have it. He may have had his victories but he never truly won no matter how much he tried to convince himself he did.
“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really – I was alive.” Walter White 05×16 ‘Felina’
So Walter didn’t get the ending I would have liked but he got the only one really possible by the time all the fall out of Hank finding out the truth occurred. However, the Breaking Bad finale worked so well for me because it was so damn satisfying. It gave closure but in also gave hope.
One of my favourite moments was the reveal after Skyler finishes her phone call to Marie, there as the camera pulls away we see Walter waiting to say his final goodbye to his wife. He finally admits what we have known for so long, this was never about his family it was always about him. About the ego, about the bruised pride still unable to get over whatever happened with Gray Matter. This was a downtrodden man who felt impotent and used his cancer and family as an excuse because when he cooked the perfect batch or when he took out an opponent he felt good. When he abused Jesse or lied to Skyler it was Walter wielding the power he had longed for so long.
So Walter telling Skyler the truth was a wonderful moment and something she has long deserved. Yes she wasn’t blameless in events that happened but whilst Walter claimed time and time again to be doing it for the family when he so obviously wasn’t I believe Skyler was. She was trying to protect her children from finding out the truth, to keep Walter out of prison because it would tear them apart and to hope Hank never found out the truth because she knew the consequences would only be death.
Skyler doesn’t really get a victory in this episode but she gets closure, she gets to know that she was right about her husband motives, she gets a chance to give Marie her own closure with the recovery of Hank’s body. She now has the chance to live, maybe the White family will struggle for years to come, maybe Flynn will be damaged by what his father had become but in that moment there is a possibility that they will be alright. There is hope, a tiny bit of hope.
“Say the words. Say you want this. Nothing happens until I hear you say it” Jesse Pinkman, 05×15 ‘Felina’
Hope is something Jesse Pinkman gave up on a long time ago. The first glimpse we get of him in ‘Felina’ is a daydream he hides in to forget about the stark reality of his circumstances. He is a man without any real chance of escaping and perhaps has even given up trying.
When it came to expectations for the finale all I really wanted was for Jesse to live but I thought it was impossible, if Todd didn’t get him then might Walter? Or for a horrible moment would Jesse turn to suicide to escape the pain?
Yet the man who felt the consequences of Walter’s actions so very harshly, the character who couldn’t let go of the guilt surrounding Jane, Gale, Brock and more recently Andrea (as well as countless others) – got to live.
Watching Breaking Bad’s final episodes has been unbearable at time because they were devoid of any real hope – which was the right choice by the way it really was important to show how badly Walter had affected everyone. Yet Jesse’s fate feels like a reward, everything has been bleak and horrible and everyone damaged possibly forever and still Jesse Pinkman got out.
Jesse didn’t just escape and drive off into a new life he got his own closure in terrific style. The death of Todd at Jesse’s hands had me cheering, it wasn’t just because Todd had been keeping him as a slave for months but the characters have always felt like opposites. Todd so easily and without any reservations executed Drew Sharp and Jesse was always such a firm protector of children. Every murder Jesse committed he felt, every murder Todd committed was so easily done, no mark on his soul.
Jesse then finally escapes the hold Walter has had on him, he finally gets to make his own choice, to decide his own fate. Kill Walter or walk away. As with Skyler Walter finally stops lying to Jesse and Jesse gets to say no. No one listening to Mr White plead with him, no more killing.
Walter didn’t set out to save Jesse in fact when he assumed he was Jack’s partner he wanted him dead but seeing his would be son beaten up, battered and bruised he just couldn’t kill him.
Jesse leaves and there is this wonderful little moment just as he is getting in the car – a tiny nod between the pair. It isn’t forgiveness but it’s a goodbye.
So after all of this did Walter White exist at the end or was it Heisenberg? The truth is they were always one of the same. He could never become completely soulless because in his own way cared for his family and so Heisenberg was a huge part of him but he had always been there. There is no Heisenberg. There is no Mr White mild mannered chemistry teacher.
There is only Walter White, a man whose ambitions ended up destroying the people he loved. There is only Walter White, a man whose last actions are not enough to redeem him but maybe just maybe enough for people to move on. For a tiny bit of hope to exist and grow.
Goodbye Walter White. Good luck to those he left behind.
+ I’m going to miss Breaking Bad for many reasons one of the main ones is reading all the great analysis about the show especially all the theories. I do like a show which can be closely examined for clues and themes and not since Lost have I been that obsessed with figuring out where the story may go. Like with Lost in the end the theories didn’t matter it was the journey of the characters and the fate especially of Jesse delighted me more than spending hours figuring out who the ricin was for.
+ I’ve watched and loved many shows where the final season is pretty dark and many characters die but then the finale gives us hope, sometimes even a happy ending. If Breaking Bad had killed of all hope with the death of Jesse I still would I loved it but deep down I am an optimistic when it comes to stories – I like believing that the long struggle characters go through is worth it.
+ Imagining the future: Jesse pops in to see that Brock is safe with his grandmother and then decides that a new life in Alaska is a good idea, he gets heavily into woodworking and eventually settles down. Marie gets closure after they find Hank’s body, holds a funeral, helps out Skyler and the kids and eventually they move somewhere else. It’s not exactly wonderful between the sisters but they get on and are healing. Flynn receives his money but doesn’t touch it, he saves it for Holly and when she grows up it is her choice whether she wants it or not. Badger & Skinny Pete decide to write a sci-fi movie about a man who sells a special drug across the universe, one so pure it will blow your mind.
+ The machine car gun was brilliant, I’ve said it before as much as I hate Walter he was always a genius and a heck of a planner.
+ Comedy watch: Thanks to a Badger and Skinny Pete appearance we got a fun fake out, yeah Walter didn’t really hire assassins to keep a watch on the Schwartz’s instead it’s that comedy duo with some laser pens.
Todd watch: Dead at last and in the best possible way. Oh and that ringtone was naturally creepy. I actually thought Todd was a great villain for the show because he lacked any morality every scene he was in filled with tension knowing that Todd could just kill anyone because he felt like it.
Death watch: I would say around about a dozen Nazis, one uptight would be meth distributor (goodbye Lydia) oh and Walter White, you may have heard of him. When S5B began I feared everyone of the main cast was in danger, from Skyler to Jesse and even the White children and yet here we are with many of the main cast still alive, what a blessed relief.
The greatest: I’ve given up on ever attempting an all time favourite show list because with the wealth of great TV in the past decade or so especially it has become pretty impossible. However, if I was to rank Breaking Bad it would definitely be somewhere in the Top Ten. It appeals to me more than other great dramas like The Sopranos because I ended up caring for the characters more and that has always been the most important thing to me as a viewer.