We have now completed season 5B of Breaking Bad and the show has been wrapped up in a few neat (and not-so-neat) bows. If for some reason you have not caught up with the series, do yourself a favor and watch it in a marathon fashion on Netflix and find the episodes from this season on your on-demand, because you will not regret it. If you haven’t caught up yet and do read this recap, though, you will regret it. Keep that in mind.
Well, it took a long time, but we’ve finally reached the end of our journey that is Breaking Bad. The journey spanned six years — or five full seasons — while the story just spanned two years, it left viewers feeling hurt, elated, crushed and everything in between over the span of those five seasons. We finally received that closure on most of the story’s big loose ends in what was really a truly fantastic series finale that should leave you without questions and instead reflecting upon what was Breaking Bad.
The show opens up with Walter acquiring the car that got him from New Hampshire to New Mexico, which happens to be an old Volvo. Walter initially feels that he has to hotwire the car, but the cold gets to him, as does the familiar blue and red lights beaming through the snow that is covering the car. What is fascinating about this is that we all know that Walter makes it back to New Mexico, yet there is still that sense of suspense that he might get caught on the way there, which is just unreal. In one of those “well, duh” moments, he reaches up to the visor and the keys fall down. Now, I know what you are thinking; “what a coincidence! How could someone just leave their keys like that?” As someone who will openly call New Hampshire his favorite state in the union, people in New Hampshire are independent and downright strange at times, so it almost seems in character.
We find out that he is tracking down Elliot and Gretchen by the way of him using a payphone and claiming he was from the New York Times and was writing a profile piece on them. This is how he acquired their address, he also left the watch that Jesse gave him as a present on top of the phone. Ooh, symbolism, right? As Gretchen and Elliot arrive home, they neglect to see Walter sitting in the shadows and continue on with their conversation while he lets himself into the house. The realization that someone is in the house — no — that Walter is in the house — really sets things in motion. He demands a favor of them, which Elliot tries to protest with a butter knife, but fails, miserably. The money is then stacked up on their coffee table and Walter explains that on Walt Jr.’s 18th birthday they will bestow him with a trust for $9.5 million and that no one can know that it came from him. When they protest or imply that they might call the police, two lasers focus on the both of them.
Had Walter found hitmen? Nah, it is just Badger and Skinny Pete with laser pointers, which really hammers home the fact that Walter is a crafty guy who has made people believe that he has resources beyond his means. Badger and Skinny Pete also reveal to him that the blue meth is still out there and that they thought it was him, as Jesse was missing. This sets off alarms in Walter’s head, as there was no way that Buffalo Todd could reproduce the blue meth on his own and that there is a chance that they didn’t live up to their word of disposing of Jesse.
Speaking of Jesse, Jesse gets a glossy moment inside of a workshop as he works methodically with some wood and tools in creating a box. This box, if you’ll remember, was the one thing that Jesse created in the past and was proud of. Hell, he thought he could have been a woodworker, but it was only a daydream, as the leash snaps him to attention to realize that he is still in Todd’s meth lab, only with longer hair and his cuts turned into scars. We get a quick bunch of scenes of Walt that recaps his actions when he arrived in Albuquerque — eating a Denny’s, getting the gun, picking up the ricin, etc.
Lydia is, of anyone in the show, a creature of habit, which made it easy for Walter to show up at the Grove in time to intercept a meeting between Lydia and Todd. Todd, of course, still in his nicest blue button-up shirt for his meeting with Lydia and Lydia ordering chamomile tea and wanting Stevia with it. Walter makes a plea for them to do business with him again, that he has a new cook method that doesn’t need methylamine — which he believes they’ll be running short on. He invites himself to the compound before Lydia implies that he should leave. We get a close-up shot of Lydia pouring the one packet of Stevia from the table into her tea, which if you don’t pick up on, they’ll beat you over the head with it later.
Skyler is in a crappy apartment that looks like it was from the projects featured in the first season of The Wire, so much so that I expected Bodie sitting on a couch in the center spitting out of the side of his mouth, but alas, not to be. Skyler receives a call from Marie who warns Skyler that there have been Walter sightings all over town, that they found the car that was presumed to be stolen by him in New Hampshire on Central and that there have been calls of Walt sightings all day. She explained that the DEA were looking after her and were probably watching Skyler and Walt Jr. as well. When Skyler hangs up the camera zooms back to reveal that Walter was obscured behind the pillar in the kitchen, dressed in a way that Skyler will remember him; his khakis, a green shirt and his beige jacket.
Walter has a frank conversation with Skyler where he finally admits that he did the whole thing for himself, that he enjoyed being a drunk kingpin — and was good at it. Walter’s last gift to Skyler is his lottery ticket, which he explains she could use as leverage as it is the coordinates to where his money was and now where Hank and Steve Gomez lay. Skyler tears up, but doesn’t deny Walter a chance to see Holly one last time, before Walter explains that tonight is “the night” where he makes things right and that no one will bother them again.
