It’s happening: “Breaking Bad” is coming to an end. It feels like my life might as well end with it, because what will be the point of waking up anymore if not to look forward to Sunday? The “Golden Age of TV” that they kept referring to at the Emmys? That’s largely due to shows like “Breaking Bad,” if not solely due to it. When Walter White’s story comes to an end this Sunday, there will be a monumental void left in TV land, a void made even bigger by what will surely be a resounding bang of an exit. Before we discuss some possible endings, let’s take a quick look back at last week.
In last week’s episode, Granite State, we see Walt starting to disintegrate into an empty shell of a man, hidden away in a tiny New Hampshire cabin in the middle of nowhere. All signs of the once menacing Heisenberg are gone. He’s little more than a sick old man whose facial hair grows carelessly against a withering frame. His spirit is broken and he’s lonely, begging the vacuum repairman/disappearance guy, who is played to a T by Robert Forster, to sit with him for an extra two hours after his routine supply drop-off. He’s all but dead to his family, and in fact, when he attempts to contact Junior and ship him $100,000, his own son screams at him, “Why can’t you just die already?!” Damn. At some point in the episode, Walt even puts on his old Heisenberg pork pie hat — under his furry hooded parka, providing some unexpected unintentional (or intentional?) comic relief — to escape his exile and reenter the real world, only to chicken out. It’s not until Walt sees Gretchen and Elliott on “Charlie Rose” downplaying Walt’s involvement in the creation of their multi-billion-dollar company, Gray Matter, that Heisenberg finally comes back. That look of hatred (as pure as his meth) returns to his eye as he disappears from the scene, closing out the episode to the perfect soundtrack of an extended version of the “Breaking Bad” theme song. If there was ever a better setup to a series finale, I dare you to come forward and name it.
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The same feeling of renewed energy and motivation cannot be said about the other characters on the show, who are all experiencing their lowest of lows, all due to Walt. Marie is grief-stricken, even though the DEA agents tell her they’ll find Hank, and comes home to find that her house has been ransacked, so instead of plopping down on a purple pillow for a good cry, her security detail has to turn the car around and drive away quickly. Skyler is dealing with the legal ramifications of Walt’s aftermath, unable to focus on what the suits are saying, and she also comes home to a nice, little surprise. Todd and his psycho Nazi gang are in Holly’s nursery, giving Skyler a scare and making sure she never mentions Lydia’s name — the black ski masks against the pastel nursery is yet another example of the jarring imagery the show does so masterfully. They leave without hurting anyone, but we all know how the house ends up. And Jesse, poor, poor Jesse. He’s a study in bottomless pits. There is no rock bottom for this guy; he just keeps on descending. When he tries to make a run for it, almost successfully if it weren’t for the security cameras, Uncle Jack and his gang teach him a lesson by shooting Andrea, execution-style, on her own front porch as Jesse watches. They threaten to kill Brock also unless he behaves. Will the next episode see him get even lower? Or has he finally hit rock bottom, and there’s nowhere to go but up in the finale? Let’s talk predictions now.
I have two main theories. My first main theory is that Walt, fully back in Heisenberg mode, goes back to New Mexico to find Todd, Jack and Co. Somehow they catch wind of this and head to the White residence, holding Walt’s family hostage. Walt executes some kind of super clever and sneaky plan that involves his new assault rifle friend, and somehow the house gets burned down in the process. Who survives, I have no idea. I can only guess that Vince Gilligan wouldn’t consider a satisfying ending one that involved the horrible, bloody death of Holly and Junior, though, so let’s just assume they were with Marie or something. Skyler? All bets are off with her. After winning the battle with the Nazis, Walt grabs the ricin and goes to find Jesse, to tie up that final loose end. However, when he finds Jesse and sees him the way he is, and maybe after hearing about Andrea, he decides to let him live . . . and this is the ending where Jesse prevails. In this ending, the justice comes in the form of Jesse killing Walt, despite being saved by him. There is no act kind enough that could redeem Walt in Jesse’s eyes, not after everything Walt’s put Jesse through. And wouldn’t this be a poetic ending to the saga? Walt goes down at the hands of the goodhearted sidekick he manipulated for so long, but not without a fight.
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My second theory is the one I’m secretly hoping will be the outcome. As I watched Walt sink into an unprecedented low in the slower-paced penultimate episode, I started to get the impression that this episode was written to win viewers back to Walt’s side. Maybe not completely, but at least to inspire some sympathy in us. If anything, even if you’ve come to absolutely hate Walt, you don’t want to see him like this, right? The appeal of the show comes from watching Walt at his Heisenberg best, and how it moves the show along. Watching the show slow down to the pace of last week is not fun, not unless it’s setting you up for the ultimate reward. This is the ending in which Walt prevails (which doesn’t necessarily preclude Jesse’s survival, in my opinion). In this ending, he confronts Gretchen and Elliott (or maybe the ricin confronts them?), finally wiping the smirks off their smug little faces. In this ending, Walt rights all his wrongs. He’s able to defeat Todd, Jack and Co., leave his fortune to his family, save Jesse, clear the air about Gray Matter, and put Lydia out of her misery (maybe the ricin will confront her tea cup?), or at least out of a job, all before getting away clean and riding off into the sunset and his new life. But this is “Breaking Bad,” and if watching five seasons has taught me anything, it’s that this show may be a gift that keeps on giving, but it can’t be tied up by neat little bows.
Phew. That was hard. When I sat down to write this article, I could hardly pull myself together enough to get through it, but maybe that also has something to do with this “Breaking Bad” tribute that I watched right beforehand (WARNING: you will sob your eyes out):
Yup, I told you. I wish I could be there to hand you a tissue. It’s a cheesy song choice, but it’s true: we did have the time of our lives, as viewers of what could easily be one of the greatest shows of all time. And you can bet your blue meth that it will be “something unpredictable, but in the end it’s right.”
Tell us how you think the show will end in the comments.