Before you read anything else, let me preface this blog with the following thought:
I loved the finale of Lost.
I know that may rub some people the wrong way. After all, Lost was one of the most beloved shows of all time, for good reason, and it kind of left its fans out to dry. There were lots of unanswered questions and that enraged people. Yet, I thought the writers did a great (not perfect) job of committing to the most important aspect of their show: their characters. The emotional ties you felt to the characters were what made that show and they were what ended that show. But enough about Lost. And, as I’m sure you don’t need to hear, there are spoilers ahead.
So Breaking Bad is over, guys. It’s over. 62 episodes later and we’re left thinking back to the days of the goofy chemistry shmuck that was Walter White. The days when he worked at a local car wash for a man whose eyebrows may have very well inspired Dreamwork’s Over the Hedge. We’re left to reminisce about the first cook, the horrible tragedies and mishaps that followed nearly everything that White did. And then we were introduced to Heisenberg, Walt’s megalomaniacal ego that grew up right before our very eyes, as if he had been stewing inside of Walt for a very long time, looking for the right time to come forward. But even Heisenberg didn’t always get it right. Sure, he took down his enemies (Gus, Mike, Gale: we’ll never forget you), but there was always a loose end to be tied up. And, as we’ve witnessed over the course of these final eight episodes, those loose ends finally became too numerous for Walt/Heisenberg to overcome. So on Sunday, Vince Gilligan and company wrapped up the story of “Mr. Chips to Scarface” with one final, satisfying twist: Walt finally got it right.
Now, I guess the end of “Felina” couldn’t exactly be considered a twist in the traditional sense of the word. We all knew Walt couldn’t live through this final showdown. We just knew that he would have to finally meet his end. And, understandably, he did. But goshdarnit if he didn’t go out in the most spectacular way. His legacy? Secure. His family? Cared for. (or at least we can assume.) His redemption? Well…
Here’s where things get sticky. Whether you like it or not, Walter White was redeemed, at least in the eyes of himself. Now, I’ve been reading every recap article from every major magazine that I can find. I’ve seen the criticisms, though none of them are very harsh. Some argue that White shouldn’t have been allowed to go out on his own terms. Some argue that the fact that Walt’s plan worked flawlessly was a very generous move by the writers. And some are still concerned about the minor loose-ends (where will Jesse go, what happens to Skyler, etc.) But all of those concerns are wiped away when you consider that this show was always, first and foremost, the story of Walter White.
Walter’s final, brilliant plan worked on a number of levels, but by no means was it flawless. I’m not so sure he intended to be shot by his own machine of rotating death. He didn’t count on having to fight to get his keys back. And he sure as heck wanted to die at the hands of Jesse. I mean, HE SAID IT. And his legacy? Well that’s iffy depending on how you look at it. He certainly isn’t the one who knocks anymore and who knows if he’ll be remembered once the next big kingpin comes around? But in his own eyes, it’s a different story.
See, the common denominator here is that Walt finally realized the ugly, yet liberating truth: it was all for him. At what point he realized it, we can’t be sure, but the message is firmly implanted in his mind. And that’s why things finally worked out. He was able to formulate a plan that worked around the fundamental truth that he was a selfish man with selfish intentions. Sure, he went down. But he got to bring everyone that he wanted to with him. The precision was perfect, befitting of the chemistry teacher that he once was and, by some accounts, still is.
And so Walter White was redeemed. Maybe not in the eyes of the law, his family, Jesse Pinkman or some of the diehard fans of television’s greatest show. But that was never the point. As Walter put it in his final speech:
“It was for me.”