Breaking Bad has gone dark one last time, and after seeing how Vince Gilligan & Co. chose to wrap Walter White’s journey, I say this with all of the sincerity in my being:
The amazing series ended with an equally impressive episode, which connected all of the flashforwards we’d seen and methodically led to the story’s conclusion. It gave us closure on everyone we cared about – and satisfyingly finished off the ones we really wanted to see put in the ground.
Though I’d like to keep talking about the show for as long as possible, we can’t put off the series finale recap forever. So let’s review the major developments of the final episode, “Felina.”
ROAD TRIP! | Just after leaving the bar in the previous episode, Walt finds an unlocked car and unsuccessfully tries to get it started using only a screwdriver. Police lights behind him cause him to utter a prayer of sorts: “Just get me home. I’ll do the rest.” The lights pass, and he finds the vehicle’s keys in the driver’s side visor. Walt drives off to the strains of a Marty Robbins cassette he finds in the glove compartment: “Tomorrow, a bullet may find me; tonight, nothing’s worse than this pain in my heart.”
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He motors cross-country and stops to get gas and make a call once he’s reached the desert southwest. Walt pretends to be a New York Times reporter doing a story on Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz; a pleasant tone and the right questions help him learn where the Gray Matter founders are living these days, as well as when they’ll be back from a trip to New York. Once Walt hangs up, he takes off the watch Jesse gave him for his 51st birthday, lays it atop the pay phone and leaves. (Side note: Gilligan’s twofold story behind this gesture, revealed during this week’s Talking Bad, is a classic. Check it out if you haven’t.)
GUESS WHO? | The Schwartzes return to their posh home, and they’re so busy nattering on about ridiculously expensive New York restaurants that they don’t realize Walt is sitting in their courtyard… and entering their home… and picking up their knickknacks. “I really like your new house,” he tells Gretchen when she screams upon seeing him. Elliott anemically lunges forward with a kitchen knife, and I laugh at the tiredly amused tone of Walt’s voice as he says, “Elliott, if we’re going to go that way, you’re going to need a bigger knife.”
No, Walt’s not there to kill them. He instead asks them a favor: They will take the more than $9 million in cash he’s stacked on their coffee table, and they will put it in an irrevocable trust for Walter Jr. That way, the government won’t be able to prove it came from him, and therefore won’t be able to seize it. They shake on it, but you just know those two aren’t going to follow through – and so does Walt. Heisenberg does a Obi-Wan-like hand gesture, and two red dots from laser sights suddenly appear on Elliott and Gretchen’s chests. He informs the couple that “the two best hit men west of the Mississippi” are outside their home and will follow them to make sure that Walt’s kids get their rightful inheritance. Otherwise, “Pop! Darkness.” (Side note: Did you giggle, too, when Gretchen nearly soiled her Chanel at Walt’s “pop!”?) “Cheer up, beautiful people,” Walt says with disdain. “This is where you get to make it right.”
Outside, the two “hitmen” are revealed as Monsieurs Skinny Pete and Badger brandishing laser pointers. Ha! Not gonna lie: The guys’ appearance made me supremely happy. When Walt asks, they confirm that blue meth is still in circulation, but they’d assumed he was the one cooking it. Since Walt’s not, everyone in the car realizes, it’s gotta be Jesse.
And after a brief, golden-lit montage of a healthy, happy Jesse lovingly crafting a wooden box, we snap back to reality: Jesse is beat up, broken and still chained like Fido in Todd’s meth lab.
‘PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME WALK YOU THROUGH THIS’ | Then, in short order, we go from the events of this season’s premiere to the events of its finale. I’ll shorthand it for you: 52 in bacon, new car with a gun in the trunk and ricin retrieval at the Whites’ former home (complete with a flashback to the birthday party in the pilot).
