All bad things come to an end.
Ah, Felina. Mix up the letters and they spell “finale”. Read the lyrics to the Marty Robbins song and note that the protagonist of the song dies of a bullet wound at the end. Look up the symbols Fe Li Na on the Periodic Table and voila: Blood, Meth, and Tears. I heart you, Vince Gilligan, to the bittersweet end.
Goaded by Eliot and Gretchen’s majorly dismissive dis on the Charlie Rose show last week (if only it was The View, am I right?), Walt steals a car in New Hampshire to get back home and prove that he’s not nothing, dammit, even if he’s no longer Heisenberg. As a Canadian, I feel I must point out the unbelievability of that scene. Not that the cops wouldn’t look in the car, or that they keys were left in it to help Walt on his journey, but that the car started. My friends, if it’s cold enough that your fingers don’t really work properly anymore, it’s cold enough that you need your car’s block heater plugged in to make it start. But I digress. He then proceeds to drive 2200 miles whilst listening to Marty Robbins sing the aforementioned Felina the entire way. Still, better than Blurred Lines.
First up: Gretchen and Eliot. Walt finds out where Eliot and Gretchen are living these days by posing as a NYT reporter because he knows they won’t be able to pass up such a pretentious interview. Speaking of pretentious, he leaves behind the stylin’ watch
he bought given to him by Jesse at the height of his hubris, because he plain doesn’t need it anymore. He’s shedding all his protective layers as he travels toward his final destination.
He slips into Gretchen and Eliot’s palatial digs like he’s nothing more than a shadow, easily following them into their sterile, privileged existence where they obviously feel completely immune to any sort of disturbance in their idyllic slice of the good life. They’re shocked to see him, of course, and when Eliot pulls a paring knife on Walt (who has successfully faced more guns, threats, knives, and death than Eliot has seen on TV shows), Walt says, “Eliot, if we’re going to go that way…you’re going to need a bigger knife.” Ha!
He doesn’t kill them, because if there’s anything this show has taught us, it’s that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. He gives them his nine million dollars and tells them they’re going gift the money to his kids so that Walt Jr. will accept it, coming from fine upstanding people like themselves. And just so they don’t back out of the deal, he’s hired a couple of assassins who are going to make sure they keep their promise even if Walt’s no longer around to enforce it. He gives the signal and two red sharp-shooter dots appear on their chests from outside in the dark. Damn those floor-to-ceiling rich people windows! Boom, Walt’s proven he’s smarter than them and found a solution to giving the drug money to his family without breaking a sweat. He’s still got it, baby.
Even more delicious, the “two best hitmen west of the Mississippi” turn out to be Beaver and Skinny Pete, making a most welcome final appearance. Them and their laser pointers were only too happy to help Walt scare those nice people to death – especially after being paid. They also confirm that very pure blue meth is still available on the street, and if it’s not Walt cooking it, that only leaves Jesse. Jesse is alive?!? Darn those Aryan Nazis and their double-crossing ways.
Speaking of Jesse, he’s back in time, re-making the perfect wooden box for his mom, healthy and happy in a world where he never met Mr. White. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I CRY. The tug of his chains brings him back to his bleak reality: endlessly making meth for Uncle Jack if he doesn’t want to see Brock get shot in the back of the head like his mom. Excuse me while I curl up into a ball on the floor on his behalf.
Now the flash-forward becomes a flashback as we see Walt in the scenes from the beginning of the season, in the Denny’s fashioning his bacon into his birthday age, examining the weapon in the trunk of his car, taking the ricin from their ruined and empty house. There’s even a flashback to the first episode of the series, where Hank first offers in that very living room to take Walt on a ride-along to get a little excitement in his life. Woe, every person in that scene has had their life destroyed by that offer.
Next up: Lydia. Being a creature of habit, Walt knows he’ll find her meeting with Todd at 10 am on a Tuesday and drinking chamomile tea with Stevia, just like she always did with him. Neither of them is happy to see him, but when he offers them a new, cheaper way to make meth, Lydia agrees over Todd’s objections that he should meet with Jack to discuss it. When Walt leaves, she makes it clear that it’s time they dealt with the Walt problem once and for all. “Did you look at him? You’d be doing him a favour,” she says. She looks very pleased with herself that she’s so much smarter than Walter White as she pours the Stevia packet into her tea, just as she did every single time she met with Walt in the past. Oops. I think we know where that ricin ended up, don’t we? That’s Heisenberg two, enemies of Heisenberg zero.
How perfect that Walt happily hums the words to Felina as he assembles a garage door opener machine gun shooter in the desert. All it will take is a push of his car door fob to get the action started. Just like the old days, he’s once again vanquishing his foes with science. Yay!
