Life after Breaking Bad.
If you don’t want to know the ending, don’t read this. If you want to know the ending but you haven’t seen it yet, go away. That’s just wrong. If you have seen the ending and just want to talk to someone about it, read on. You have my full sympathy.
Endings are tricky. I’ve committed myself to many television series in my time, given myself over to the hours and hours of anxiety and anticipation, taken on the trials of my fellow on-screen characters, discussed the moral implications with my nearest and dearest and bore the pain those characters bore because that’s what real dedication to good television is. And sometimes it can all go so terribly, terribly wrong. Conclusions so horrifyingly clumsy and absurd with loose ends flying all over the place that they leave you feeling betrayed and angry, unable to come to terms with the wasted hours you’d devoted to an idea you trusted would have a point. Yes Lost, I mean you.
And then there was Breaking Bad.
Breaking Bad is a series that is difficult to fault. It’s highly anticipated finale came with such clarity, such propriety and intelligence that suddenly all previous angst from badly written endings has been forgiven. I was worried it might go down the hollywood Showdown/revenge/redemption/retribution route but thank goodness nobody did any preaching. Don’t get me wrong, this is a morality play but the writer has accredited the audience with enough intelligence to work out for themselves the lessons to be learnt.
Now, I’m supposed to be studying right now but I’m going to give you a breakdown on the perfection of the ending of Breaking Bad instead. That’s because the best time to do this kind of thing is when you’re supposed to be doing something else. It just works that way.
List of perfections.
Walt ensures the future of his children.
I wondered how he would do this, and he worked it out beautifully, killing two birds with one stone by basically ruining the lives of the two who first deprived him of the lifestyle he never had. Very bad, but perfect.
Walt tells the truth.
Walt finally relinquishes the claim that he had done it all for his family. And gets Skyler a ticket out of jail.
‘I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. I felt alive’
I physically let out a sigh of relief when he made this confession. You knew then it was over. You almost, almost forgive him at this point. That’s how important those words were. It was probably the first truth we had heard come out of his mouth since episode two. And with the lottery GPS ticket Skylers freedom was sorted too.
Finishing off Uncle Jack and his troop of neo-Nazis, and psycho boy Todd.
Killing Jack mid sentence was particularly satisfying. It highlighted two things. One, it wasn’t about the money, and two, his life was so worthless that even giving him the time to finish his sentence would have been too generous. Very Heisenburg. Jesse ends up being the one to kill Todd after a good clean shoot out, not too long, not too gratuitous. Again, all in keeping.
Done. Even at this point, he revels in telling Lydia she’s about to die. We mustn’t smile, but we do.
Walt killed by his own hand.
Even if it wasn’t deliberate, it couldn’t have been any other way. Jesse wisely left him to die, finally ridding himself of the horrors and guilt encumbered on him by Walt. In a way, Jesse bore all the guilt that Walt didn’t. He was like Dorian Grays portrait, taking on all the sins of Walt, becoming uglier and more ruinous and self destructive. The rapture at being released from it was superb. Walt and Jesse’s relationship was the most painful. You wanted them so much be on the same side, but they just weren’t. An almost discernible look of understanding passes between them as they part for the last time. This bit got me the most, damn it.
Returning to the meth lab to die.
My God this bit was so perfect. Walt dies with the very thing that made him feel alive, and the very thing that led to his own destruction. Walt was really, really bad. But we empathise with him in this moment because we all yearn for that moment of feeling truly alive. We don’t all cook crystal meth in order to do so but we can relate. By returning to the lab, he also releases Jesse of any connection to the place. He took full ownership of all that had been and done there.
So that’s it finished. What made it so darkly compelling was that we all recognised a bit of ourselves in Walt. He was essentially an ordinary, even good man to start with. He didn’t turn bad, he just allowed evil to slip in bit by bit. That was what was so frightening and so tragic about it. It could have been any one of us…
Oh, and this was perfect