Warning: This article contains spoilers.
“Guess I got what I deserved…” Suffice it to say these were the shared sentiments about the irreversibly fallen anti-hero Walter White (Bryan Cranston) towards the end of the “Breaking Bad” series finale, “Felina.” 10.3 million viewers tuned in to AMC when it ended on Sept. 29, skyrocketing Vince Gilligan’s cult favorite television program to an all time high. The Quad writer, Chris Black, got it right weeks ago when he made his predictions of how the series would end. The writers took one last attempt to humanize Walt before he went out. After righting the wrongs between him and Skylar, Walt did indeed go on to to rescue Jesse from the neo-Nazi compound. There was not an abundance of twists or surprises to be had, other than a much appreciated and amusing appearance from Jesse’s former drug pushers Badger and Skinny Peat. Rather than further traumatizing us with the bleak circumstances that came out of episodes like “To’Hajiilee” and “Ozymandias,” the writers took a much more relaxed and poetic route that played out like an extended epilogue.
Nevertheless, Walter White is dead! Above all things, he died admiring the meth lab and embracing it, which was unremorsefully fitting. The song “Baby Blue” by British rock artist Badfinger’s lyrics read, “Special love I had for you, my baby blue,” played out over an image of Walter slowly bleeding out to his inevitable demise. The song attached a perfectly suitable thematic angle to Walt’s love for both his family and “blue” methamphetamine product. Walt even had the backbone to confess to Skylar that he relished his work. After all hell breaking loose, it was good to see Walt at least try and right a few wrongs while going out on his own terms. I am confident in saying that Walter White died as Walter White, not Heisenberg. His harshest critics might think he violated too many moral boundaries to ever be really compensated for his faults, but I do not think Walt was really seeking redemption. More so, out of all the violence and catastrophe he caused, it was one last attempt to try and set the outcome of this major mishap straight.
Undeterred by the vile atrocities Walt carried out from one end to the other, I always found myself pulling for him. Underneath his revamped persona, embodying the cold-blooded exterior of his Heisenberg alias, I always sensed a hint of potential virtuous turnaround. Walt’s last good deeds in “Felina” may not atone for the tornado of ruin he left in his wake, but it was exceptionally gratifying to see Walt at his most reconciled state.
In hindsight, the most strikingly astonishing thing about all five seasons and 62 episodes of “Breaking Bad” was how consistent it remained in its quality. Originating as frequently humorous drama, Writer Vince Gilligan quickly blackened the tone of the show, deepening its characters and letting it evolve to something of a Shakespearean tragedy. Walt’s relationship to Jesse took on the role of a surrogate father before the two became enemies in the latter half of season five. While their partnership still stood intact, the pair was a phenomenal force to be reckoned with and one of the shows countless highlights. Some of Walt’s science might have gone over our heads, but the chemistry between the duo was undeniable. So remarkably simplistic in its execution was Season Two’s “4 Days Out.” This roundabout installment, commonly referred to as a “Bottle Episode” due to its restricted budget and limited set pieces, featured both Jesse and Walt stranded in the barren desert for four grueling days aside their crippled RV. Oftentimes it is too easy to overlook things when they are taken at face value, but entries like this displayed the on-screen magic between Cranston and Aaron Paul incredibly.
Moreover, where would Breaking Bad be without its exquisitely well-crafted supporting characters? Front-runners like Dean Norris, who undertook the role of Walt’s well-humored DEA brother-in law, became a crucial player in the narrative. Memorable faces like grandfather and par-time hitman, Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) sustained their positions as frequently showcased cast members. Without rifling off every single most favored character presented on the show, the multitude of actors and actresses who devoted themselves to their roles manufactured one of the richest storytelling universes in television.
Unfortunately it has all come to a screeching halt, but it definitely ended on a good note. Rather then prolong the series and milk it for a highly marketable commercial product, Vince Gilligan stayed true to his principles and concluded the show in its prime. It is a daring declaration, but I truly believe we have reached a new golden age in television. Audiences are fed up with second-rate sitcoms, trading them in for keenly penned, cinematic tales of fiction. They want to be challenged from both an intellectual and emotional standpoint. TV’s always been treated as the substandard to Hollywood motion pictures, but that notion is fading expeditiously. Programs like “Breaking Bad” are such a rarity that substantiates just how far we can evolve the medium when we do not hinder it for what is commonplace.
In the episode “Over,” Walt confronts two wannabe meth cooks accompanied by TV On The Radio’s “DLZ.” In addition to that particular instance, Key scenes like the horrifying death of Jesses girlfriend, Jane, and Walt’s brutal run down of the two drug dealers in episodes like “Half Measures,” prove this show was something truly special. There are moments in pop culture television history that encompass the zeitgeist of their time. This generation will remember and enjoy “Breaking Bad” for many years to come. It is without a doubt one of television’s finest junctures that will not be soon forgotten.
Robert Gabe is a third-year student majoring in communication studies. He can be reached at RG770214@wcupa.edu.
Warning: This article contains spoilers.