Next up: Skyler. Marie calls to warn her that Walt has been sighted all over town and to be on high alert until he’s caught. Skyler thanks her for her help, then gets back to talking with Walt, who’s already at her house. Even after everything that’s happened, Skyler picks Walt over her sister. “You look terrible,” she says sadly, to which he replies, “Yeah, but I feel good.” I love that line. He knows the end is coming and he’s going to put everything right before it does. He says a proper goodbye to her, not like the horrible fake angry phone call before he left town. As a final act of mercy and contrition, he gives her the lottery ticket that will lead the DEA to the hole where Hank and Gomez are buried. He want her to know that he wasn’t the one who killed Hank, and she can use the lottery ticket to cut a deal with the DEA to avoid prison. She starts to sob with relief and grief and regret and THIS IS THE SECOND TIME I CRY.
He also has something to tell her: All the things he did, he did because…she cuts him off, unable to stomach his justifications even one more time. But that’s not what he was going to say. “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really…I was alive.” This is the admission that Skyler (and we) have needed to hear for a long time. It’s just as cathartic as we imagined it would be, for everyone including Walt. Skyler allows him to see Holly one last time, and he gently strokes her head as she sleeps. THIS IS THE THIRD TIME I CRY. After he leaves he waits outside to glimpse Walt Jr., but there won’t be any goodbye hugs with him.
Next up: the Nazis. Walt goes to their compound that night and they let him in with a cursory glance at the empty back seat. They only know him as the Walt who fell down and blubbered when they killed Hank, so they probably have low expectations as to how dangerous Walt is. At least, that’s what I tell myself when they don’t check his trunk. They do take his wallet and keys/detonator thingy, so there’s that.
Walt parks in front of the clubhouse and they take him inside to Uncle Jack. Jack wastes no time telling Walt that he’s going to shoot him instead of go into business with him. Walt is truly angry when he shouts that Jack still owes him since he didn’t kill Jesse like he promised, but partnered with him instead. Jack is right miffed at being called a liar and rat partner. Jack tells a minion to go get Jesse to prove he’s no partner. Walt’s probably glad for the chance to kill Jesse now, too, and he’s really glad he gets to opportunity to grab his key fob back when nobody’s looking.
Everything changes when a broken and haggard Jesse shuffles in chains into the room. Like everything else Walt has admitted he was wrong about, the moment he sets eyes on Jesse, he realizes that it isn’t Jesse’s fault Hank was killed or Jesse turned on Walt – it’s his own fault, his own doing. And he’s going to make this right, too. Walt jumps on Jesse as if he hates him, much to the delight of the Nazis. That doesn’t last long when Walt presses his car fob button and the trunk of his car pops open and the machine gun starts to spray the room with bullets. Whee! Everyone is shot but Jesse and Todd, who was also on the floor trying to break them up.
Todd is in mucho shock and he peeks out the window to see who did this dastardly deed. Um, nobody but Mr. White’s car. That’s such a revelation that he doesn’t even notice Jesse until Jesse wraps a chain around Todd’s neck and chokes him to death with it. Todd, you deserved worse but I’ll settle for a lingering demise at the hands of Jesse Pinkman, yo. While Jesse unlocks his chains, Walt gets a gun and points it at Jack, who’s crawling across the floor and spurting blood. Jack takes a puff of his cigarette (those things’ll kill ya, Jack) and reminds Walt that only he knows where the rest of Walt’s money went. Good point, except that unlike before in the desert, Walt’s money is at the very bottom of the list of things Walt cares about. Walt shoots Jack point-blank, and his brain matter splatters all over the camera lens. Yikes!
Jesse fearfully backs up when Walt turns to him, but Walt just puts the gun on the floor and slides it over to Jesse. Jesse snatches it up and considers shooting him, at least until Walt says, “Do it. You want this.” It may be true, but Jesse’s not letting him off that easily. “Say it! Say you want this!” he shouts/weeps, and for the very first time, Walt is honest with Jesse. Yes, he wants this. “Then do it yourself,” Jesse says, and flounces. Fair enough. They both know that Walt’s been shot in the guts, so at this point it’s all semantics.
Todd’s cell phone rings, and Walt answers it. It’s Lydia, wondering if Walt’s dead. No indeed! He’s alive enough to break it to her that her beloved Stevia is now slowly killing her. Goodbye, Lydia. Walt limps outside to find Jesse getting into a car. They both pause and stare at each other. Walt nods at him, and after a moment’s hesitation, Jesse nods back. It’s as close as they’re going to get to goodbye, I’m sorry, I love you, I wish we’d never met each other.
Jesse peels away at top speed, crashing symbolically and literally through the compound gates. He’s laughing and crying hysterically as he goes. He’s free, free of Walter White, free of the Nazis and the DEA and Lydia and meth. We’ll never know what happens to Jesse, but at least his future is finally in his own hands. THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME I CRY.
Walt slowly walks to the compounds meth lab and lovingly strokes the tanks like he did his daughter’s hair earlier that day. He’s in the place he was his best self, his worst self, and what more fitting location for Walter White to meet his end? The camera pans out on Walt’s body as the cops converge on him, but he’s already gone, gone out on his own terms. It’s a wonderful ending to what very well might be the best television show ever. Thank you very much Vince Gilligan and the cast of Breaking Bad. This time we got we got not only what we wanted, but also what we needed.
THIS IS THE LAST TIME I CRY.