I say this in all seriousness, if you are a fan of the series and have yet to watch the finale, do not read until you have watched the episode.
It is our great delight to be writing our 100th post on the series finale of one of the greatest television shows ever made, Breaking Bad. It is also bittersweet. BrBa has been an inspiration to us here at Hush Comics to pursue our passion of pop-culture as well as any writing we do for our personal pleasure. Now that it is really over, it is a little overwhelming that this chapter is closed.
At the beginning of the episode, Walt enters a Volvo that is unlocked. Apparently, people in New Hampshire do not fear meth kingpins stealing their cars. After he finds a screwdriver in the glove compartment, he unsuccessfully tries to start the ignition. It is so bitter cold, and his coughing is much worse, so it is near impossible for his hands not to shake while he tries. For a brief moment, police lights can be seen flashing past the snow-covered car he is sitting in. He whispers to himself, “Just get me home. I’ll do the rest.” Walt has a definite plan in mind for what is going to happen in Albuquerque. He takes the screwdriver to pull down the sun-visor and the keys fall into his hands. When he starts the car, the song “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, whose cassette fell out of the glove compartment, plays. The song refers to the narrator’s love, Felina. You can read the lyrics here.
Walt arrives in New Mexico with the stolen Volvo and gets gasoline out in the desert. He grabs some of his cancer medicine out of the trunk that is full of money (we assume he went back for the money still left in the cabin). He then uses a pay phone to call someone named “Susan” claiming to be David from the New York Times. He has already convinced her that he is writing an article on the Schwartz’. The woman easily gives him their address after claiming he needs to get a photograph of them for the article. Walt then looks down at this wrist, takes off the watch Jesse had given him a year earlier for his 51st birthday, and leaves it on the top of the pay phone. As said on Talking Bad by Vince Gilligan himself, this was originally done for continuity purposes, as Walt is not wearing the watch in the flash forward scene at Denny’s. But the “artsy-fartsy” explanation is that he is done with that part of his life, knowing what he is going to do in Albuquerque.
Gretchen and Elliott arrive home. They are bickering about the difference between pizza and Thai food. Their home’s entrance is so grandiose that they don’t even notice that Walt is waiting for them in the shadows. As they enter their home, Walt follows them. It is so creepy the way he easily allows himself into their house, just by hiding in the shadows. The shot of him gently touching the wall was a brilliant showcase of Walt realizing what could have been his, had the circumstances been different. He finds their collection of photos and picks up one of he and Elliott back when days were better. Gretchen and Elliott make reference to having not been to Napa Valley in two years, which has been too long. Ironically, our story started exactly two years ago. Gretchen goes to turn on the fireplace and when she turns around, she sees Walt and screams. Walt acknowledges the Schwartz’ and compliments their home. Walt hold up the picture of he and Elliott and remarks on their view of the Sangre de Cristos Mountains. This may be a geography error, since we assume they live in Santa Fe, and the Sangre de Cristos are in our home state of Colorado. But the reference to the mountains named after the Blood of Christ are more important here. The blood of Christ will play a major role in the following moments of the episode. Walt compliments Gretchen on how she looked on Charlie Rose, giving a nod to the fact that Walt regrets not being with her in the end, perhaps. He then asks them to walk to his car to show them something, a very eery invite from a man wanted in multiple murders. Elliott raises a small knife at Walt, to which he responds with one of his final great Heisenberg lines, “Elliott, if we’re gonna go that way, you’ll need a bigger knife.” Elliott promptly drops the knife.
Back at the Schwartz house, Gretchen and Elliott stack piles of cash on their coffee table. Walt informs them the total is nine million dollars. When they want to know where it came from, Walt demands they give the money to Walt Jr. on his 18th birthday, which is less than a year away. He instructs them give it in the form of a trust fund. It really is the smartest way to ensure his family gets some money. He knows any other way and the government will take the money. He also knows that the only people who won’t steal his money are the people who have more money. Elliott and Gretchen reluctantly shake with Walt on the deal. To ensure they will do as he has asked, he sends a signal out the window to two people who then set laser guns aiming for the couple.