We see Walter earlier in the episode on a hill with what looks like a garage door opener and some other electronics rigging something with the gun. When he arrives at Uncle Jack and Todd’s compound you can only assume that it was a triggering mechanism for the gun and that it was being controlled by the device on his keys, which are quickly confiscated by Uncle Jack’s henchmen before they bring him in to see Mr. Welker. Walter makes a business proposal only for Jack to laugh in his face and have a gun on him, implying that he’s willing to just end Walter right there. Walter quickly points out that it is clear to him that Jesse is involved and that they went back on their word to him, possibly even making Jesse a partner.
This leads to Todd bringing Jesse into the room, in shackles and looking desperate and shocked to see Walter standing in that room. There is a tense stardown before Walt, fingers on the keys, dives onto Jesse as if he were going to fight him, only to click the button, which pops the trunk on the car as it looks like it should, revealing the M60. Yes, the M60 on a rotating platform pops out of the trunk and sprays Jack’s living room with glorious automatic gunfire. One by one you see Jack’s crew drop from the bullets, only Todd diving to the ground before the bullets started firing through, with Walter screaming in pain at one point and grimacing before the barrage is over.
When it’s over Todd surveys the room, then looks out the window to see if the firing has stopped, unsure if someone was out there or what, only to see the gun, still rotating on the mechanism, just out of bullets. He goes to ask Walter “why” just as Jesse springs into action, using his shackles to his advantage and choking Todd. We get a gruesome struggle as Walter watches before we hear a snap and Todd is dead. As Jesse frantically grabs the keys out of Todd’s pocket and starts undoing his shackles, Walter picks up a gun and walks over to the still-breathing Jack, who asks for a moment to enjoy a cigarette, only for Walter to finish him off at point blank range.
This leaves us with it, the moment that many of us (not you guys rooting for Walt, though) have been waiting for; Jesse staring down Walter for one last time. Only Walter has the gun and Jesse is unarmed. Walter drops the gun on the ground before sliding it to Jesse, who quickly picks it up. Jesse raises it to fire, but can’t bring himself to do it. Walter tells him to “do it,” that “he wants it.” Jesse responds with “say the words, say you don’t want this. Nothing happens until I hear you say it.” Walt can only respond with “I want this,” which leads Jesse to notice the blood seeping through Walter’s clothes on his stomach. He drops the gun, before turning away and saying, “so do it yourself” and walking out.
Oh, now Todd’s phone is ringing, so if you were left with any doubts as to what was going on with Lydia, never mind. She is on the phone and she looks like she is home sick in bed. Walt tells her that it is “done,” which confuses her, until the revelation as to what happened with the ricin happens and Lydia’s fate is sealed; she could go to the hospital, sure, but then her lies would catch up to her and she’d be done anyway. Walter walks outside to see Jesse high-tailing it to Todd’s car where Walter tosses Todd’s phone aside and both men stare down each other in silence, only accentuated by the cicadas and crickets in the background. Jesse starts up the car, backs up, narrowly missing Walter and then tears it down towards the gate, smashing through it with the car before he breaks down into hysterical laughter and screams.
This leaves Walter with a wound that he reveals is much bigger than it originally looked like before he lets out a now signature fit of coughs. He saunters into Todd’s lab and inspects the machinery, taking a long, hard look at a mask while the faint sound of sirens comes from over the horizon. Walt takes one last look at his reflection in one of the vats before leaving his bloody handprint on it and collapsing to the ground, presumed dead. The police storm in as we get a final glimpse at Walter’s body, the camera panning back.
Walter White died with the child that he created, which is the moral of this story, in a way.
We are left with some questions, sure, but it is better to leave some of these things to our own imaginations. Where does Jesse go and what does he do now? Does Walt Jr. accept the money, does he confront a lot of these issues and does Skyler ever tell him that his father didn’t kill Uncle Hank? Will Hank go down being remembered as the guy who had it all figured out, or will no one believe his grieving widow?
While I understand that some people were still very pro-Walter and wanted to see him get away with it, this ending just felt so incredibly right in so many ways. Jesse, who continually lost everything for his involvement with Walter and the meth industry, but who grew the most over the span of the series is finally set free, filled with grief, hatred and resentment, but still free. Walter, who never paid for anything until the end and always tried to push things too far finally paid the ultimate price, but was still able to orchestrate his own demise and let his legacy — through Jesse — live on in some sick, twisted way.
So I guess the question now is, what did you think? Are you satisfied with this ending? Will Breaking Bad go down in history as one of the greatest television series ever like many of us are saying right now? I think that it very much belongs in the same category as shows like the Sopranos and The Wire, but that is just me.
As for musical accompaniment? I can only think of one song, which was brilliantly featured in my favorite film of all time, Apocalypse Now. If you can’t figure out the lyrics, I don’t even know.