Breaking Bad: ‘Felina’ – I wouldn’t change a thing.

NOTES:

  • There have been a couple of nice nods to the thriller/horror genre in some recent episodes. The shot with the knife block and the phone in the foreground in Oxymandias. The knife fight in Oxymandias. In this finale, the shot with Walt theatrically closing the front doors in the background while Elliott and Gretchen are in the other room completely oblivious. I half expected to see Jack Nicholson when he turned around, and then he delivered this line: “Elliott, if we’re going to go that way, you’ll need a bigger knife.”
  • It was great to see Badger and Skinny Pete!! And to have them discuss being concerned with the ethics of what they had just done was hilarious. I could listen to those two talk for hours.
  • When Lydia sat down in that same cafe again and Walt retrieved his ricin in a separate scene, I knew we were in for a treat. Well, those of us who despise Lydia. So, I sat there and enjoyed it as Walt came in to the background while Todd awkwardly tried to compliment Lydia. Walt stating that Lydia is always there at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays was hilarious because Lydia prides herself on being so stealthy. I was hopeful as she stirred her Stevia into her tea that she was the lucky beneficiary of the ricin since she avoided it last time.
  • The scene when Marie called Skyler was great filmmaking. I knew something was off, but I had no idea it was that Walt was actually in the room.

When Skyler says please if I have to hear one more time that you did it for the family and Walt says,
“I did it for me. I was good at it. And I was really …. I was alive.” That is when his character achieved redemption for me. That scene made me cry. Because it was cathartic. It was cathartic for Skyler’s character, and it was cathartic for me as a viewer watching this man that I actively rooted for in the beginning and have hated but still felt sympathy for at the end. I’m just so grateful for that scene because it brought me full circle on my feelings for Walt. I didn’t expect it at all, but it was a declaration of the self-awareness that Walt achieved after that endless time spent in isolation in New Hampshire. And it means that I interpreted the final scene of the last episode incorrectly. It wasn’t that Elliott and Gretchen brought Heisenberg back at all. It was that Walt upon seeing them finally came up with a scheme to get the money to his family that has a good chance of success because his motivations are finally sound.

I hope that Jesse’s final revenge on old dead-eyed Opie, Todd, won’t be a murder that weighs on him. I’m glad he survived. His character deserved to make it through after all the torment and pain he had suffered. And Walt saving him and giving him the chance to kill him was a nice touch. I certainly wasn’t surprised to see Jesse and Walt face off. Though I’ve been advocating for a Walt and Jesse showdown, I’m so glad it didn’t go down the way I had predicted. Jesse wouldn’t have been able to handle killing Walt under those terms. It ended with Jesse and Walt exactly as it should have. And Walt got his final revenge on Jack and Lydia. The nod Walt gave Jesse before Jesse drove off was subtle and fantastic. Walt: I’ve taken care of it all. (This scene, for me, was a little bit of a call back to Half Measures. I have no idea why. The tenor of the finale was nothing like that episode.) Jesse, go and live free. Walt’s got the “or die” part covered.

I was just so damn pleased when it was over. I found myself alternating between tearing up and smiling. Feeling giddy and feeling crazy-ass sad because I don’t know if I’ll be this excited about a show again for a long while. But mostly I was so very proud (yeah, I was that invested – weird) that Vince nailed that series finale. It was flawless.

Ed. Note: OK, I had one quibble. I thought Walt should have to face the music with the cops. However, when I saw the closing shot with him lying there I was immediately willing to go with this instead. It was a great closing shot. I’ll freely admit that I’m willing to sacrifice the stronger statement for a better closing shot. It was that close, and I still say: flawless.

Breaking Bad: ‘Granite State’ – Come on, Saul. Nebraska could be real nice. Your bunkmate is a complete nutter, though.

It’s fascinating to watch Walt now play at being Heisenberg. You watch Saul back away from him as he’s threatening him to comply and GIVE HIM SOME HIT MEN, DAMNIT, but Saul’s fear is more of the “This dude’s a complete nutter, and I’d like to get away from him before he goes off the deep end,” vein. The fire of vengeance makes him pretty threatening, of course, but it’s not the same. At least until the end of the episode, when his former partner, Elliott, and his wife, Gretchen, quote the exact recipe for Heisenberg and bring him fully back. Well done, idiots. To say that all he gave the company was the name wasn’t even a plausible story anyway. And then for Gretchen to dismiss the possibility of his existence. Hello? Way to incite the beast, dumbass! You can see his face transform from Walt, the dying father who has just fully realized that the loss of his son is a final matter and made the call to bring the DEA to his front door to Heisenberg who is ready for the final showdown with all those people who refuse to acknowledge his greatness and his supremacy. (This certainly includes Jack. It would have been more respectful to kill Walt. Particularly after killing Hank. But Walt isn’t a threat to Jack, so he gets to live.) Looks like Schwartz might have bought his own ticket, too. The little insignificant fool. (ED. Note: Obviously these two and Gray Matter were incredibly significant at the onset, and at the beginning were major drivers of the Heisenberg bus of destruction, but so much has taken place since then, and up until that interview, I think Walt believed he had finally bested them.) He wasn’t even on the radar. Maybe Gretchen as well. She was certainly extremely dismissive in that interview.