He tells them it cost him 200,000 dollars to hire the “two best hit-men west of the Mississippi.” It seems so laughable he would use that term. Only cowboys in old movies say west of the Mississippi. Also, a thought ran through our heads… the two best hit-men cost ONLY 200,000 dollars?! And then the way Walt touches their shoulders as he threatens them and Gretchen’s reaction made me root for the Heisenberg master mind behind this act. Notice that he also mentions that if they don’t give the money to Jr., that they could be anywhere and be shot. He says Prague in a number of places he lists; Prague is the largest city in … the Czech Republic. He ends his speech by telling them, “This is where you get to make it right.” Walt clearly feels that they did him wrong and by giving the money to whom it belongs, they will redeem themselves.
Walt drives away from the house and the two hit-men run to Walt’s car. Badger and Skinny Pete reveal themselves and hand their regular laser pointers to Walt. When they question the morality of what they just did, Walt hands them their share of the $200,000. Immediately, they say they are feeling better about what they just did. Walt questions Jesse’s two best friends about the blue. They genuinely think that Walt has continued to stay in the game. Walt gets visibly upset that Jesse is still cooking; meanwhile, Skinny Pete and Badger are stunned he isn’t in Alaska, but proud of him for cooking, yet upset that he isn’t giving them any. Aww.. I’m gonna miss those nerdy meth-heads.
Jesse is in a wood-working shop making a box. He is being careful with his craftsmanship and takes a moment to sniff the final product. He cares about the art, just as he once did with the meth. Is Jesse like Jesus, a carpenter? Well he snaps back to reality when he realizes he is caught on his chain in the meth lab. Walt is at Denny’s and we are in the scene we started the season in. He arranges his bacon into the “52” and then goes to get his ricin. He stands in his now empty living room and remembers when it was full of life at his 50th birthday party. Hank tells him he should go on a ride along to get some “excitement in his life” and Walt responds “someday.” Two years later, Walt has gotten most of the excitement he will ever get in his life.
Lydia enters the cafe in Albuquerque wearing her Christian Louboutin heels, rolling her very expensive luggage, and very unsuspecting that Heisenberg has been sitting there waiting for her. She orders her standard chamomile tea with soy milk and looks for her package of Stevia in the sugar caddy. I think everyone was rooting for the fact that this package of Stevia was different than most and just praying that bitch would get the ricin treatment. Todd comes and sits down, attempting to compliment Lydia on her shirt..er… blouse. She not so slyly slides the bag of money to him under the table, just as she had done with Walt at one point. Walt then pulls up a chair to sit with them at their table. I like this Walt. He is so cavalier, he does not give a flying fuck if people are afraid of him or that he is just out in the open. He seems to think that the methylamine is running low and can teach Todd a way to cook without it. As he goes into a coughing fit, it is hard to believe him as a viewer. We do know the truth, but it would seem that in real life, Walt is dying. He says he needs money and Lydia, being afraid of being caught by the police, offers to have Walt talk to Jack. When the waiter comes, Lydia shoos him from the table. She asks for more Stevia. Todd and Lydia agree they are not going to do business with him. But little do either of them know, Walt has done his business with them both. Lydia pours the Stevia in her tea and stirs her poison right into her drink of choice. Being a schedule-oriented person isn’t always a positive thing.
In the New Mexico desert, Walt uses his science skills to build a motorized device to set the famed M-60 on. It was so great to see the use of science and logic by Mr. White. And it made me root for him again. I don’t want to. He is an evil and terrible man. But we know he is going after the Aryan’s. And we know he is smarter than they are. And we just want him to beat them so badly.
