The finale of Breaking Bad finally aired Sunday night, putting thousands of fans out of their misery. And all trying to second guess the ending of Vince Gilligan’s show. Unsurprisingly, it was adios to both Heisenberg and Walter White by the time the end credits rolled. But the last ever episode could have been called the Heisenberg solution.
Like many fans, I had my own theories of how the show would end. It was satisfying that at least one of my predictions came true. The poetry of Lydia’s demise being caused by her addiction to chamomile tea and stevia was almost too good. Apparently the show’s writers felt the same.
The last ever episode of Breaking Bad was full of standout moments. From the pre-credit opening with Walt sitting in the car he’s about to steal and praying that he can get home, to the final shot of him lying on the floor of the meth lab. The show was a fitting finish to the roller coaster ride that the show has taken us on.
Hank says to his crime lord brother-in-law in To’hajiilee that he is the smartest man he knows. Walter is smart and despite some of his more obvious stupidity, remember he and Jesse stealing the barrel of methylimine, he is very intelligent. His purchase of the M 60 machine gun was not so he he could have a “Tony Montana moment.” But another way to insure he could beat uncle Jack’s white supremacist gang.
Vince Gilligan allowed Walt to show that he had transformed completely into Heisenberg in the last episode. Cold, calculating, and murderous. The inclusion of Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz, a development brought about by a young cancer victim who was a fan of the show, was a master stroke. When Walt sees the two of them on the Charlie Rose show, he makes his decision and heads back to New Mexico.
After forcing his ex flame and business partners into passing on the remainder of his money to Walt Jr, he moves on to tie up the rest of the loose threads of his fallen kingdom. His fall from grace and the loss of everything means that he must cover his tracks completely to insure the safety of Skyler, Walt Jr and Holly.
We got the feeling that this last episode of Breaking Bad will see us saying adios to the legendary meth kingpin Heisenberg from the first frame. The king from Ozymandias has arisen to exact a toll for his loss. But he is on his way back to his shattered kingdom as Heisenberg and his solution is to remove all traces of his criminal past.
Because the mild mannered chemist has given himself over completely to his meth kingpin side, Heisenberg. The things that he has to do can only be done by his dionysian self. While his final actions are in an effort to protect his family, he finally admits, to Skyler, that he liked being Heisenberg. His admission, that he did it not for the support of his family, but because he was good at it and he felt alive, was another standout moment.
But these memorable acts did not belong solely to Walter White. Jesse also got his share of brilliance. The sequence where he is making the wooden box in his mind while working in the meth lab stands out. And of course the moment when we discover that Todd really is that stupid and Jessie takes his personal revenge on the sociopath that he said had “dead eyes.”
But the majority of the show belonged to Heisenberg. The shooting of uncle Jack, cocky even as he lay dying at Walt’s feet; the gloating phone call to Lydia – and how appropo that Todd’s ring tone would be “Lydia” – and the satisfaction on Walt’s face when Jesse escapes.
The show’s final images were brilliant and the saving of Jesse was poignant. The character of Jesse Pinkman seemed to be an ethereal twin to the character of Lloyd Henreid in Stephen King’s The Stand. In the King book, Lloyd thought to himself that he would never have gotten into more than “little shit” if he hadn’t met the mysterious and magical Randall Flagg.
Jesse, like Lloyd, would have drifted around doing his little meth business and never could have achieved the dizzying heights that he did with Walter as his partner. He was catapulted into big crime and he had trouble handling the promotion. He also paid dearly for his escalation in the criminal ranks. He lost Jane, his sense of self and, finally, Brock’s mother Andrea who is shot by Jack’s gang after he tries to escape.
The show wrapped up all those dangling characters with the exception of Marie. She is seen still receiving police/DEA protection and harbouring a big hate for all things Walter White. Although we do know that in the near future she can at least recover Hank’s body.
But at the show’s end Heisenberg, who got shot by one of his own M 60 rounds, wanders out to the meth lab that the captive Jesse has been cooking in. He observes the lab with pride as he remembers his accomplishments. He picks up a gas mask and moves to one of the vats while the sound of sirens builds in the background.
When Walt/Heisenberg falls to the ground, dead, the mask is symbolically in his left hand. As the camera pans out from his body, the beams in the lab dissect Walter neatly. His right side, the apollonian side has nothing on it but his fatal wound. His left, dionysian side, holds the mask. A clear image of the duality of the man. Walter White was two different men, even in death.
The Breaking Bad finale was a fitting adios to Heisenberg and the solution to his shattered realm also offered a sense of hope for Jesse as he sped off into the New Mexico night, shouting in triumph.
By Michael Smith