So it was with some deep breaths, and a few tears that I was able to get down my recap for the finale of Breaking Bad, somehow putting certain scenes down in words brought emotions that hadn’t surfaced as I watched the first or second time. A fellow blogger and podcaster recommended that I put down my commentary as well, so here it is, along with an analysis of the title, which the recap got too long for.
So starting with the title, there’d been four main theories about the meaning listed in the International Business Times. Though one wasn’t so much a theory as a reflection on Vince GIlligan’s “clue” about “woodworking” (which I’ll address below). Of the three name related theories one was spot on, one was a bit of a leap, and the other was a bit of both.
The theory which was spot on was the character Felina, in the Marty Robbin’s song “El Paso”, as the article referenced above explains the tragic character of the song falls in love with Felina, kills her lover, flees to New Mexico, then (as the song played when Walt started the Volvo he stole) has to go back because “maybe tomorrow a bullet will find me but tonight there’s nothing worse than the pain in my heart”. The song’s anti-hero dies of a gunshot wound to his side, in the arms of his beloved Felina. The Marty Robbins cassette case, as well as the song playing in the episode confirm the connection to the title, and the song’s foreshadowing.
Now of the other two theories I think they still deserve a mention, and you’ll see why. The “bit of both” theory ties into the fact that (again credit to the article above) “Felina is a homonym for “Felinae,” the scientific classification for small cats, and Schrodinger’s is the most scientific famous feline of all”. Now his experiment was actually geared to discredit Heisenberg’s theory of physics, and (without going into an explanation of cat/box theory) his goal was to prove that while the cat in theory could be both dead and alive, it can’t really be both. And the thoughts on this episode were that Walt could not be BOTH the family man AND Heisenberg simultaneously. I think that by the end of the episode though, he was a bit of both, he protected, and provided for his family in ways only Heisenberg could.
On to the last theory, which was a stretch but feels oddly coincidental, which is the “Blood, Meth and Tears” theory, which this show has been about. Now, the hole in the blood meth and tears as listed in the article is that Walt didn’t use the lithium methods, because of how volatile they are, but he himself was always volatile, so in a way it still fits.
I also brought up these theories as a reminder of the kind of intelligent show, for intelligent viewers that BrBa always was. The types of fans that loved Breaking Bad are the types of people who want to seek answers instead of being spoon fed, and they appreciate a show that has a sense of mutual high expectations, as though there’s a kind of relationship between the fans and the writers, because the writers understand the trust that the fans have in them.
Now on to the episode itself. While some complained that it tied things up TOO well (guess you can’t please everyone *sigh*), and some felt this and the previous episode, Granite State had too little action compared to Ozymandias it felt in my opinion that Granite State set everything up for this to be all about closure and tying things up. Walter White’s story has always had a beginning middle and an end, and ends (generally) tie things up, and while this finale will be compared to other finales (like Dexter, The Sopranos and LOST) it’s goal and challenge were for things to be finished, and complete, it surpassed that challenge and neatly met its goal, and here’s how:
This finale really felt like, after two viewings and what I feel is a quality recap (see link at top of blog) while Vince Gilligan (and I’m sure everyone in the writers room) didn’t waste time on minutia, they really left no stone unturned in terms on making sure that things were wrapped up, and not only did they focus on the things that needed to be said, but on things that didn’t need to be said, letting the cameras, and the actors take care of some heavy lifting. This is not to say by the way that the writers weren’t awesome, because believe me as I reviewed some thoughts, I was literally in awe at what they (and everyone on the show) produced.
The first example (and these are in no particular order) is when Walt visited Skyler, and then left. The dialogue was simple, and honest, just like the characters at this point. Walter finally owning up to the reasons for everything when he says “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And, I was really… I was alive” wasn’t just beautiful for Walt and Skyler, but it ties into the very end scene. When Walt then left, the cinematography was so perfect. In the room Walt was casting a shadow on Skyer, as he turned to face her for that last look, he was completely in shadow while she still had some light shining, and as he left, he took his shadow with him.