We cut to a very small town home. It has familiar furnishings: the painted photographs of Skyler and Walt Jr., the couch with the knitted afghan draped over the back, the china cabinet that used to sit in the living room of the White residence and the large wooden spoon that used to hang on the dividing wall in the kitchen. The phone rings and Marie leaves a message asking Skyler to pick up the phone. Noticeably, Marie is wearing white, much Skyler does in season 5b because the life has been sucked out of her. Skyler is smoking as Marie tells her that Walt is back in town, as the car he stole was found at Denny’s. Marie says that Carol, their old neighbor, or was it Becky, saw him at the house and he looked like the Unibomber. There are calls about his “manifesto” being made to several different agencies. It is hard to believe that Walt is making these calls, as he seems preoccupied, but it is plausible because it would throw the police off so he can carry out his plan. Marie’s house is being watched as is Flynn’s school. Skyler is warned that her house is probably being watched, too. Marie says that she knows watching the houses is what Hank would do. As annoying as she can be, she is still a good wife to Hank. She then goes on and on about how dumb Walt is and how he isn’t a mastermind. Blah Blah Blah. But he is.
The next scene is one of the most beautifully shot out of the whole episode. Behind the wooden post, Walt stands waiting for her to finish her phone call. Skyler lets him know he has five minutes. He is wearing his favorite outfit, a green button-up with khakis and his beige jacket. Skyler lights up a second cigarette, her great coping mechanism, commenting on how Walt looks, terrible. The camera pans and we can see Skyler’s face reflected in the microwave with the smoke flitting over it. I wish Vince Gilligan had never admitted it was a happy accident because the symbolism of her fading away in the smoke was the perfect touch on this good-bye. Walt tells her that he wanted a proper goodbye, not their last phone call. Calling your wife a stupid bitch probably isn’t the best way to end things. She asks if he is turning himself in and he says, “They’ll be coming to me” solidifying the hope that the gun is going to do some serious damage. Skyler expresses her fear of the people who came and threatened the family. Walt assures her that they aren’t coming back, after “tonight.” “What happens tonight?” Haven’t we all been wondering that for years now? Walt hands her the lottery ticket with the coordinates of the desert on it. He tells her what to say to the DEA. He tells her what really happened to Hank and Steve and that they are buried where the money used to be. Walt tells her to use the ticket to get herself a deal with the prosecutor. Walt and Skyler’s next exchange is the best of the episode and could be added to the best quotes list.
“Skyler, all the things that I did, you need to understand..”
“If I have to hear one more time that you did this for the family..”
It is the first time Skyler ever gets the truth from him. And it was the first time Walt admitted it to himself. As the camera pans back, the wooden pillar divides the two, showing the wedge that has always existed between the two.
Walt then asks to see Holly. How gut-wrenching to see this man rub his child’s head for the last time, knowing that he never really was a part of her life. Cops are waiting outside of the town house. Flynn exits the school-bus, noticeably not the Dodge Challenger. Walt watches Flynn enter the home through the glass of a nearby window. It seems so gutsy of him to be out in the open with the police nearby looking for him specifically.
Walt pulls up to the Aryan’s headquarters for his meeting with Jack. Kenny comes out and admires the Cadillac that Walt picked up at the Denny’s lot from Lawson. Kenny directs Walt to the “clubhouse”, but Walt carefully parks his own way, despite Kenny’s protests. The Aryan’s come out to greet Walt in a not so friendly way and take his keys and wallet. They ask him to lift his shirt to show he isn’t wearing a wire. I was surprised that Walt wasn’t more emaciated. He asks for his things back, but they don’t budge. A lookout is told to stay outside. Inside, Jack comments on Walt’s hair, and Walt’s things are thrown onto the pool table. Walt asks if Jack knows why he is there, but declines to do business with Walt. Jack lets Walt know that Lydia sends them small amounts of methylamine and the system is fine. Todd tells Walt that he shouldn’t have come back, referring to him as “Mr. White” still. As the men decide to take Walt outside to murder him, Walt brings up that he knows Jesse is still alive. Instead of killing him, he is now their partner. It is a little unclear whether Walt truly thinks he is their partner or prisoner. Either way, the use of the