Monday, September 30, 2013

Reviewing the Final Episode of Breaking Bad

[WARNING: Spoiler alert - if you have not seen the finale do not read this post.]

NOTE: This post also appears at my other blog, The Masculine Heart.

As the music played and the camera panned away from Walt's body, I felt a kind of relief, as though I had been holding my breath for five seasons waiting for the conclusion that was inevitable at the beginning of the show.

And still I am haunted (as much as one can be by a television show) by the vagueness of Jesse's fate. He was, for many reasons, my favorite character on the show. Perhaps I identified with his troubled family background and retreat into drug use (all too familiar in my youth), or I saw in him the path not taken when I decided to get my act together, quit the drugs, and go back to school.

More than that, Jesse was the heart of the show in many ways. He FELT the things the happened, the killings, the manipulations, the torture. Walt was able to compartmentalize it all, rationalize it all, but not Jesse - he was tormented by the things that happened, the things he nonetheless participated in. If Walt was the brain, Jesse was the heart.

I want a whole new series, set two years after this finale, with Jesse as the central character, possibly raising Brock as a single father now that Andrea was killed. I won't get that wish. But I like to think that is the path Jesse took following his primal scream of freedom, loss, suffering, frustration, relief, and maybe even happiness that he survived.

I liked the finale. How about you?

Here are several of the multitude of morning-after evaluations of the most talked about series finale in years.

Two from Salon:

Was the “Breaking Bad” ending too neat?

The show's finale was well-received, but some critics wonder if it was true to the characters and the show 
By Prachi Gupta

Was the  

AMC’s epic crime drama “Breaking Bad” has come to its bloody end, and so far, reception from television critics has been overwhelmingly positive — good news for show creator Vince Gilligan, who had predicted that it would be “polarizing.” On “Talking Bad,” which aired immediately following the finale, Gilligan said that unlike “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad’s” finale episode, “Felina,” needed to tie up lose ends. “This show was intended all along to be very finite. It’s a story that starts at A and ends at Z, as it were. It’s a very closed-ended thing.” 

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In the end, Walt won

Whether he was a hero or a villain, Walter White got nearly everything he ever wanted
By Neil Drumming

“When I pop the trunk, hit the deck.” — The Beatnuts, “Reign of the Tec”

Last night, we witnessed the end of AMC’s “Breaking Bad.” I’d been dreading that moment for a week and not just because I am a faithful disciple of the program and hate to see it disappear from my Sunday ritual. I was dreading the finale because I knew that as soon as the credits rolled I would have to craft some sort of coherent and cohesive reaction to something that had taken me years to consume and would likely take days if not weeks to digest.

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Two from Rolling Stone:

Lessons of the 'Breaking Bad' Series Finale

Five takeaways from the last episode of a modern saga

By Scott Neumyer
September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad premiered its first episode on AMC in January 2008. Five years, five seasons and 62 episodes later, one of the greatest television dramas of all time came to an end last night as Vince Gilligan's landmark series took its final, bloody bow. In a TV landscape that has, in recent years, found it difficult to satisfyingly wrap up beloved shows in a way that hits the right emotional notes while also tying up loose ends, Breaking Bad's final episode may prove to be one of the most fulfilling and well-made farewells ever. And while we're sure to keep "Felina" on our DVRs for repeated close inspection of the episode over the next few weeks, here are a few quick takeaways.

* * *

'Breaking Bad' Finale Recap: Heisenberg Certainty Principle

Like Walter White's meth, the finale's formula was flawless – but is that a good thing?

September 30, 2013 
Jesse Pinkman built the perfect box. He sawed it off, sanded it down, hammered it together, smoothed it out, and carried it away with all the pride of a first-time father. This is the fantasy-memory he retreated to when reality became too broken for him to face at last – the one time in his life when he felt he accomplished exactly what he set out to do, the one time he made everything fit.

For better or for worse, that box is Breaking Bad.

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From Vulture:
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) - Breaking Bad _ Season 5, Episode 16 - Photo Credit: Ursula Coyote/AMC
"Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!" Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

"Hello, Carol."

That is, if I'm not mistaken, the first line in the final eight-episode stretch of Breaking Bad, uttered at the end of the prologue in "Blood Money." We heard the name of that previously unmet neighbor, Carol, again in "Felina." The episode's title is an anagram for "finale" as well as a reference to The Girl in Marty Robbins's classic "El Paso," whose lyrics are echoed in this chapter's Western-ballad-like tale of an outlaw dying an outlaw's death. In a phone conversation between Skyler and Marie about Walt's return to Albuquerque, series creator Vince Gilligan, who wrote and directed this series ender, repeated her name and even had Skyler situate her geographically. "Hello, Carol": or hello, Carol. As in A Christmas Carol.

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From NPR:

Bryan Cranston wrapped up his run Sunday night as Walter White in Breaking Bad.
Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan signaled in interviews leading up to Sunday night's series finale that those who craved some redemption for Walter White were the ones most likely to leave happy.

"We feel it's a satisfying ending," Gilligan told Entertainment Weekly. "Walt ends things more or less on his own terms."

For Gilligan, those things were self-evidently connected: the satisfaction of the ending and the degree to which the terms of that ending are set by Walt. And that's probably true for broad segments of the show's legions of fans who continued to root for Walt at some elemental level, or least to root for him to become root-able again.

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