Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad Finale Review: And Tonight… Nothing Shall Remain

Spoiler Alert! If you haven’t seen the finale of Breaking Bad leave now!

Let’s get started. If I had to use one word to describe the finale to Vince Gilligan’s magnum opus it would be either “neat” or “fitting” or “satisfying”. Walt’s dead. Lydia’s dead. The Neo Nazis and Todd are dead. Skyler’s off the hook. Walt Jr’s going to get the money. Walt got to have "his" proper goodbye with Skyler and the kids. Maria gets to bury Hank. And of course, Jesse lives. (Personally after seeing the trailer to Need for Speed, I think that film is just a continuation of Jesse’s story. I mean did you see how fast he was flying out of that compound plus he still had scars!)

Literally no “T” or “I” was left uncrossed or undotted. It pretty much was the “best” possible outcome the show could have. I’ve said all along this was the story of Walter White's rise, fall and redemption. Walt had to die. The show couldn't end any other way. You don’t get to do the things Walt has done and live. And he had to die a violent death too. Somehow, and this is strange to say, suffering through cancer would have been way too easy. 

It was noble of Walt to save Jesse and actually sacrifice his own life in the process. He's had to save Jesse throughout the show, so it was only fitting that he did it one last time. Walt's always tried to help Jesse and do what he thought was best for him. When you think about it, Walt letting Jane choke to death was just his twisted way of looking after Jesse's best interest because she was totally destroying Jesse's life at the time. Even nobler was him blowing Uncle Jack’s head off as he tried to use Walt’s money as a bargaining chip. At that point, money meant nothing to Walt. Finally!

The most cheer-inducing scene of the episode was Jesse choking the life out of Todd. When the dust settled after all the bullets stopped flying, I remember screaming at the television, “Choke him Jesse! Use your chains and choke that bastard to f**king death!” How ironic was that. Jesse's chains of bondage turned into a weapon of freedom.

I thought the much anticipated stand off between Walt and Jesse was very lackluster. I really wanted them to say more to each other. It was a mostly muted moment for two characters that have gone through so much together. Jesse refusing to give Walter the satisfaction of a quicker death was expected, as Walt was already dying anyway. Jesse isn't that cruel or vindictive like Walt. (In fact new theory: The Neo-Nazi compound didn’t have too many roads in and out of there I’m guessing and the way Jesse sped out of there, I think he got caught. Think about it. Someone reports a ton of gunfire. The police is racing to the scene and some maniac in an El Camino zooms by them coming from the direction they’re going. I’m going to say the police may want to send a car or two and stop that person. So I like to think Jesse's right back in chains.)

Another standout moment of the finale included Walt scaring the living hell out of Elliot and Gretchen. If you noticed in Marie’s phone call to Skyler, about Walt’s activities in his return to town, there was no mention of his visit to the Schwartzes. Which means they got the message and the plan worked. Which is much more “sinister” to me. Even after they give the money to Walt Jr, they’ll always be looking over their shoulders. A fate far worst than death if you ask me. Also, I really enjoyed the reveal of Badger and Skinny Pete as the would be “assassins”. It was nice to see those "clowns" one last time and they added a much needed dose of comic relief before things really got started.

The best scene of the episode, for me anyway, was the scene between Walt and Skyler. The last time they talked was pretty nasty, so it was great to see Walter get to explain a few things and Skyler actually listen to him. It was the perfect moment for an estranged husband and wife to have. Skyler even makes mention to Walt “looking like shit.” It’s totally what your ex would do if they saw you like that. The icing was Walt finally admitting to Skyler he did everything because HE WANTED TO and because HE ENJOYED DOING IT. If you’re the best at anything, be it football or meth making/drug lording, you have power. You have power and you're good AND you get to wipe out your competition at the same time! You’re going to feel something and chances are you're going to like it. For a man as weak as Walter his transformation was so fitting. He was finally “alive". I'm happy he stopped using his family as an excuse for the mayhem he caused.

Walt's final time with Holly was so well done and Skyler’s subtle smile here was just perfect. For that moment, Skylar saw him not as a monster but just a father. A man who loved his kids. Someone who wanted to do the best by them, but went totally off-the-rails wrong doing it. The scene was him going from Heisenberg back to the real Walter one last time. Walt was weak and human for the first time in a long time. I truly felt sorry for him and that's something I haven't felt in a while. Last week, I didn't feel sorry for Walt at all, because I felt like he was getting what he deserved. But this was different. In this scene he was a broken man that just want to do what he could to at least try to salvage what was left of his family. The scene made me start to dread his impending death and really help remind us of the great person Walter White once was.

In the end, two things stopped this episode from being truly epic. First, it was way too predictable. The chaos and edge-of-your seat uncertainty of Walter’s world is what made Breaking Bad so great. The show had a great way of never going the way we wanted or thought it would go. The finale had none of that. It was just too perfect at times. The second thing that held it back was the flash-forwards with the ricin and machine gun. Sure, earlier in the season seeing those things was awesome but as we got closer and closer to the end, we could kind of guess what would happen. Even though most of this episode was telegraph it was still cool to actually see it happen.

Breaking Bad's series finale was much like Usain Bolt's 100M race in the Summer Olympics in 2008. Those first 90 meters Bolt blazed ahead, crushed everyone and he still set the world record. But he coasted, arms out in celebration those last 10 meters and had Bolt pushed himself he could have done something really special. That’s what this episode was like to me. A gentle coast to the finish line to a race already well in hand. It was great, but it wasn’t nearly as thrilling as “Ozymandias”, which I’m convinced is the greatest hour of TV ever. Since everything was wrapped up so nicely, it’s kind of hard to really complain. So many shows leave things unanswered or go on too long but not this show. Nothing is left to the imagination with Breaking Bad and it was just the right length as well. No fat at all. No wasted frame or scene or episode or season. There are no "throwaway" moments to be found in this show. 

I’ve already “waxed poetically” about the show’s greatness and the finale doesn’t change how I felt then or now. This has been one hell of a ride and I’m glad I watched it. Blood was spilled. Tears were shed. The meek man that rose from the ashes of obscurity to become an unstoppable force of brutality fell to the same whirlwind of violence he created for so many around him. For in this life, or the next, we ALL must pay a price for our sins. And on September 29, 2013, Walter Harwell White Sr finally settled his debt.


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