BREAKING BAD FINALE: IT’S NOT A FANTASY PEOPLE!

breaking bad finale car 650

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.

-LJ

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BREAKING BAD 516: FELINA

Felina

Who would have thought laser pointers would be so intimidating??

Ok folks.  Well this was it.  The episode that we had all been waiting for.  Some of us for months, some of us for years.  As much as it pains me to say, this Sunday brought an end to my one true television love:  Breaking Bad.  Personally, I was pleased with the ending and couldn’t have imagined it any other way.  For the last time, let’s get to talking:

1.  Thank God for resolution – As a general matter, I hate really open-ended conclusions.  It drives me nuts.  I like things wrapped up in a nice, neat bow.  While I haven’t yet watched the Sopranos (I know, shame), I imagine that the fade to black will annoy the heck out of me. So with that being said, I sincerely appreciated Breaking Bad taking the time tie-up the loose ends.  Walt and Skyler get closure; Marie and Skyler at least appear to have some sort of relationship; Lydia and the team of Nazis die a death they deserve; Walt is able to “give” his money to family afterall, and Jesse gets rescued.  Now it appears that some viewers thought the ending was too “neat,” and to that I would offer this counter-point.  Breaking Bad was a finite story; it was story about the transformation of Walter White.  That is the story that Vince Gilligan had been telling and that story must have a definite conclusion.  I would also say that not everything got wrapped up in a nice, little bow and it’s not like it was a happy ending.  Yes, the bad guys died, but the people who remained alive will have to deal with the ramifications of Walter White’s actions for the rest of their lives.  No one is riding off into the sunset on the back of a magical unicorn.  Who knows if Marie will ever recover from the death of Hank?  Who knows if Walt Jr. will ever be able to overcome his hatred for his father (remember, as far as Junior is concerned, he will always believe that Walt killed Hank…that will not be an easy thing to get past)?  Yes, Jesse is “free,” but will he ever be free from the demons of his past or will he forever be haunted by the number of people who died simply because they crossed his path?  While I think that Breaking Bad did an excellent job at ending Walt’s story, I think there are enough unanswered questions to weigh against the argument that it was too neatly wrapped up.

*I have also heard the argument that it was too easy for Walt to execute his plan in the end.  Walt has time and time again shown himself to be clumsy and reckless.  Most often his plans even when executed properly have unintended consequences.  In this final episode, however, Walt’s plans seem to masterfully workout.  In response I would like to point out that in coming back to Albuquerque, Walt did not intend to encounter Jesse.  And, when he discovered that Jesse was still alive, he first intended to kill Jesse along with the Nazis.  Instead, however, Walt found a beaten and battered up Jesse and this forced Walt to change his plans within a matter of seconds.  Walt saving Jesse was not part of Walt’s plan (at least I don’t believe it was).  It was another unintended consequence that Walt has so often created in the past five seasons.  This time it just happened to be an unintended consequence that the audience was happy about.

2.  Blue meth is Walt’s baby – I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Walt stroking baby Holly’s head as she slept and Walt stroking the equipment in the meth lab in his final moments.  What became clear in those final moments of Walt’s life was his absolute  love for his meth empire he created.  Blue meth was Walt’s baby, just as much, if even not more so than his own children.  And, while Walt’s confession to Skyler (i.e., that he entered into the meth business for himself and the meaning it gave to his life) highlighted the blue meth’s importance, I think Walt’s final moments in the meth lab really demonstrated the fondness and affection Walt felt for the product he created.

3.  Blood, Meth, and Tears – “Felina” was the title of Breaking Bad’s final episode.  There has been much talk about what the title stands for.  It may just be an anagram of the word finale or it may be a reference to Marty Robbin’s song “El Paso” that plays on Walt’s drive from New Hampshire (the song features a Mexican girl named Felina), but I do especially like that fact that it could be a compilation of the chemical symbols for iron, lithium, and sodium (Fe + Li + Na), the main components of blood, meth, and tears.

4.  Artificial sugars can kill – Do you think the sale of Stevia went up or down today based on its prominent role in Lydia’s death?  I am really just hoping I can convince CJ to dress up as Stevia this Halloween so that I can dress up as Lydia. Seriously though, thank goodness Lydia is dead.  Wasn’t she just the worst?  I think I hated her worse than Todd.  At least Todd had some boyish charm, even if he was a psychopath.  Lydia though was simply an uptight woman with no soul, who didn’t care who died as long as it wasn’t her.  I think the stress of knowing she was going to die from the ricin may have ended up killing her before the ricin actually did, but good riddance lady.

5.  Those were some impressive laser pointers – I will admit that I did not see the scene with the Schwartzes going the way that it did.  Not even by a long-shot.  I was fairly certain at the end of last week’s episode that either Elliot or Gretchen (or both) were going to die, so I was shocked with the way that scene turned out.  For me, I also thought that the lead up to Walt’s actual confrontation with the Schwartzes was the best part of the night.  His methodical closing of the doors to the compound, his surprise in finding the front door open, the humorous way he simply looked at their photographs while waiting to be discovered, was pure awesomeness.  And, aside from Todd’s Lydia ringtone, the funniest part of the night.

*I also was very happy to see Skinny Pete and Badger one more time.

6.  Seriously, who called the cops? – This is my one issue with last night’s episode.  Who called the cops at the end?  I was under the impression that the Nazi compound was out in the middle of nowhere.  None of the Nazis called the cops they were dead.  Jesse didn’t have a cellphone on him.  So, what?  Some neighbor nearby called it in?  This seems strange to me.

7.  Yeah bitch! – Going into this last episode I repeatedly said that all I wanted was for Jesse to live.  And he did.  Thank goodness.  The final moments of Jesse speeding off and the pure joy and excitement in his face is enough for me to believe that he is going to be okay.  Finally, Jesse is free.  Free from the Nazis and free from Mr. White.  He can go where he wants and do what he wants.  I just hope he finds a good therapist and is able to reclaim his life.  Aaron Paul will be the single thing that I will miss most about Breaking Bad.  I don’t know how I will ever look forward to a Sunday without him.

8.  Too much redemption for Mr. White? – Not in my eyes.  I have always been looking for redeeming qualities in Walter White though.  Some sort of glimmer of hope that he wasn’t completely lost to the dark side.  Therefore, I was pleased with the fact that Walt wanted to and was able to make some amens before ultimately leaving this earth.  He was able to give Skyler some closure by admitting that he did all of this for himself and not for his family as he has always claimed; he gave up where Hank and Gomez were buried (and hopefully in finding Hank’s body and being able to do a proper funeral, Marie will also get some closure); and ultimately he saved Jesse.  I think it is too simplistic for Walt to have become completely evil; people are more complicated than that.  Walt hit his rock bottom during the phone call with Junior last week and so I don’t think it is implausible for Walt to at least try take some measures to fix what he spent the last two years breaking.

Ok guys, I could go on forever, but I won’t put you through that.  I doubt we will never speak of Breaking Bad again on this blog, but this is it for me for now.  Sundays will never ever be the same.  We will miss you Breaking Bad.

-LJ