A few weeks before the last 8 episodes premiered, a trailer was released with Brian Cranston dramatically reading Percy Shelley’s “Ozymandias.” If you’re unfamiliar with the poem, give it a quick read. This completely and succinctly sums up the fall of Heisenberg, and the end of Walter White. SPOILERS!
Endings are difficult. Easily the trickiest part of any story. I believe there are two kinds of endings. The first is more like a shotgun blast where the writer(s) didn’t plot properly and you’re left with the best they could come up with, hoping to satisfy as many as possible. Many stories sadly fall into this category. The other type is the proper ending. One that was built since the beginning where the writer(s) knew where they were heading the entire time. Everything in the middle was them aiming for their target. While neither type can wholly satisfy an audience, the latter at least stands on the firm ground of there being no other possible outcome. Breaking Bad had this type of ending.
The season started with another flash forward following the one the previous season opened with. While it was still unknown how these visions would come to pass, it confirmed that everything Walt was working for had come to a violent end. After the cold open, the story immediately picked up with Hank’s discovery of Walt’s secret life. This set the pace for the entire season.
Most television shows are an exercise in writing to maintain the status quo while delivering new stories, essentially spinning the gears. Breaking Bad never had a status quo to return to. This show continually bucked every trend that came before, telling a complete story that made a point to show consequences . With the end in sight, everything deteriorated. Hank attacking Walt at the end of the “Blood Money” proved the point of no return was long gone. This was punctuated by one of the best lines of the series, “tread lightly.”
A great deal happened in the first five episodes of the show. Enough that I could easily write pages about each. I’d rather focus on the last three episodes as they best showcased the evolution of each character. “Ozymandias” opened with the fallout from the standoff in the previous episode. Hank was dead, and no about of pleading or bribes from Walt could change this outcome. It was sad to seem him die, but at least Walt still had some humanity left in him. I think cooking was mostly a game for him before this, where his family was separate from his meth dealings. With this one act everything came crashing down.
Walt selling out Jesse was truly horrifying. Walt had lost everything, controlling the fate of his ex-partner was the only power he had left. Twisting the knife he finally confessed how he watched Jane die. Watching this play out left a bad taste in my mouth.
I was sad as Walt cried while threatening his wife over the phone. He had always hidden behind his family as an excuse for his actions. Now, he needed to put them first. Cranston’s performance here was top notch. This scene was yet another one of the many times I forgot I was watching a performance.
As “Ozymandias” ended, so did the tone of the show. I’ve said how there’s no status quo for this show, and I stand by that. Here the initial premise for the show was gone. Everything had changed. The two remaining episodes instead played out like an epilogue. This bolstered the finality of the ending, adding to the sense of closure.
It was funny how seeing his old Grey Matter business partners on television ignited his fighting spirit once again. Bitterness from hubris and betrayal set him on this path, and ended it. Everything came full circle.
Two moments (out of hundreds) stuck out for me during the last episode, “Felina.” First was the scene with his wife. Everything clicked here. The way the scene was shot, with Walt’s presences being hidden while Skyler was warned of his arrival from her sister. How the camera zoomed in to reveal this was masterful. It was here I noticed how sickly Cranston looked, wearing his old green shirt/khaki pants Walter White outfit. While it’s debatable as to whether or not Cranston lost weight to show the sickly nature of Walt as he died from cancer, Anna Gunn certainly shed a few pounds as any woman who has stopped eating and smoked would.
The last I want to mention is Jesse and Walt’s finally confrontation. Jesse had every right to kill Walt and should have, but he didn’t. Instead he finally told him no. After being coerced and mislead countless times by the man, Jesse showed how he was ready to stand up. As he drove to freedom, I couldn’t help but be happy for him.
The final season of Breaking Bad did not disappoint in the slightest. This is not only the best TV show I have ever seen, but one of the best stories I’ve experienced. The one thing that set it apart from everything else was how fearless the writers, creators, and producers were. The took many risks, and everyone of them paid off.
What was your favorite moment from the season? Agree the ending couldn’t have come any other way? Comment below!
The final cold open took place in the cold.