Regarding Gretchen and Elliot, I found it amazing that even though he was threatening, manipulative, and was crystal clear on how the money his family would get would be through what he earned, and not them, Walt still had to end up including and getting help from the people he literally said “F#ck you” to, in season one, and if he’d accepted their help, none of this would have transpired.
Another moment in this episode that seemed to remind of us of earlier, simpler times, was when Walt was in the desert building the robot that would operate the gun at the compound. It reminded me of “4 Days Out” in season 2, and Walt had to use his knowledge to get he and Jesse home. I wish that Jesse had been there to cheer him on, and I felt his absence. It was also a reminder of how Walt could have done anything he wanted to with his talent. This of course ties back to Gray Matter. We may have never gotten the full story on why Walt left the company, but he was a Nobel prize recipient, he could have done anything, but he became a bitter and underrated high school chemistry teacher. His cancer was unfortunate, and may have been a catalyst, but he made several choices in his life that made cooking meth and running an empire the things that made him feel “alive”.
Moving on to Jesse, and woodworking (which connected back to one of his times in his support group, where he talked about loving his time in shop class and building a box which he sold for weed). We know that he was day dreaming, which was a form of delusion. It’s only through delusions that Walt and Jesse were able to go through what they did. Walt’s delusion was that he did everything for his own family, while Jesse simply wanted to lose himself.
The only other brief time we see Jesse in this episode (which I wish we had more, but as integral as he was, this is Walt’s story, so I’m ok with it) is at the compound, beginning when he and Walt make eye contact. I think that here Jesse is first thinking that Walt is the cause of all his suffering, but seeing some level of sorrow in Walt’s face, Jesse seems, in my opinion, to soften, knowing that Walt never would have treated him like this (Walt never would have beaten him, and while he wasn’t beyond poisoning Brock, he wouldn’t have killed him or Andrea).
However, while each Jesse and Walt suffered from their own delusions, and blamed each other for various sufferings, one theme of this episode that reinforced the overall sense of closure is that each character’s consequences were due to their own actions. Take for example Todd and Lydia. For Todd he was strangled by his prisoner’s own chains. It took the second watch for me to pick up on that look on Jesse’s face as he looks over at Todd, before lunging at him to recognize that his excitement wasn’t for his freedom, it was for sweet revenge, and I won’t lie I loved it.
For Lydia, her need to control, specifically regarding how schedule oriented she is, is what brought about her downfall. Also I loved the camera shot of Lydia putting the stevia in her tea, and then the confirmation from Walt, along with her being shown as suffering the poison’s effects. I’ve lost count of the people I’ve had to correct about minor details on shows (I may be a tad obsessive), but here I’ll never have to debate with anyone who Walt used the ricin on, if they ingested it, or if affected them, it was Lydia, and it’s killed her.
The only main character who was an innocent victim in this whole mess was Marie. She may not have been perfect, in fact she may have been a bit OCD, a kleptomaniac, and she may have liked purple a bit too much, but even as Hank could have asked for help pre-Ozymandias, she never hurt anyone in all this, and her whole world crashed down around her. It reminded me of the other innocent victims who probably won’t be thought of much, like Lydia’s daughter and Brock.
Finally, looking at this finale there was something so sweet at seeing Walt, reflected in his work, as he walked through the lab before dying. He’s in that place that made him feel so “alive”, it took the threat of death to begin the process that took him there, and I’m reminded of a quote (don’t recall who said it) “People live two lives, and the second begins, when we realize that there’s only one.” This in a lot of ways summed up this finale, and the show overall for me.
On a lighter note, because I’d mentioned that this finale would be compared to others, LOST is perhaps my favorite show of all time, and while this may be a bit punny, just like Jack, Walt dies with a lab.
So thank you everyone that made Breaking Bad the amazing show it was… I’ll say no thanks though, because along with Walt, my hopes for another show living up to my expectations for quite a while, died at the end of this finale.