“Breaking Bad’s” season final starts with Walt and ends with Hank thinking about Walt. So there is no real necessity to start this recap/review from the top. We can start anywhere as long as we start with Walt, who as you’ll see, his fantasies have come true; but?
Walt goes to see Jesse, who tells him that Saul told him what he did, that he killed Mike. Walt claims “There was no other choice, it had to be done.” They share stories of their old cook adventures and in these moments I’m missing them together! Walt seemed to be genuinely enjoying the visit, because he and Jesse are the only ones who can appreciate all those special moments they shared when they were struggling to build their crystal meth business. But you get the idea; why was he there?
They have great stories, great moments, great memories. Just not the kind you can share with random people at the Christmas party. So once in a while it’s fun to talk about it with someone you know understands, someone who was also in the fraternity and knows the secret handshake.
When they ran out of laughs about the good times, Walter turned to leave, he says he’s left something for Jesse. Viewers watched Jesse open it, unsure if it was cash or something that would go “boom” like the thing the late Gus Fring didn’t see coming last year.
It didn’t go boom. Yet. It was a handful of money and a gun, which Jesse quickly understood came with the unspoken warning, “Do the right thing.”
Or someone will do it for you.
Jesse has apparently been drifting since he told Walter he was quitting the meth game because it had become too amoral for him.
Jesse’s not about to rat anyone out; But Walter keeps lowering his tolerance for loose ends at the same time he keeps elevating his ability to deal with them and seemingly face no consequences.
It’s been that kind of year for Walter, who in eight episodes has vaulted from a man in danger on many fronts to a man confident he has outsmarted everyone and has the rewards to show for it.
In a remarkable scene, his wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) takes him to a storage locker to see the stack of money he has made in just three months.
It’s about two feet high and six feet square. “It’s more than we could spend in 10 lifetimes,” she says, and then she asks the real question, which is, “How much is enough?”
She doesn’t know this is like asking Walter, “How high is up?”
She considers it a reasonable question, since she’s pretty sure that unless he extricates himself from the production of crystal meth, someone someday is going to come around and do very bad things to Walter and, worse, his family.
That’s why she arranged several weeks ago to have Uncle Hank the DEA agent and his wife Marie take care of Walter’s and Skyler’s kids.
They can’t come back, Skyler said, until Walt gets out of the business.
Now that he has enough cash to start buying debt from China, she asks, why would he stay in?
So sure enough, a few scenes later Walt tells her he is out of the business.
She seems to want to believe him, which is understandable.
Less understandable: The last scene suggested she does believe him.
If so, this is an uncharacteristic lapse for Skyler, who for most of this season has brushed aside all of Walt’s oily assurances.
At the very least, she has to understand that running an international multimillion-dollar crystal meth ring isn’t the kind of job you quit the way you leave your lifeguard chair when school resumes in September.
Nonetheless, Sunday night’s last scene has Walt, Skyler, their kids, Marie and Hank all sitting around the Whites’ backyard laughing and joking.
It’s Walt’s fantasy come true. He’s made the money, he’s beaten the dealers and now he has his family back. Splitting the family had been the only price of his success that seemed to bother him even a little.
He’s come a long way, and a lot of it in this season – or half-season, really, since technically next summer’s eight wrapup episodes are part of the same final season as this year’s eight.
Whatever the math, we now have a Walt who can order nine prison inmates murdered without feeling a thing other than pride that he had the juice to deliver the order.
Just a week earlier he had shot his former partner, Mike, and moments before Mike died Walt told him it was a mistake, that there really had been no need to shoot him at all.
Sorry, said Walt with the same shrug he might have given to a stranger whose latte he accidentally picked up at Starbucks.
So Walt finishes the year with a new executive partner who shares his all-consuming greed and some of his brains. She’s ideal because he’s convinced he’s just a little bit smarter and he has her on tape confessing to things that would destroy her life.
If all else fails, he can shoot her. In fact, she’d be a good pick in the Dead Pool.
Walter has also picked a up a new assistant, Todd (Jesse Plemons, a long way from “Friday Night Lights”). Unlike Jesse, Todd is untroubled by any semblance of conscience. He and Walter work well together.
So this year for Walter has been almost like going undefeated through an entire NFL season. Every ploy has worked. Most of the loose ends are six feet under. They’re hauling his money in in crates, as Bruce Springsteen sang.
Even creator Vince Gilligan is contributing to Walter’s giddy spirit. He choreographed one scene Sunday night to Nat King Cole’s “Pick Yourself Up” and made the nine prison murders into a kind of visual ballet.
While Walt watched the jail murder story on TV, he was bouncing his young daughter Holly on his knee, a scene with an eerie parallel to the one last week where Mike was watching his granddaughter Kaylee on the swings at the playground.
It’s all for the kids, y’know? We do it all for the kids.
And as if to clinch things, Gilligan wrote one whole long scene to the tune of Tommy James’s “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”
You knew it was only a matter of time before that happened, and Sunday was the night.
The only small cloud in Walter White’s otherwise blue sky came in the final scene, when Hank went to use the facilities and idly picked up a book whose front page finally switched on the light that viewers have been waiting for.
Hey, Hank thought, what if Walter’s involved in this massive and elusive drug case I’ve been trying to solve for years? What if that’s why I’ve never been able to solve it?
Hank has looked inside and sees the inscription written to W.W. from G.B. The W.W. being Walter White and G.B. being Gale Boetticher (you know, the chemist working with Walt and Jesse that Jesse killed at the end of season three). Hank’s mouth drops (he remembers those initials) and we fade to black.
It’s a more cerebral cliffhanger than last year’s, when an explosion blew off half of Gus Fring’s face.
But it does turn the hourglass and start the sands running for the last eight episodes in one of television’s finest shows.
I just sat there as the screen faded, just as the director wanted me to; and I thought (how can, not how will,) how can Walt talk his way out of this one? It seems Hank has found that connection he’s been missing this whole time.
Contributor D. Chandler