Breaking Bad: The Family Man

breaking_bad

[Warning: Spoilers ahead]

All bad things must come to an end as it is time to say goodbye to the finest show on television. For five incredible seasons, we were witnesses to the rise and fall of the king, Walter White. And at the end of it all, the kingpin is dead, sprawled out (not atop piles of fat stacks like Huell and Kuby) on the cold hard floor of the Neo-Nazi’s not-so-secret meth lab. After five seasons of superlative television, we get to say goodbye to Walter White in the one place he was truly home. Not that dimly lit Albuquerque three-bedroom house he shared with Skyler, Flynn, and Holly, but rather in the cold, metallic, and concrete labs from which he drew all his power. At the former, Walt was the powerless schlub who couldn’t earn his son’s respect (Flynn wouldn’t even take Walt’s name), and would get the occasional halfhearted, under the sheets handy. But in the latter, Walt was the chemistry wizard, able to create the Classic Coke of crystal meth.

But like we were promised all along, there had to be a reckoning for all of Walt’s actions. That reckoning came courtesy of a jury-rigged M60 that only a perfectionist such as Walt could have assembled. Yesterday’s finale served as a fitting conclusion to a series that pushed the boundaries of what we can expect from our anti-heroes. What struck me the most from this last hour of Breaking Bad was how it served to pull us all back from the brink with our hatred towards Walt. A hatred that had been consistently building up throughout this season. From his perfectly synchronized plan to kill all of his “business associates” in prison to his to ego-fueled killing of Mike, this season witnessed the disappearance of anything resembling a rational and moral human being. Yet, in the finale, we see Walt finally admit to his countless wrongdoings. Rather than standing by his increasingly implausible rationale that he did it all for his family, he finally admits to Skyler that he did it for himself. He liked being a kingpin and the power to stand up to men with guns, with nothing protecting him but his name (his REAL name, of course, not his birth name). He liked the idea of being the absolute best at what he did; building the empire that he was never able to at Gray Matter.

breaking_bad-1

For this final hour, Walt tries, in his usual violence-filled way, to make amends for what his thirst for power has cost everyone. He finds a relatively legal way to get his family his ill-gotten money (how great was that scene in the Schwartz’s house?). He gets to say his proper goodbyes to Skyler, and comes up with a plan to get her out of trouble with the Feds. He settles the score with Lydia, the conniving and amoral devil in the blue Louboutins. Perhaps most importantly, he frees Jesse, the person whose life he has raised up and torn down more than anyone else.

I had no doubt that Jesse was going to survive this finale. After last week’s absolutely gut-wrenching execution of Andrea (or, as I like to call it, Vince Gilligan being a dick with our emotions), to have Jesse die at the hands of the Neo-Nazis, or worse, Landry, would have been almost too much to bear. Instead, we see Walt mow down his Aryan enemies, and rescue Jesse in the process. In the final scenes, we see a dying Walt asking for release, not absolution, from his partner and surrogate son. He does not ask Jesse to forgive him, because he knows that doing so would be the height of his ego and self-delusion (“Hey, sorry buddy for letting your girlfriend die, making your kill that innocent chemist, poisoning your other girlfriend’s kid, and telling the Nazi’s you were hiding under the car. We all good?”). Instead, he simply gives Jesse a gun and a choice. When Jesse decides to walk away and let Walt die, it seems rather fitting. Jesse was never a violent person. Even after Skinny Pete was robbed in Season 2, Jesse wanted to let it go. It was Walt that handed Jesse the gun and told him to “handle it.” It was Walt that put Jesse in an impossible situation to kill Gale in order to save them both. Jesse was always the poor bystander, caught in the irresistible pull of Heisenberg’s magnetic force. While Jesse wasn’t exactly innocent, he was most certainly not evil.

breaking_bad-2

Once time has passed and we have the benefit of perspective and hindsight, I hope we will continue to see just how groundbreaking Breaking Bad truly was. From its kinetic first scene in the New Mexico desert to its pitch perfect, tie-up all loose ends, and wrap it in a blood soaked bow finale, Breaking Bad never deviated from its mission to describe what happens when a seemingly “good guy” decides to break bad. There were never filler episodes that wandered on plot threads that led nowhere (Dexter, anyone?), Vince Gilligan just wanted to tell us a simple story about a complicated man. Over the course of five seasons, we were invited into his little corner of Albuquerque, and shown the depths of human immorality. We were asked to question our own beliefs on evil and corruption. Was Walter inherently evil? Did circumstances cause him to change before our eyes? Are we somewhat immoral ourselves for rooting for him for as long as we did? Gilligan doesn’t try to answer these questions for us. In fact, I don’t think there’s a tidy answer to all of this (as I’m sure the thousands of conflicting Breaking Bad online recaps will attest). Breaking Bad was a show that thought to ask the tough questions. Good television always does, and great television does it like this.

Facebook Comments

About author

Brian Chu
Brian Chu 221 posts

Brian Chu is a Staff Writer for Nerd Reactor and aspiring Jeopardy contestant. He thinks Picard is the best captain, Cumberbatch is the best Holmes, Bale is the best Batman, and Tennant is the best Doctor. Follow him @chumeister