word partner sets Jack off. Jack wants to know where “the rat” is. A good reference for how many viewers have been feeling about Jesse because he has been a snitch. Todd tells him he is finishing a batch and goes to get Jesse. Jack makes his fatal flaw by being an arrogant son-of-a-bitch. He is going to prove “how wrong” Walt is. This is a proven way to die in recent history with Walt, but to each is own. Jack then says that he will put a bullet in Walt’s head. Todd and Jesse come back to the clubhouse and in the time the rest are waiting, Walt makes a move for his keys, clearly the trigger for the machine gun waiting in his trunk. Just when the door opens, he his able to grab his keys. Jesse comes in full view of Walt, and, out of the two, is the one who looks truly terrible. His face is badly scarred, his hair is long and matted and he looks very scared. He looks at Walt as Jack mockingly calls him his partner and then quickly looks away. In the background, Kenny reclines in a massaging chair, making for very annoying noises. Walt lunges at Jesse landing on top of him on the ground. To the Aryan’s, he looks mad, but really he is the sacrificial lamb to save jesse from what is about to ensue. He pushes the remote for the keys and the machine gun goes off. In one of his most epic moments, the Heisenberg sets off the machine gun that kills all but two of the Aryan gang. The whole scene seems to last forever as the M-60 goes off, and in the process seems to hit Walt. The bullets go back and forth and as the gun stops, there is a line of bullet holes along the homes exterior. In the ceiling to floor shot inside, we see Kenny’s dead body still being bounced on the recliner, calling back to Jesse’s hydraulics’ in the season 2 Tuco shootout. Walt rolls off Jesse and Todd goes to look outside, because lets face it, he is NOT SMART.
He calls “Mr. White?!” and Jesse comes up behind him strangling him to a slow and miserable death with the chains he’s been locked in for months, finally breaking his neck. It was so reminiscent of how Walt killed Krazy-8 in season 1. If you weren’t screaming “Yeah, Bitch!” and clapping, you’re a robot, and an evil one at that. Walt picks up a gun and approaches Jack. Jack puts a cigarette in his mouth and tells Walt that if he kills him he’ll never find his…. BAM. Walt shot him in the head first. The blood splatters on the camera and we know that this isn’t about Walt’s money.
He turns and faces jesse. Walt slides the gun to him and Jesse aims it at his head. When Jesse hears him say “I want this,” he drops the gun and tells him to do it himself. As Jesse said in “Confessions” he will never do what Walt tells him to again, and he doesn’t. A ringtone calling “Lydia, oh Lydia” is heard and Walt approaches Todd’s pocket. Walt answers telling Lydia that he has poisoned her using her own Stevia and his ricin. She is left alone in her room with her sick face and humidifier. Walt exits the house and looks on at Jesse. They give each other a small nod, the yep only desperados can give each other. Jesse gets in Jack’s car and speeds away, half crying, half laughing. As he drives away, Walt opens his jacket, showing the blood from the wound he did receive in his side.
Walt then enters the meth lab. He taps the pressure gauge. He walks and finds a gas mask. He is reminiscing on the one thing he was perfect at in his life. He looks at his reflection in the pressure cooker, as he has done so many times in his time as The Cook. In that reflection, we see the cop cars approaching. He touches the cooker and as his hand slips away, his bloody handprint is left.
He falls to the floor and we see his blank, dead stare. He lays dead with his arms out and the police slowly surround him as the song “Baby Blue” plays. Was Walt Jesus, as he posed like in the final scene? Hardly. Remember, Mr. White is the Devil. But the way he died, it was on his own terms, and he was able to save the only family he had left. A friend of ours mentioned that Walt looked more like Leonardo DiVinci’s Vitruvian man. Walt is every man and every man is Walt. We are all capable of being heinous people, yet we are also capable of being our best selves. Dying in the meth lab after saving Jesse, letting Skyler off the hook and giving his money to Walt Jr. was Walter White at his best self.
It’s hard to grade perfection, but we will give what is the only grade to give:
Hush Comics gives Breaking Bad’s“Felina” an A+. There was no other way for the great Heisenberg to die but than to die in a meth lab. There was no other way for Todd to die but for Jesse to choke the life out of him. Bringing the episode full circle, from the classic green shirt to allusions of the past. It was the perfect end to a very imperfect chapter in the lives of those effected.
All media credited to AMC Television unless otherwise stated.