Investing time and passion into any media can be all at once fulfilling, exciting and utterly draining.
This certainly holds true when we’re at an endpoint. Fandom has a way of inflating what they love and quite often that tends to utterly ruin an overall experience.
Seriously, talk to any fan of Lost, The Sopranos, Angel or Battlestar Galactica and they’ll stare into the distance as they remember that soul crushing disappointment that was the series finale.
Now, we can argue that any ending will have its supporters and detractors, which makes sense since we’re all different and have our own opinions on what makes any work interesting and engaging, but what happens when the folks in charge of our favorite shows suddenly realize that as well?
Well, you get the double finale of Breaking Bad.
What’s that? What do I mean by double finale?
Let me explain:
Granite State, as I see it, was the true finale to Breaking Bad. Walter White received his comeuppance, alone and dying in a cabin far away from everything he has ever loved. His actions have brought him to hell by ferryman and now he’s meant to waste away with only two copies of a terrible Dustin Hoffman movie and a winter wasteland as his companions. The money he so fervently wanted as his legacy sits in a barrel, not too dissimilar from the ones we watched him melt away the evidence of his crimes. At the end, it’s too much for him – the paying for an extra hour of disassociated companionship, sitting in a single room wondering whether his family hates him.
Earlier in the series, Walt tells his son about his experience as a child when his father passed away from a degenerative disease. The audience is told that Walt’s deepest fear is to be remembered negatively by the ones he loves. There’s this compulsive need in his mind to be this giant in the eyes of the people he interacts with, and it’s not an uncommon personality trait for a man who seemingly never had a father and based on the shred we hear regarding his maternal relationship, a fairly overprotective mother that he works overtime to avoid even the hope of interaction with. That’s already amazingly ironic, but a lot of Walt’s actions lead to very ironic moments.
So Walt breaks down and travels to a no horse town 8 miles away from his prison with a goal of changing the paradigm. He still clings to a hope that he can provide a little something to his family and still be the hero of his story. What he gets is his worst nightmare as his son – the only character you can see he has ever actually respected throughout the series (in his own twisted way) asks why he hasn’t died yet. It’s worth noting Walt Jr. has asked this question before, but his initial motivation was to inspire his father to be the man he already saw him as. Now he truly means what he’s saying and Walt now finds himself leaving a final memory to his son – the memory of a weak, egotistical fool who chose pride over everything else. He doesn’t even get to say goodbye to his wife and daughter.
So Walt calls the cops, orders one last drink and gives himself up to fate.
But then that Charlie Rose interview happens.
Now, here’s where I get a little weird. At this point, Walter White has died. As he watches Gretchen speak of him as a corpse – a memory – that’s exactly what he becomes and in what I see as one of the most meta-textual moments since the triple path ending for Clue, Heisenberg wakes up and decides for us that this is not the ending. He decides we’ll need to tune in one more time because he deserves a payoff as well.
That’s what I consider the genius of Breaking Bad’s finale. We got a high concept, somber goodbye to a man who deserved what he walked into. Still, the creators of the show realized that many fans had expectations.
Felina fed those expectations completely. With the room to actually just go balls to wall with the fan theories that have been on the internet since that first flash forward to Denny’s and an M60 in the trunk of a stolen car, Vince Gilligan and his team provided a suitable ending for a legend like Heisenberg.
Now, were there flaws? Yes. Lydia and the nazis weren’t very fleshed out villains and I was a little disappointed that Marie was left a single scene to act like her old self and disappear. Perhaps something this wild could have been more suited as an endgame against Gus and Mike, but we have to make do with what we get and on many levels, the key piece to the finale is more than just violence and shrewd final manipulations, it’s in resolving the relationship between Heisenberg and Jesse.
I say that with purpose as I never believed the relationship between the two was ever Walt and Jesse. Even when they interacted in a high school, it was Mr. White – the authority figure – and Jesse Pinkman – the student unable to apply himself. This relationship continued with Heisenberg standing in as the new educator and father figure. Felina provides us with an alternate ending for the alternate son in Walt’s life.
That’s what it really boils down to, isn’t it? A man with two faces and his sons.
There’s still something very tragic at play here. Jesse rides off into the night, free from it all – Heisenberg, the meth, the nazis, but to what end? Is he going to drive up to Alaska or Oregon? Will he drop by Badger and Skinny Pete’s just to OD that very night?
It doesn’t matter. His father has set him free and that future is meant to be uncertain. Heisenberg has allowed Jesse to finally go live on his own terms. It may end terribly, it may end well. That’s the way life works out.
As for Walt Jr., well, Heisenberg shits the bed for Walt Sr. on this one. Not only will Walt Jr. remember his father in the worst possible way, but his future is sort of sealed isn’t it? He’s now confined to live a life that’s been utterly shaped by Heisenberg and Walt Sr.’s actions. The legacy that’s been left to him is stained. Even the money meant for him, while never known to be the drug money, will still be associated to his father’s other greatest failure. Who’s to say that Jr. will even agree to take that money when the time comes?
It’s also heartbreaking that Heisenberg was the one who got to say goodbye to Skylar and Holly, not Walt. Walt would never have admitted the drugs and the killings were all for him. Heisenberg never hid that fact, you saw that in his face – he fucking relished what he had done.
Let me not ramble further, though.
So, yes, I’m content with BOTH endings we received.
Also: we got our fucking robot, just like Jesse always wanted.