Next we see Walt, he’s at a restaurant where Todd and Lydia are meeting. He crashes their table and begs for an audience with Uncle Jack and the gang; Walt has a “new method” of cooking that requires no methylamine, he says, and will show them how to do it for $1 million. She sends him on his way and then makes it clear to the very slow Todd that they will not be doing business with his former meth mentor. Lady Banjo Eyes then dumps the contents of a stevia packet into her tea, a move the camera follows with interest…
HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT | Marie calls Skyler to warn her that Walt’s back in town and may come to see her. Skyler’s smoking and her face is blank as she thanks her sister – then the camera moves and we see that Walt has actually been in her kitchen, hidden from our view by a pole, the whole time. Nice reveal, Breaking Bad! “You look terrible,” she tells him. “Yeah, but I feel good,” he replies, adding that, “It’s over, and I needed a proper goodbye.”
He gives her the lotto ticket with the GPS coordinates on it – “That’s where they’ll find Hank and Steve Gomez,” he says, causing Skyler to start crying. He urges her to trade the information for a deal with the prosecutor. “You get yourself out of this.” But when she forbids him to say that what he’s done was for the family, he easily acquiesces. “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really… I was alive.” (You might wanna put on some black and tuck a few tissues up your sleeve, because Bryan Cranston just killed it!) After a brief parting glance at both Flynn and Holly – neither of whom are aware he’s there — Walt leaves.
RETRIBUTION | Walt gains access to the Nazis’ compound, where he insists on parking at a certain angle next to the clubhouse. As the thugs check him for weapons and wires, we see he’s only carrying his wallet and a keyring remote for the car’s locks; it’s the same one we saw him use earlier as he rigged up some sort of auto gun thingee in the desert.
Jack quickly dismisses Walt’s new method and orders him killed, but Walt denounces Jack as welching on his agreement to kill Jesse. Jack scoffs at Jack’s insistence that Jesse is a “partner” in their meth operation; to prove it, he has Todd fetch Pinkman from the lab. (Side note: The dejected way Aaron Paul shuffles hurriedly after Todd speaks volumes about Jesse’s spirit at this point, no?) Once Jesse is in the clubhouse, Walt launches himself at his former protégé, covering the younger man’s body as they hit the floor. You think at first he’s angry, but he’s really activating the car’s remote: An automatic machine gun starts strafing the entire building with bullets, hitting everyone except Todd and Jesse. Yep, you read that right: Walt takes a bullet in his abdomen.
Todd is dumbfounded by what’s happened; his daze allows Jesse to come up behind him and strangle him with his wrist irons. (Side note: Yesssssss.) Meanwhile, Walt grabs a gun from the ground and aims it at Uncle Jack, who’s dying but not gone yet. If Walt wants to know where his money is, Jack reasons, he shouldn’t kill him. “You pull that trigger, you’ll never –” but the slimeball never finishes his thought, because Walt turns his head into hamburger.
I DID IT MY WAY | So it’s just Walt and Jesse standing, looking at each other, and Walt kicks the gun over to Pinkman. Jesse aims it at him, bewildered, and Walt tells him, “Do it. You want this.” But Jesse gets his former teacher to admit that he wants to die; after noticing that Walt is bleeding from the belly, Jesse says, “Then do it yourself” and walks out. He jumps in a car and speeds out of the compound, crying and laughing and yelling all at the same time. Though I don’t think Jesse will ever have a normal life and I fear for his mental state, I’m not sad that he survives the series. (Agree? Disagree? That’s what the comments section is for.)
Meanwhile, Lydia calls Todd’s cell (he’s changed his ringtone to “Lydia, the Tattooed Lady,” which is awesome), and Walt picks up. It’s clear that she’d ordered the gang to kill Heisenberg; she’s surprised when he’s alive… and even more surprised when he announces that he slipped ricin in her stevia packet at the restaurant. So that flu-like feeling she’s having right now? It’s going to get a heck of a lot worse. I guess those sugar substitutes really do kill!
His business concluded, Walt strolls through the lab and looks fondly on its implements. Cop cars arrive in the background, but he isn’t worried. And as he collapses onto the ground and the camera ascends toward the rafters, it’s clear that Walter White – now penniless, family-less and lifeless — is at peace for perhaps the first time since we met him.
Now it’s your turn. Grade the episode via the poll below, then back up your choice in the comments!