How the mighty have fallen. Walter White was once on top of the world, but he ends the series alone in his meth lab, dead from his wounds. It’s a fitting end, though, one that doesn’t necessarily vindicate Walt, but rather satisfies him.
He begins the episode in his car, staring out the window before the opening title kicks in. It’s a quiet moment of contemplation, of catharsis, of a realization of who exactly he is. He’s a criminal mastermind, he’s killed people, and he’s gotten off doing so. He’s reveled in the power that comes with being on top, and before he goes out, he finally admits it. In a wonderfully acted scene for Gunn and Cranston, Walt tells Skyler that yes, he’s enjoyed being a criminal. It’s helped him feel alive.
It’s not a moment of repentance, however. Walt’s had innocent people killed, destroyed his whole family, and left his life in shambles. He will never be completely absolved of his sins because he only takes responsibility for what he feels he should be responsible for. He’s always been about honor, and this episode is pretty much a bow on the facade of Heisenberg. When he visits Skyler, he’s still hoping for a nugget of redemption, anything that can add one final piece to the puzzle that is his mind. What’s different here is that he finally understands, and Skyler knows.
In that final sequence with Uncle Jack, Jesse, Todd, and the rest, he decides to let Jesse go, giving his former partner a chance to finally kill him. Yet, Jesse wins out by not doing so. He’s free now, free from the clutches of both Uncle Jack’s group of Nazis and Walter White himself. By rising above Walt’s level, he’s finally obtained the closure he needs. It’s a moment of pure ecstasy and freedom for him, zooming out of there to something better. That one flashback he has of the box he pawned for drug money is beautiful, reflecting the true craft of what he’s done. He’s really damn good at cooking meth, and it’s become an art for people like Walt and Jesse. It’s a small dose of hope, of happiness, amidst all that despair, and it’s almost representative of a trophy.
Walt’s trophy has always been the meth. Yes, he visits Skyler and he takes a genuine final look at both Holly and Flynn, but it’s almost as if those constitute necessity. Can someone like him really go out without self-gratifying himself one last time? He’s never understood his family more, and never been more of a family man, than right here in this finale, but he’s also never been more of a meth cook. Jesse’s box represents what Walt is at heart: a crafter, an artist, and a criminal. He makes his final stand in his meth lab, but all that stand constitutes is an end. The story of Walter White ends where it began. He gets his way in the finale, but he’s lost everything. It’s a tricky line to navigate, his fate straddling the thin line between vindication and victory, but it’s his fate nonetheless. He’ll never be vindicated, and he’ll never truly win. His legacy will live on, and his family will live on. He’ll always be Heisenberg, and he’ll always be Walter White. In death, he lives on.
Season Grade: A
Series Grade: A
-Jesse killing Todd is both incredibly sad and incredibly cheer-worthy. The series has tortured Jesse beyond repair, but strangling Todd is his cathartic moment. Jesse’s descended to the level of murderers, but there’s something entirely different this time.
-Todd goes out on his greatest flaw: his admiration for Walt.
-Lydia also gets poisoned!
-Badger and Skinny Pete get the best ending the show could ever write for them. “The whole thing felt kinda shady, morality wise.”
-Marie’s one scene is incredibly heart-breaking, just by the fact that we realize she’s alone. Her call to Skyler seems to be one in which she’s reaching out, though, and hopefully their relationship can begin to heal.
-I do feel like things may have come together a bit too easily here, although Walt’s victory, for the most part, works thematically.
-The final scene’s direction is quite similar to “Crawl Space”. However, while that scene felt more confined, this one seems to almost be setting Walt free.
-I like the way Walt gives Jack a false sense of hope before shooting him.
-Walt doesn’t kill Gretchen and Elliott because he’s never been a monster. He may have killed out of necessity, but he sure didn’t take pleasure in it.
-I like the way the directing exemplifies Walt’s ubiquitous nature, especially during that scene in the Schwartz house.
-This episode is quiet until the end, which is a great choice. “Ozymandias” was the climax and the end of Walter White’s story. These final two episodes are more of an epilogue detailing the end of his life.
-Todd’s ringtone is really something.
-Huell’s still in that house.
-Was anyone else worried that Jesse was going to lose control of the wheel and die a fiery death?
-The final song is excellent, and while the final scene is a bit cheesy, the show’s earned it.
-Thanks for reading along all season, guys. Writing about this show has truly been a pleasure, and I thank Vince Gilligan and Co. for creating such a masterpiece of modern television. This is a show that will be talked about for years to come.
Credit to AMC and Breaking Bad for all pictures. I own nothing.