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Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad Series Finale: Live Free or Die

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 7:52 AM

So long, Mr. White. - PHOTO COURTESY OF AMC.
  • Photo courtesy of AMC.
  • So long, Mr. White.

Like Chekhov's gun, we knew that seeing Walt's military grade weaponry in the beginning of season 5 meant that it would eventually go off.

And Sweet Jesus, does it off.

We were all a little skeptical of Walt's plan -- which up until tonight's finale was merely an angry yet vague declaration of intent -- that he'd obliterate Jack and his crew. After all, we've seen these men shoot children, murder DEA agents and facilitate modern-day slavery. They come from sturdy, terrifying Aryan stock. But as demonstrated by Todd's lack of prowess when it comes to chemistry, these guys just can't match Walt intellectually.

Walt's escape from New Hampshire is incredibly deft, his slightly limping gait and hacking cough notwithstanding. He gets his revenge on Gretchen and Elliot with just his own cleverness, a fake New York Times profile, and Badger and Skinny Pete holding a few laser pointers. He's one step ahead of Marie as she calls Skyler to warn him that he's back in town, and he gives Skyler a legal bargaining chip by handing over the lottery ticket/GPS coordinates to find where Hank and Gomey are buried. We marvel at the ingenuity behind his key fob-activated, car trunk-opening, oscillating, Nazi-killing, machine gun contraption. And last but certainly not least, Walt's responsible for television's first and best death-by-Stevia scene. The close-up of Lydia obsessive-compulsively dumping Stevia into her chamomile should've signaled that something was afoot. But it's not until we see her face pale and uncharacteristically free of makeup, that Walt gently informs her that it's ricin and not spoiled soy milk (or Todd's affections) that's making her sweaty and nauseous.

Of course, Walt's not simply on a revenge killing spree. It's his time to make amends even though he knows he doesn't deserve forgiveness. He sees Skyler, Flynn and Holly for the last time -- sometimes just from afar -- and then saves Jesse after discovering that he's still alive and cooking. Jesse, fresh off of strangling Todd with his shackles, finally gets a chance to face Walt and kill him, at Walt's request. Bleary-eyed from slavery and the loss of Andrea, he's done with being Walt's minion and tells him to do it himself. He already sees that Walt is sporting a stomach wound from a ricocheted bullet and perhaps is just ready to get the hell out of this Nazi prison. Walt and Jesse don't hug it out or apologize. They simply nod at each other before parting ways. It's all they can do when realizing their dysfunctional partnership both ruined and saved Jesse's life.

The warm, sunlit flashback of Jesse lovingly crafting wooden boxes -- first referenced in one of his early rehab sessions -- gives us hope that Jesse will be as okay as he can be for someone who's seen murders, committed murders, almost been murdered, lost two loves of his life, and just freed himself from Nazis. Though it was Walt who rode back into Albuquerque with the "Live Free or Die" license plates, it's more fitting for Jesse who cries with joy as he speeds away, breaking through the metal gates.

But this is still Walt's story. As the song "Baby Blue" plays with that ever-so-relevant opening line "Guess I got what I deserve," we see Walt with a faint, nostalgic smile as he walks through Jack's meth lab, picking up the gas mask and touching the equipment as police sirens sound in the distance. He looks at his blurry reflection in the equipment's chrome before falling to the ground, likely already running toward the light as cops raid the lab. Walt had finally admitted to Skyler that he built his empire because he liked it and was good at it. And despite the despot he became, it's gratifying to see him exit on his own terms in the place where he felt most alive.

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Sylvie Kim


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