‘Breaking Bad’ finale: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The final batch of blue meth has been cooked, Holly’s crib has been stored away in the prop attic, and the “Better Call Saul” billboards are all being taken down… until next year.

That’s right, “Breaking Bad” came to an end Sunday night, and millions of fans around the globe are in a state of mourning over the passing of their favorite show.

I’ve been a fan of “Breaking Bad” since the pilot originally aired on AMC back on January 20, 2008. I grumbled over the shortened first season thanks to the writers’ strike, I wondered about the mystery of the pink teddy bear in season two, I had a mild heart attack during Hank’s shoot-out with the Cousins in season three, I agonized during that endless year-long wait between the third and fourth seasons (seriously, AMC, what was that?), I gasped at Gus’s half face in season four, I applauded when Skyler stood up to Walt in season five, and I declared “Ozymandias” to be the greatest TV episode of all time two weeks ago.

Now, then, it’s time to put this thing to bed and analyze the good, the bad and the ugly of the “Breaking Bad” series finale, titled “Felina.” Here’s hoping no one chokes on their own vomit. WARNING: SPOILERS TO FOLLOW!

THE GOOD

Walter White. Love him or hate him (or hate to love him — or love to hate him), “Felina” told his final story. By my count, Walt appeared in every single scene of the 75-minute conclusion. While that may rub some the wrong way (see “The Bad” below), I thought it was a fitting tribute to this amazing character to tell the final episode through his eyes.

Vince Gilligan. Series creator Gilligan wrote and directed this series finale, and he’s sure to snag a couple Emmy nominations next year. Whether or not he’ll win them remains to be seen (“Breaking Bad” has never won a writing or directing Emmy), but he certainly deserves to be in the conversation thanks to his expert crafting of the episode.

Violence. It seems more and more that TV series are scared of being too violent in the fear of advertisers turning on them or other such ridiculous nonsense. The finale of “Breaking Bad” showed no fear. The end showdown — brought about by a car keychain and a Jack-in-the-Box-style machine gun — was so violent I had to close my eyes for a brief second. Extra points go to Jesse for strangling the life out of Todd in the most rewarding murder of the entire series.

Death. Of the nine credited cast members, four didn’t make it past the finale. That’s crazy! Dean Norris‘ Hank was killed off two weeks ago, Jesse Plemons‘ Todd was strangled to death in the final showdown, Laura Fraser‘s Lydia will die a slow death thanks to the ricin and Bryan Cranston‘s Walter-Freaking-White died while in the company of his favorite thing on the planet: a meth lab.

Jesse’s Happy Ending. If any character on this show deserved a happy ending, it’s Jesse. He’s been put through the ringer more than any other character — Jane dying of an overdose, Walt’s never-ending manipulation, Brock’s poisoning, Andrea’s murder — so seeing him drive off into the unknown, screaming in pure joy, was a moment I won’t soon forget.

I Did It For Me. I was with Skyler when she barked at Walt not to play the old, “I did it for the family” routine. What a welcome surprise, then, that Walt finally admitted the truth when it counted the most: He did it because he liked it. Now, while this may not be 100% true, it was still intriguing to learn this one final thing about Walt before the end.

Flashback. “Breaking Bad” revels in its storytelling, with various episodes over the years showing scenes from the past as well as the future. As Walt was looking around his old house, we got a timely flashback to the pilot episode when the much-missed Hank taunted Walt about going on a meth lab bust in order to live a little. If only they knew what would come of that conversation….

THE BAD

The Walt Show. Sorry, supporting players, this finale wasn’t for you. Since Walt appeared in every scene, that meant precious little screen time for all of the other characters we’ve followed over the years. Recent Emmy winner Anna Gunn only had a few minutes of screen time as Skyler met with Walt one last time, Betsy Brandt‘s Marie was only seen via a phone call, Bob Odenkirk didn’t appear at all (a shame), and RJ Mitte‘s Walter Jr. was glimpsed from afar and didn’t even have a single line of dialogue. Thank God Aaron Paul‘s Jesse got something important to do, or there would be riots in the streets.

Ricin. After three seasons of build-up, the reveal of who took the ricin relied completely on luck. Yes, this may seem like a nitpick, but I had high hopes for that little vial of white powder. Okay, let’s agree on the fact that Walt knew Lydia would be at that coffee shop because of their previous encounters there. Even with that understanding, there’s no way in Albuquerque Walt could have deduced which table she would sit at in order to trade out the sugar with ricin. It was a huge risk for the character that ended up paying off, but for this show, it seemed a bit far-fetched.

Brock. Vince Gilligan mentioned on “Talking Bad” that he was proud of the fact that he and the other writers answered all of the questions and left the show as finite as possible. While I applaud him for this, there was one unanswered question I would have loved to know: What happened to Brock after his mother was murdered last week?

THE UGLY

Location, Location, Location. How did Walt know where Skyler and Walter Jr. were living? How did he know where Uncle Jack’s super secret meth empire was located? Without the explanations for these rather important questions, Walt came across unintentionally as some kind of a human GPS device who coughs a lot. UPDATE: It’s come to my attention that Robert Forster‘s character told Walt about Skyler’s location in the previous episode (thanks to our savvy reader Paul Vargo) and that Walt visited the Nazi compound in “Gliding Over All” last season. My apologies!

Gretchen and Elliott. Way too much time was spent on Walt convincing Gretchen and Elliott to give money to his family after he croaked. What seemed like 15 minutes could have been handled in only five. If this were a normal episode, I wouldn’t be complaining about this aspect, as Walt’s slow-burning manipulation is part of the reason I fell in love with the show. But the fact that these two received more screen time than our favorite supporting characters really irks me the wrong way.

Cold Open. Over the past five and a half seasons, “Breaking Bad” has brought us some of the best cold opens — or Teasers — in television history. Most notably, just look at the opening from “Ozymandias” two weeks ago that showed Walt and Jesse during their initial cook and Walt rehearsing one of his first of many lies to Skyler. The Teaser for this episode had Walt breaking into a frozen car. That’s it? Ugh.

Well, folks, those are my thoughts. What are yours? Please lend your opinions on “Felina” — good or bad — in the comments section below!

8 thoughts on “‘Breaking Bad’ finale: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

  1. I think the medium was the message re: the marginal supporting character appearances. This was the episode in which Walt finally confessed it was all about him–and so was the episode. I think the incidental ways we saw Walt’s family and other supporting characters shows us the way Walt has always seen them. I think the Schwartz’s literal 15 minutes of fame speak to Walt’s perception of their importance to his purposes (as opposed to Skyler, Jr and Holly who, to Walt, bear little importance).

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