So Heisenberg is back by the close of the episode, but Walt was just wearing the persona at the beginning. I’m not sure at what moment Heisenberg was stripped from Walt. Was it the return of the cancer? Was it when he decided to quit the meth business? I always write these silly posts and then start reading the real reviews to see what I got totally wrong (almost always 90-100%) and what I misread. I think some of the reviews I read last week completely misread that phone call between Walt and Skyler. Some reviewers were pretty adamant that Heisenberg made that call and there was nothing but contempt and threat in there. No attempt to scrub Skyler of complicity in the crimes. But we’ve heard Heisenberg talk to Skyler before. “I’m the one who knocks.” Remember that one? Compare that conversation with last week’s call and you’ll see a distinct difference. Even if you couldn’t see Walt’s face crumpling from time to time with the weight of the words he’s flinging at Skyler, you can hear the hesitations. Oh sure, there was some anger in last week’s call. Anger that Walt didn’t have to dig too deep to find. But Heisenberg doesn’t really operate in emotion. And that phone call was all about emotion. I think Heisenberg hasn’t been around for a while. And I can’t quite put my finger on when he left. I’ll have to go back and rewatch the season to decide. But he’s certainly back now. Just in time for the finale.

Todd is one scary sociopath and watching him smile makes me shiver. He’s a very effective bad guy. That scene with them in Holly’s nursery scared the bejesus out of me. But the show hit a new low even from there for me. Watching Todd kill Andrea was the death that hit me the hardest. OK, wait. I’m forgetting how awful Mike’s was. But this one was extremely tough. I was expecting them to kill Jesse when he escaped. I was prepared for the gunshot. I was terrified for that death because Jesse deserved a better exit than that. And yet, I think that might have affected me less than this. Maybe it was the way the scene was filmed? Maybe it was that Todd was the executioner? Maybe it was the fact that yet more emotional pain is being inflicted on Jesse, and I don’t know how much more his character can possibly bear? I have no idea. This was the first point of the entire series that I thought, “I might not be up for the end game.”

So, here we go. It still has to be a Jesse and Walt/Heisenberg end. Jesse’s character is too important and has been put through far too much to be killed (if that’s his BB end) by a lesser character than Walt/Heisenberg. And frankly, the reverse is probably true as well. Though Skyler would be a very satisfying substitution. But this is Breaking Bad, so I’m sure something I can’t even dream up will be what happens and will be the perfect ending. I’m ready.

Breaking Bad: ‘Ozymandias’ – Jesse’s under new management. This new work environment makes Gus Fring’s look pretty cushy.

Walt told Jesse about Jane. I thought we were going to have the full redemption arc with Jesse included, and then he goes and tells Jesse that he could have saved Jane but instead watched her die. He did it solely to crush Jesse and let that knowledge eat at him while he is interrogated by Todd and co. and eventually killed by them. No mercy whatsoever. The depth of Jesse’s betrayal stung him that much. It’s awfully hard to watch as a viewer because we know that Jesse betrayed Walt because he thought Walt betrayed him first. So, when Walt told Jesse about Jane, I actually gasped out loud. I couldn’t believe he shared that last ghastly detail. Brock was enough. But no, Walt had to throw that last punch. It speaks to how much he really did care about Jesse. I underestimated that. And watching Jesse plead with Walt to spare him while Todd’s uncle (I can’t be bothered with remembering his name because I loathe that damn character.) was preparing to execute him was heartbreaking. That scene was a nice parallel to the scene with Hank, Walt and Todd’s uncle where Walt was pleading with Todd’s uncle to spare Hank. Hank looks at Walt and tells him to be the smartest man he has ever known, he’s an idiot because Todd’s uncle made up his mind 10 minutes ago. Walt’s mind was made up about Jesse similarly. There was never a chance for mercy when Jesse stepped out of the car with Hank and Gomez. That betrayal was too much for Walt to ever forgive. And my hopes for a renewal of Jesse and Walt’s affection were shattered. (Ed. Note: I worded this incorrectly. I wanted a renewal of Walt’s affection for Jesse. I want Jesse to continue to seek revenge on Walt. I’m afraid Jesse might need that edge if he’s to prevail.) This sets up for the finale I’ve been hoping for in which Jesse and Walt have the ultimate showdown and Jesse kills him hopefully easing some of his emotional pain in the process. After all, I’d argue they’ve both been the protagonists in this madness, and it all began with the two of them in that RV out in the desert. That’s the scene they led with. It began with the two of them, and it has to end with the two of them. A showdown between Jesse and Walt certainly feels ultimately right. Dark vs. Light. Good vs. Evil. Strong vs. Weak. They are opposites. I’m sure I’m completely missing the boat, here, but I really hope this is where we are heading.

