Sunday was the series finale of Breading Bad—a show that will certainly go down as one of the greatest TV shows ever. While I’ve seen every episode, I didn’t start watching the show live until last year when the transformation from Walt to Heisenberg or Mr. Chips to Scarface became final. Or did it?
Going into the finale, I despised Walt. A man I once cheered for, even though he broke bad and was doing all sorts of awful things. He claimed it was for his family. And in fairness, it did start that way, but over time, it was for him. And him alone.
I was eager to see what comeuppance creator Vince Gilligan had planned for his anti-hero protagonist. I imagined it would be awful. He would die alone, deservedly, having lost his family. Maybe they would even be dead.
And I would cheer. (It upsets and scares me how much I wanted this to happen.)
While I loved the idea that Gray Matter was a catalyst to bring him back home, I wasn’t exactly thrilled that they would take precious time away from far more interesting characters whom I had a vested interest in their outcome. The fact that Walter was able to manipulate them and leave his family a small piece of his fortune was true to his brilliance. His family would only accept money from the reviled Blue Meth Kingpin, if they didn’t know it was his.
It still took up too much time and maybe was a little too neat. Honestly, it would have been better if Walt had not been able to get the money to his family. I don’t think he earned that right, but it was unexpected and I appreciate that they surprised me.
Regardless, I was still mad at Walt and ready for him to SUFFER.
Then he does it. He does what I swore he could never do. He made me care about him again.
I’m cheering Skyler for calling Walt on his crap about doing it for his family, when his choices and actions destroyed his once loving family. But then he interrupts her.
“I did it for me.” Oh crap.
“I liked it.” Gut clench.
“I was good at it.” Uh-oh.
“And I was really … I was alive.” Sniff. Sniff.
It could never undo his many wrongs, but it was a start. The Heisenberg mask slipped, giving a glimpse of the man Walt once was and I realized how much I missed him.
Watching him gently caress his infant daughter’s face and lightly fingering her hair, I lost it. The little sweet girl who he kidnapped two episodes ago in fit of anger after what he saw as Skyler and Flynn’s betrayal. While the call at the end of Ozymandias was meant to return his daughter and give Skyler some protection, I also believe he meant every harsh and hateful word he said on some level too.
But not now. Watching him, it was clear to me, at least, this was a man who knew what he lost. The tears start flowing then and only grew worse when Walt watched his son from a distance, to catch one last glimpse of him because he knew that was all his son would allow. A son who once idolized him and now only wished for his death. This was the most powerful moment for me. The one relationship he couldn’t even begin to repair, which is why I think he left the money to Flynn—not Skyler, not Holly but to Flynn. One tiny reparation for the all of his lies and manipulation. He once told his son that he didn’t want Flynn to remember him broken and sick. Now all his son will remember is the lies, manipulation and harm his father did to his family.
Once the tears started flowing, they never stopped for me. And honestly, they still are. Walt took out the bad guys, freed Jesse, gave Jesse the chance to kill him for all his sins, which Jesse rightfully declined to do, and dies in a meth lab, a place where he was a King.
This wasn’t the best episode of Breaking Bad. I don’t think it was intended to be either. It was meant to be a fitting end to a story of man who believed he need to break bad to provide for his family after his death (he was diagnosed with cancer in the pilot episode). He was a man who felt cheated by life and in the meth lab found his power. He became a king. What he didn’t realize until it was too late was that he had already been a king. A king in his own home. A mortal, broke king but a loved one.
He made right what he could but he could never completely clean his slate. His family will always be emotionally damaged, even after Flynn will hopefully receive $9 million from Gretchen and Elliot. The money will never make-up for what they lost. And what makes this a tragedy is none of Walt’s family wanted money. They simply wanted as much time as possible with Walt before cancer took him away from them. Now there will be only relief that they are finally free of him, although the stain of the Heisenberg legacy will always follow them.
This episode was so powerful to me because it reminded me how easy it is to focus on what’s wrong, rather than on what’s right. This is something many of us are guilty of doing, including me. Walt is understandably upset with his cancer diagnosis, but he doesn’t see the love his family has for him. He doesn’t see that Skyler is a capable woman who as a talented accountant could earn more money than he did as a school teacher and provide for their family. He doesn’t see that Hank and Marie would do anything to help Skyler and the kids after he is gone.
All he sees are his failures. He believes the lies he tells himself and uses it to justify all the many wrongs he commits. And it’s not just Walt’s lies. Skyler believes her lie that it’s better for the kids to not know the truth about their father, so she protects him (and I would argue was initially seduced by the money too). To believe that if Walt quits, everyone is safe.
It was a solid ending to an epic TV show. An ending that I didn’t anticipate and didn’t even realize I wanted. I went in bloodthirsty and came out crying for everything Walt lost and maybe, just maybe, finally realized. Some say this is a happy ending. I don’t see it that way. Yes, some people did get their just desserts (RIP – Lydia, Neo-Nazis and Todd. Not really) but happy? I don’t think so. Skyler, Flynn, Holly, Marie and Jesse’s lives will go on and they may even find happiness again. But they have all paid a price for their association with Walt and lost a piece of themselves and their souls that they can never get back.
Breaking Bad Series: An A+++
Breading Bad Finale: A-
Best Episode: Ozymandias
Thanks Breaking Bad. You will be missed. Have an A1 Day.