Well, it has been a total of three days since my last Breaking Bad post. And, it appears that neither I, nor the rest of the internet, is taking a break from commenting on the finale of Breaking Bad. What appears to have developed in the past few days (in addition to the hilarious gifs) is a theory that the end of Breaking Bad was merely a Walter White fantasy. (See http://www.buzzfeed.com/daves4/was-the-breaking-bad-finale-all-just-a-fantasy-in-walter-whi discussing this theory that has largely been attributed to Norm MacDonald or simply google “Breaking Bad fantasy”). Proponents of this theory argue that Walter White died in the frozen car in New Hampshire; thus, everything from that point on was a fantasy of how Walt would have wanted the end of his life to go. For some inexplicable reason, this theory infuriates me. I think, in particular, what makes me so mad is that if this theory is true, then Jesse did not get saved and is still slaving away in his own personal hell to make meth for the Nazis. And that simply is not okay with me. So, with that, I would like to make a few points regarding why the ending of Breaking Bad actually happened (at least in the world of TV):
1. Look at the Jesse storyline – The first time we see Jesse in the finale, he is daydreaming about making a wooden box. This scene is a callback to the Season 3 episode titled “Kafkaesque,” where Jesse tells his rehab group about how he spent an entire semester trying to craft the best wooden box that he possibly could have. It was a time when Jesse was at his best. Notably though, Walt was not at the rehab group meeting, so why would Walt have a fantasy that included a callback to a moment in Jesse’s life that Jesse holds dear and that Walt doesn’t know about! That just doesn’t make sense.
2. Another point regarding Jesse – At the time Walt gets in the car in New Hampshire, Walt either (1) thinks Jesse is dead, (2) hates Jesse because he blames him for Hank’s death, or (3) both. The last time Walt saw Jesse he instructed the Nazis to kill him and single-handedly blew Jesse’s world to pieces with his confession about Jane. So, why in heaven’s sake, would Walt include in a fantasy a portion where he saves Jesse’s life. Walt doesn’t even believe that Jesse is alive.
*Side point – Also, how would Walt be capable of knowing how Jesse was being chained with a “leash” as Jesse was being forced to cook meth? Walt’s fantasy magically guessed the exact predicament of Jesse’s forced slave labor. I don’t think so.
3. Walt always has crazy plans – People seem to be hinging their fantasy theory partly on the fact that Walt’s machine gun scheme was too unreal and executed too perfectly. But, let’s be honest people, this isn’t the first crazy scheme that has worked out in Walt’s favor. Throughout the series we have seen Walt explode Tuco’s clubhouse, poison Brock with Lily of the Valley, execute a heist of a train, and blow-up Gus with a wheelchair bomb. Walt’s plans have never been entirely grounded in reality. And, all of these plans have ended up working out in Walt’s favor. The machine gun scheme is simply another one of these crazy situations that worked out in Walt’s favor.
*Also, it’s not like Walt came out of the machine gun plan unscathed. He got shot and died! In other words, his plan wasn’t perfectly executed like some nay-sayers believe.
4. Why would Walt’s family not get back together – Ok, so if Walt is fantasizing about what he would have done, wouldn’t he have at least had some resolution with Junior. I am not saying that Walt would have been so delusional as to imagine his entire family would live happily ever after. But, let’s look at this. He got closure with Skyler. He was able to say goodbye to Holly. And, you expect me to believe in this dying man’s “fantasy” that he simply stares longingly at his son knowing that his son may forever hate him. I don’t buy that.
5. Who cares that we don’t see Walt put the ricin in the Stevia – There seems to be some disbelief that Walt could have gotten the ricin in the Stevia packet for Lydia to subsequently use. But, Breaking Bad is not a show that explains every little detail of Walt’s plans of action. Did we see how Walt poisoned Brock…no. Did we see how Walt created the bomb for Hector’s wheelchair…no. Walt does things off camera and sometimes these are amazing things. Why would you assume that anything would be different in the finale?
6. Let’s look at what Vince Gilligan has said – First, Gilligan has explained why the keys appear: “Well the whole point of the teaser for us in the writer’s room was, ‘What is he doing, is he praying? Who’s he praying to? It is god? Is it the devil? Who would a guy like Walter White pray to? And lo and behold, his prayers are answered, and the key is kind of magically waiting for him atop the visor.” [From the Breaking Bad Insider Podcast].
Second, Gilligan has repeatedly stated that his intention with the ending was for it to be unambiguous. As Gilligan explained on Talking Bad this week: “We went through a lot of false starts and endings that went nowhere, but we knew we needed to dot all the Is and cross all the Ts … In some cases unanswered questions are good, but in this case, in a finite and close-ended show, we needed resolution. The Sopranos ending I thought was great, I thought it was perfect for that show. This story was finite all along. It’s a story that starts at A and ends at Z. It’s a very closed-ended thing.”
This is same sentiment is repeated over and over by Gilligan. For instance as Gilligan explained in his interview with EW: “We didn’t feel an absolute need for Walt to expire at the end of the show. Our gut told us it was right. As the writers and I worked through all these different possibilities, it felt right, but I don’t think it was a necessity for us. There was a version we kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he’s standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. We talked about a version where Jesse kills Walt. We talked about a version where Walt more or less gets away with it. There’s no right or wrong way to do this job — it’s just a matter of: You get as many smart people around you as possible in the writers room, and I was very lucky to have that. And when our gut told us we had it, we wrote it, and I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends. Walt is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation. But at least he takes a few steps along that path. And I think more importantly for him than that is the fact that he accomplishes what he set out to accomplish way back in the first episode: He leaves his family just a ton of money. Of course, Walt for years now has been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. … For years now, he thought if he makes his family financially sound — that’s really all he has to do as a man, as a provider, and as a father. They’re going to walk away with just shy of 10 million in cash, because of Walt’s machinations with Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Elliott (Adam Godley). But on the other hand, the family emotionally is scarred forever. So it’s a real mixed message at the end. Walt has failed on so many levels, but he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished.”
Finally, I will leave you with this. If you have ever listened to Vince Gilligan talk about Breaking Bad, you would know in your heart that he has the upmost respect for his fans. If the end was intended to be a fantasy, the man would have told us that. And, yet he has not. The end.