Breaking Bad is over. It’s over. OVER. Before these final episodes started I wrote about being on the brink of a post-BB world, and now here we are. Let’s get through this together. Some thoughts:
1) It was great, but not “Ozymandias” great.
The finale was tightly-wound, well written, and beautifully shot—just like every episode preceding it. But it’s not in the clouds with the best episodes of the series. That feeling likely stems from being spoiled with one of those greats just two weeks ago. “Ozymandias,” in which Hank and Gomie got dumped, Jesse became a slave, and Walt completely tore his family apart, was a heart-wrenching, suffocating, and excruciating hour of television that might never be matched by another. So forgive us if last week’s “Granite State” and this week’s “Felina” felt a little bit like an extended epilogue. The drama had already reached its crescendo—all that was left was to tie up the loose ends.
2) Considering the nature of the show, this was as happy as it gets.
There was no happy ending in store for Walt, or any of the characters that have come into contact with him over the course of the series. From the pilot, this has always been a show detailing the end of a brilliant, bitter man’s life. Despite that, we saw Walt admit to Skyler that he did it all for himself, stroke his daughter’s hair one last time, and have a longing glance at the son who hates him. What’s more, he killed Lydia and the Nazis, freed Jesse, and then died, fittingly, by his own hand. It’s not exactly happily ever after, but it’s exactly how the show was meant to go out. Darkly, bluntly, matter-of-factly.
3) The mystery was gone.
Part of what’s made Breaking Bad so great each season is how it revolves around information the viewer knows but has no idea what to do with—the season 2 teddy bear in the pool being the best example. This season, we had two flash-forwards to chew on, wondering what a bearded 52-year-old Walt was going to do with that automatic rifle and ricin capsule. Entering the finale, this effect was much more muted than it was at the beginning of episodes 501 and 509, when the flashbacks occurred. We had almost completely connected the dots by the time we started watching last night, and seeing it all play out wasn’t packed with the same dread and panicked mystery we felt before all the events that led us there took place. This isn’t exactly a bad thing—just interesting to note. There weren’t any loose ends to push us forward anymore. It was just time for it all to end.
4) Let’s put the whole “rooting for Walt” argument to rest.
Much of this final season’s debate has surrounded the idea of “rooting” for Walt despite the horrible things he’d done, and what that says about you as a viewer. Let’s just quit it before it gets out of hand. Does any of this really matter? This show was never about dividing its viewers into the forever tragic and the morally righteous. Whether you felt Walt was justified in his actions from start to finish, or thought he was a terrible monster, why does a certain position have to say anything about us as viewers? Just appreciate the show for what it is, and was: an amazing product of writing, producing, editing, directing, acting, everything that goes into making a show. It was nearly flawless, and how it balanced a very thin tightrope of moral ambiguity for six years, forcing us to reconsider what “protagonist” and “hero” mean, is nothing short of genius. It’s a great fucking show. Let’s leave it at that.
5) Now what?
That Breaking Bad was nuts. Can't wait until next week to see how they're gonna get out of THIS one
— Anthony (@nedroid) September 30, 2013
Seriously, I might plop down on my couch ready to watch it next Sunday and get deeply, horribly depressed.
6) Really, though. What show do I watch now?
Homeland’s third season started up last night, head to head with the BB finale. Carrie Mathison’s cry faces should help us smile through our own tears, but the hangover is going to last a while. We still have Mad Men until 2015 thanks to AMC’s money-grabbing efforts, and Game of Thrones has gotten steadily better every season, but I’m probably not the only one who feels a bit of sadness knowing that what may well be the best show of all time is now behind us.
7) For as many good BB tweets I saw right after watching, there were 1,000 stupid ones.
I can't believe Walt was a woman the whole time. Awesome ending. #BreakingBad
— Zach Braff (@zachbraff) September 30, 2013
Zach, I like you, but shut the hell up. Also, why was Jimmy Kimmel on Talking Bad with Vince Gilligan and Aaron Paul after the finale? Jimmy, you’re the man, but with all due respect, no one wants you on that couch asking Aaron if he got sexually excited filming Todd’s strangling.
8) OMG OTHER FINALES. SOPRANOS. LOST. LET’S COMPARE.
Plenty of discussion these past eight weeks has been about how Breaking Bad’s finale would stack up against the finales of other legendary shows such as The Sopranos and Lost. The former left a nation of viewers believing their cable had just cut out at the worst possible moment, and the latter prompted people to wonder why they invested so much in a show to begin with. As Vince Gilligan pointed out directly after the finale ended, however, his show needed a finale much different than any other. Because Walt’s journey had always been from A to Z, there wasn’t any room for ambiguity. All loose ends had to be tied up, and they had to be done exactly how Gilligan saw fit.
It will take some time to digest this finale. We’ll probably talk about it for years. As with most great shows though, it’s most important to take in the whole last season, and the whole series, as a measure of its success. That’s hard to do when the last memory we’ll have is this finale, but take just one step back and you’ll see that it’s clear Gilligan stuck the landing. The show ended exactly when it was supposed to, how it was supposed to, on the terms that its creator wanted. That’s all we could ask for, and it’s exactly what we got.