Breaking Bad: Season 5
Aired: September 29, 2013
Writer: Vince Gilligan
Director: Vince Gilligan
“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really … I was alive.”
– Walter White
I openly wondered last week how this show would put together a satisfying ending after making things so irreparably bleak. Somehow though, Vince Gilligan and Company managed to find a damn near perfect ending to the show.
The most important thing they did was have Walt finally take responsibility for his actions. His time in New Hampshire broke him. He’s finally hit bottom and can see the toll his arrogance and need for a legacy has taken on those around him.
Of course, even before he visited Skyler, we saw that he was a changed man in the way he handled Elliot and Gretchen. Part of me thought that he might be going there for revenge. And certainly, as he looks around their posh house, there is a tinge of envy and of regret for taking that buyout. But ultimately, he realizes that they can be a means to an end. They are the only ones who can give the remains of his barrel o’ money to Flynn without the government seizing it or Flynn rejecting it.
What I like the most about that solution is that Walt can only give his family the money by not taking credit for it. He always claimed that he was doing this for his family, but as he admitted in the scene with Skyler, it was really more about his ego. So having the duo behind Grey Matter, the company that fueled his inferiority complex and need to be Heisenberg, be the ones to filter his money down to Flynn is a nice bit of irony. (I do love too that he makes it clear that they aren’t to spend a dime of their own money in taxes or legal fees. No one else will ever know, but it gives him comfort to know that it is all his money being used.)
I also really enjoyed that all of his hostility toward Jesse is completely gone. In the immediate aftermath in the desert, he blamed Jesse for Hank’s death, but now that he’s in full broken Unibomber mode, Walt no longer has it out for Jesse. First, he tackles him to save him from the machine gun fire and then he drops the gun and kicks it over to Jesse, leaving his fate in Pinkman’s hands.
I like that Walt was able to take out Uncle Jack’s crew and Lydia – officially destroying the last remnants of his empire – but that revenge didn’t dominate the episode. It was after 10 pm that he got to the compound. The previous hour was devoted to his atonement and to saying goodbye to Skyler and Holly (and, from a distance, Flynn).
Not that I didn’t appreciate the revenge aspect as well. Watching Jesse choke out Todd was particularly satisfying, as was watching Walt put a bullet in Uncle Jack’s head, never once caring about where the rest of his money is hidden. And there was something fun about Walt’s call to Lydia, explaining what we all already knew – that he put the ricin in her Stevia.
And then there was the ending. We all had been wondering if it was the police or the cancer or a bullet that would get him in the end and all three of those elements were there as he died. Walt gets one last look at a meth lab before coughing and collapsing. The police rush in to see him bleeding out. They don’t even check on him; he’s already dead at that point. But I like that the cancer and the police were right there too. They were both looming there ready to take his life, but ultimately he went out by his own hand (even if he didn’t quite have the resolve to proactively put a bullet in his head).
I love that Walt gave Jesse the chance to kill him and I love even more that Jesse refused because he knew that Walt was doing it as a sort of suicide-by-cop move and instead told him to do it himself. And that shot of an exuberant Jesse speeding out of the compound was fantastic. I don’t know what his life has in store for him next, but at least he got to end things on a high note.
I’m really happy this show was able to stick the landing. Endings are tricky and shows like The Sopranos and Lost have shown that a polarizing ending encompasses a show, retroactively influencing the way people feel about the series as a whole. I have to imagine Breaking Bad‘s ending was satisfying for most viewers. At least I hope it was. I know I definitely enjoyed it.
I’ve really enjoyed this show as a whole. The last three seasons in particular, this show has been hitting it out of the park week after week. I’ll definitely miss it, but I’m so glad it went out while it was on top.
And another thing …
- I love that Walt used Badger and Skinny Pete as fake hitmen to keep Gretchen and Elliot in line. But how did he track them down, especially since he thinks Badger’s name is Beaver?
- Who looked better with a crazy homeless beard: Walt or Jesse?
- Todd is finally sitting at the table with Lydia at the coffee shop! Though he obviously has a lot to learn about blouses.
- As Todd stared out that window, it seemed like he never quite put together that Mr. White was the one who gunned down Uncle Jack and the crew. I honestly think he couldn’t fathom that Walt would try to kill him.
- I’m really excited for Vince Gilligan’s next project …
Written by Joel Murphy. If you enjoy his recaps, he also writes a weekly pop culture column called Murphy’s Law, which you can find here. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.