NOTES:

  • The scene with Walt rolling his barrel of money across the deserted land looking for some means of getting it back with that music in the background was pure genius.
  • I really kind of hated Marie when she was present during Skyler’s tell-all with Walt Jr./Flynn. I felt that was something that should have been private, and I realize that she didn’t think Skyler would tell him otherwise, but still, butt out, lady! And if you’re going to be in the room? Shut up and let them talk!! Of course the whole time I knew she was about to find out that Hank was dead, so I felt terrible for hating her.
  • Hank’s dying was painful. Glad they had him go out bad ass style. I think the flicker of respect he was able to finally feel for Walt was oddly helpful for him. I know that’s an incredibly odd thing to say. But Hank has an ego a mile wide. It would be even worse for him to die knowing that these events were brought about by an idiot instead of someone he ultimately came to consider an able adversary. It helped of course that Walt wanted to save him at all costs. Hank knew what it meant for Walt to offer up the cash. The ultimate gesture.
  • That phone call between Walt and Skyler started out just subtly enough that I thought “Hmmm, he sounds kind of deliberate.” Then, I finally caught on. I don’t know if Skyler will play along, but I think she will for the kids. And of course it won’t matter because Walt’s trying to blow town in Jesse’s rejected escape hatch probably means that she and the kids could be used as targets that someone can use to lure Walt back. Oh man, tell me Jesse wouldn’t do that… Of course, he’s got the picture of his own “family” pinned on the wall of his new workplace as motivation, so he just might do something that awful. And then I’ll have to change my definition of who is participating in the showdown. Then, it’s Dark vs. Completely Broken/Dark. That’s not quite the showdown I want to see, but it certainly sounds a lot like Breaking Bad. And I’ll still be firmly on Team Jesse.
  • Again, I have to say that the acting on this show is just incredible. I watch the show for the storyline, but I always want to watch it again to enjoy these incredible actors reminding me that I’m entranced with the storyline because they are so good at their craft.

Breaking Bad: ‘To’Hajiilee’ – Why settle for blue meth when you can have bluish-if-it-catches-the-light-just-right instead? Todd’s cook has a more subtle style, yo.

It looks like Todd might be crushing on Lydia, and since he can’t yet cook her that sweet blue meth she’s been trying to successfully deliver to the Czech market since Walt ditched the biz, he tries to make it up to her by making her a cup of her tea to her specifications. Something tells me that nothing is ever quite up to Lydia’s specifications, but tea isn’t what she wants Todd to focus on. The whole bit where they discussed adding dye to the meth to achieve the correct hue like they do with salmon was hilarious. Todd’s music tastes are a little antiquated, but “She blinded me with Science” as his ringtone was inspired in my opinion, though I know others will argue it’s too on the nose because of his focus on Lydia.

The car wash is such a great location for tense scenes to develop. It’s such a banal backdrop. And the juxtaposition of the mundane rituals of a local business with the disintegration of Walt’s carefully constructed underworld just makes the tension escalate before the action even starts. The beginning of the con on Walt to get him to give away the location of the money – the one thing that can actually bring about his demise – occurs while Skyler and Walt, Jr. are shuttling customers through the car wash with their tired “Have an A1 day” motto to “reinforce their brand.” Saul shows up and the tension ratchets up. We know something is getting ready to go down. About that, when Walt notices the bullet proof vest, it’s obvious that he doesn’t even consider that Saul is wearing it to assure that Walt won’t harm him either. It’s clear that Walt is more Walt in this scene than Heisenberg. Heisenberg would have been clear-headed, and emotion wouldn’t have clouded his judgement allowing him to conclude that Jesse might not have been able to discover his burial ground. I think he wouldn’t have fallen for the con. But Walt has those feelings for Jesse that set the con in motion. And Jesse lit the fuse because he knows what buttons to push.

Those last few seconds of heart-pounding gunfire are when you find out what you are made of. My gut reaction was interesting because it was instinctive, and I was seriously concerned to find that I only cared about Jesse. Hank had just shared that touching phone call with Marie. I’ve always loved Gomie. Even Walt’s character finally achieved redemption when he called off the hit realizing that Hank was there, too. I think ultimately he wouldn’t have been able to see them take out Jesse either, but we’ll never know on that one. But as the gunfire went on and on and on, all I could think was, “Is Jesse ok? Please let Jesse make it out of this unscathed!” I think I know why Jesse remains my weakness. Sure, he’s got his flaws, and he’s by no means an innocent. But, Jesse has been pulled along on this nightmare at Walt’s insistence. Nothing done has been of his choosing. And as you listen to Walt plead with and berate him during that call as he is racing to his hiding place, you hear Walt say exactly that. Hank and Gomez know the dangers they face in their job. But Jesse hooked up with Mr. White, his impossibly nerdy and nonthreatening chem teach, to cook up some meth for a lark. How could he possibly have foreseen that things would go this godawful bad?