The Breaking Bad Finale Review: Felina - My, That Was Satisfying
There are SPOILERS in this review of the final episode of Breaking Bad.
In many ways it didn’t matter how Breaking Bad ended; the journey was such that the show’s quality was undeniable. And if the journey ended like The Sopranos, Dexter or Seinfeld – i.e., caught up in a maelstrom of controversy and disappointed losers – then so be it.
It's sad to see them go, but what a way to go
But Breaking Bad was, and is, amazing.
Felina wasn’t a misstep; it didn’t leave fans wanting or the critics trilling out shenanigans. Instead, it neatly compartmentalized our separate feelings towards each and every character, and gave them the send off they deserved. Marie: still worrying, still loyal to her sister. Skyler: proud, stunned. Walt. Jnr: unaware.
Other characters, of course, received their send-offs in previous episodes. And Hank’s influence was still felt.
Walter engages in some engineering to take down Uncle Jack and his crew
The show has been laced heavily with metaphor and symbolism – ‘half face’ (the pink teddy bear, Gustavo Fring and Jesse Pinkman) all symbolizing the two sides of the human condition is just one of many you can find throughout. The finale felt simple though. It was a clean break.
I, for one, thought the writers had laid it on too thick for Jesse for him to ever enjoy some kind of believable retribution or redemption. But it’s easy to forget how simple we as an audience can be manipulated. Not like Jesse, though; he’s had enough of being manipulated, and his last act with Walter was to defy him. “If you really want this, then do it yourself,” he said, before dropping the gun and walking to his freedom.
That uncontainable cry of relief – brought about by Walter’s own redemption, lest we forget – was enough. It’s all we needed. He killed Todd – just like Mike would’ve done – and gave us a nod. And that was enough.
Jesse's freedom felt oh so sweet
This felt like the shortest of all the 62 episodes, perhaps because almost half of it was a drawn out Western-style confrontation. Of course it was predictable: Walter standing there when Skyler put down the phone; Lydia receiving the Ricin via her habitual hot drink sweetening habits; Walter White dying. But after five seasons of breakneck twists, perhaps this is what we needed.
And now: Walt.
Redemption for Mr. Walter White was laid on thick and heavy. Everything he did bore the veil of contrition. His crystalizing moment with Skyler in which he finally told the truth was beautiful. “I did it for me,” he explained. “I liked it. I was good at it.”
He freed Jesse, and gave his barmy chums one final payday. He struck the fear of Odin into Gretchen and Elliot. He gave Marie an honest burial of the husband he didn’t murder, but certainly killed. He left his son alone, forgoing the tempation to alter his legacy. And most importantly, he found a way to provide money for his family, finally letting go of the ego that plagued the two years since his 50th birthday.
Walt and Uncle Jack square up
Perhaps the most satisfying facet of this grand finale was the fact he did it Walter White’s way. Rian Johnson - the director of the episode Ozymandium, which saw Hank die and Jesse get tortured, spoke about dignity. And if that episode preserved dignity - then this one reinforced it.
To brutishly take out those that had wronged him in a simple guns-blazing mess wouldn’t behest our leading man. It had to be systematic, intricately planned and, ultimately, manipulative.
Positively sodden with dramatic irony, we watched as he proposed a new plan to Lydia and Todd with a desperate cadence. Terrified, we watched him threaten his Grey Matter adversaries using two failed drug dealers wielding laser pens.
One last stroll around a meth lab - Jesse's meth lab
Walter White is a genius. And, despite being free from the blight of his own ego, his genius can go no further. We said goodbye to that when he concocted a plan to get his money to his family anonymously, and when he shot Uncle Jack in the head despite the Nazi’s best efforts to stay alive using money as a bargaining tool.
The best way to demonstrate the effectiveness of this finale is to compare it to the episodes that came directly before it. Ozymandias shocked us, it caused a social media meltdown akin to that of Game of Throne’s Red Wedding. Granite State slipped us back into a state of consciousness – like it did Walter – before closure became almost tangible.
What the finale did was sew everything together. The fact that no great shocks were felt means the writing was perfect; to rattle things up at this late juncture would have murdered the ending. Just like Walter White would have liked: neat, tidy, effective, and the best quality product for the customers. A modern giant of TV.
When Jesse told him to do it himself, he aleady had