All bad things must come to an end. And what a terrific, immensely satisfying conclusion it is! If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad series finale yet the full episode can be streamed on AMC.
Continue reading only after watching Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 16 “Felina”.
Heading into the finale I was trepidatious because of the small unlikelihood of Breaking Bad faltering in its final hour. I had confidence in the writers who never stumbled during the series, but still there is a lingering apprehension in the back of my mind. A disastrous ending can kill a great story and taint what is an incredible run of final episodes.
The relatively quieter ‘Granite State’ left a lot of ground to cover in the finale. Which meant ‘Felina’ is tasked with some heavy lifting before the climatic confrontation. Amazingly, ‘Felina’ did not feel too burdened by its narrative structure. After all is said and done, I feel gratified, relieved and a little sad there’ll be no more new episodes. It’s over, yo!
By design, ‘Felina’ is not as emotionally harrowing as ‘Ozymandias’, the episode that culminated Heisenberg’s downfall. It functioned more like an epilogue to pay off the flash forwards, resolve loose ends and provide closure to many characters. That’s not to say, the finale didn’t tug at the heart-strings or have magnificent moments because it did.
After watching the Schwartz’s television interview I was secretly hoping Walt would exact some murderous vengeance if only for dismissing Walt’s contribution to the company. Instead, Walt saw a brilliant way to get the money to Junior through Gray Matter which is what Mike Ehrmantraut failed to do for his grand-daughter.
Bringing back Badger and Pete as the unseen fake hit men is a fantastic suprise. Skinny Pete got in a funny self-referential line about the show, “Whole thing felt kinda shady, like, morality-wise.” I’m unsure why Walt would pick the friends of someone he sentenced to death to assist him but I guess he could trust them and introducing new characters at this point would not make sense.
Returning to his abandoned home represented how empty his life has become. There’s a difference between being alive and living your life. Since his cancer diagnosis, Walt got his second chance at life. He lived it on the edge; fulfilling his true potential albeit as a criminal mastermind. In a way, many of us wish we could escape our mundane existence and feel truly alive. It took 62 episodes but finally Walt admitted the truth to Skyler and to himself: “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really, I was alive.”
Structurally, ‘Felina’ is Walt awakening out of his cold hibernation for a final counter strike at his enemies and as best as he can, make amends to the lives he destroyed. Junior will inherit a trust fund, Marie can properly bury Hank’s remains (RIP Hank), Skyler gets leverage to bargain with the prosecution and Jesse is inadvertently rescued from the neo-Nazis.
The character flaws of Walt’s enemies proved to be their demise. Lydia’s penchant for regimented order made it easy for Walt to find her and slip the ricin in her stevia. How sweet is revenge? Uncle Jack could have immediately killed Walt but his prideful arrogance in proving he wasn’t Jesse’s partner gave Walt the opportunity to grab the key fob.
The writers perfectly executed all the beats in the last act to give most viewers the ending they wanted. On the food chain hierarchy, Heisenberg is like an apex predator without peer. His return is a violent reckoning. The M60 mounted in the trunk, pumping rounds into the neo-Nazis is just deserts for what they did to Hank. Then Walt puts a bullet in Uncle Jack, not caring about the location of his stolen money. And Jesse strangling Todd is one death that’s not going to torment his conscience.
Walt and Jesse is the relationship most fans were invested in throughout the series. With only one scene to wrap up everything that happened between them is a huge undertaking especially since only three episodes ago Walter ordered Jesse’s execution, but the writers did a commendable job.
Beneath the anger, Walt’s natural instinct is to protect Jesse and he ultimately he took a bullet for his “second son”. Walt told Jesse to kill him. However, in a way, Walt gave Jesse the choice on how to resolve their differences. In the end, Jesse made the opposite decision that Walt made in ‘Ozymandias’.
Walt freed Jesse from the neo-Nazis but Jesse set himself free from Walt. “Do it yourself” is basically saying, I’m nobody’s bitch. The most exhilarating moment in the finale is Jesse blasting through the gate in the runaway car. Hell yeah!
In his final moments, Walt is without his family at his side. He touches the metal cylinder in the meth lab as if he’s made peace with himself. Did Walt actions in “Felina’ earn his redemption? Was this ending too affirming for all the lies and crimes Walt committed? Based on fan reaction, the ending was overwhelmingly well-received.
The writers delivered a swift resolution in the sprint to the finish line which I don’t personally consider as a fault though I can understand why some may feel that way. It’s a great feat for a serialized television show to end on top form and address almost all of the loose ends. If anything, the finale is a testament to the meticulous attention to detail that makes this show so great and cements Breaking Bad’s legacy as an instant classic in the golden age of television.