Breaking Bad is the greatest show I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. I can’t say it’s the greatest show ever because I haven’t watched The Wire or The Sopranos. But of the shows I’ve watched from beginning to end, none soared higher or burned brighter than Breaking Bad.
The best thing about this show is that it’s gotten significantly better every season. There were no disappointing seasons, or to put it another way, no seasons you’d tell a friend to skip when they’re about to start binge-watching on Netflix. That’s quite an accomplishment. Even a great show like Friday Night Lights (the best show I’d ever seen start to finish before Breaking Bad) had that albatross of a second season.
But not Breaking Bad. Just when you thought there was no topping Gus getting half his face blown off, there was the train episode. Or the shootout in the desert. Or the knife fight in the White household.
These last eight episodes in particular have moved at hyper speed, leaving us as the audience to clutch the sides of our seats and gasp for breath. The three hours preceding this finale were exhausting, excruciating and exhilarating. “Ozymandias” might very well be the best hour of television I’ve ever seen.
Maybe that’s why I found the finale slightly disappointing. After the complete unpredictability of the past seven episodes, the stage seemed set for a chaotic showdown full of ricin and M60 bullets. We got both those things, but the chaos was missing.
The episode panned out exactly how most of us expected it would. Jesse escaped after killing Todd. Lydia died. Uncle Jack and the Nazis fell under a barrage of bullets the size of soup cans. This was Heisenberg’s masterpiece, a final pitch-perfect plan that went off without a hitch.
Well, expect for Walt taking a bullet in the stomach. But with the cancer looming large, we knew Walt was going to die in this episode. His life was on a countdown timer. He wasn’t surviving his showdown with the Nazis and he knew it. We knew it, too. We weren’t sure how exactly he’d die, but his death was coming by hour’s end.
I expected a finale that barreled into the station like the bat out of hell that was unleashed at the beginning of this half-season. That locomotive took off at warp speed once Hank found Leaves of Grass and paused only for a moment last week to show Walt hit his lowest point. I thought for sure that out-of-control train had started back up and would plow through its final destination like a force of nature.
Instead we got a slow, methodical victory lap around the Breaking Bad universe. Hell, even Badger and Skinny Pete got a send-off in this episode! The only element that truly surprised me was Elliot and Gretchen’s role in Walt’s plan. I never really thought Walt would kill the couple; I just didn’t see them serving as the money launderers for Walt.
There were some uncharacteristic lapses in logic that took me out of the episode as I was watching it. Who would believe that a reporter from the New York Times was calling from a payphone in the desert? Furthermore, you’re telling me the Nazis wouldn’t check the trunk of Walt’s car, or better yet, make him walk inside the compound? He could’ve had a bomb back there and just driven straight through the house where Jack was waiting! I wouldn’t have thought it strange had the Nazis not spent two minutes thoroughly frisking Walt’s person, only to completely ignore his vehicle.
I applaud the show for having the balls to kill Walt and definitively end the story. There was no last-minute salvation for Walt, no new life awaiting him as a lumberjack. I also liked that Jesse survived. He now has a shot at redemption, although it will have to happen off-screen.
Walt was too far gone for redemption but he at least took ownership for the chaos he’d created. He set things right in his world and then shuffled off this mortal coil before the police could apprehend him. His status as a legendary crime lord will surely grow after this final development. A house full of dead neo-Nazis. A super lab busted and blue meth off the streets for good. Heisenberg dead, the final shot we see of him reminiscent of the crawl space scene that marked Walt’s transformation into his monstrous alter ego.
I enjoyed the Breaking Bad finale tremendously. It just didn’t floor me like the preceding episodes did. Vince Gilligan had the chance for a slam dunk and he settled for a layup.
But much like it’s Wallaby-wearing antihero, this show secured its fate long before the final hour unfolded.
The greatest show I’ve ever seen is no more. Long live the king.