So, Breaking Bad ended last night. I started watching concurrently with the show since Season 2, catching up on Season 1 the few weeks before. That was a long time ago in my life, but an even more long time ago in Walt's world. I marathoned most of the show during my Round the World Trip earlier in 2013, and seeing Walt's quick growth from shackled, curt, depressed schoolteacher looking for anything to excite his life to a maniacal, demonic druglord bit-by-bit was so amazing to watch. It happens all so quickly. In the beginning, he wanted to make something out of the name Walter White, but in the end, when he asked Declan to 'Say [his] name', he wanted Heisenberg as the answer. It all came down to this 55 minutes of TV, 55 minutes to end a 62-piece epic character piece. It isn't quite The Wire, but it had the chance to end with one of the Greatest Final Seasons ever. Did it? I'm not sure, but it definitely made us all remember why we love this show.
My first reaction to the finale was that it took Breaking Bad's propensity to make all of Walt's plans work just a little too well and turned that up to 14. I mean, everything worked perfectly. First, Walt was able to go all that way to Albuquerque, break into multiple homes and do this all undetected. I like the fact that Vince Gilligan didn't even try to show us how Walt got into Skyler's home without being found, because who knows how that could have happened. Anyway, moving past that, why do the Nazi's let Walt park where he wants? Why doesn't anyone notice that he is reaching for the keys? How can everyone get killed by an automated weapon when it took forever for anyone to die in the shootout with Hank and Gomie?
But then I realized that who gives a shit? This whole show has alternately told us to see Walt and a genius and a tyrant at the same time, and for one last moment, his genius won. Everything worked just how he planned it. Maybe it was having time to rehearse and rehearse this whole plan on his drive to Albuquerque? Maybe it was having the plan end with his death (which happened, but of course not the way he wanted)? Who knows what. Either way, some of the greatest moments of this show have been Walt being brilliant, from his plan to get the RV to work again in 'Three Days Out', to the way his plan worked to kill Gus, to the magnets and the train caper last year. Hell, even Gus had a plan work perfectly in 'Salud'. Some plans went very wrong, but so many went right. This was just the last one.
I like that the episode gave us a glimpse of all the major players from the show while still making it about Walt. They give us one last Skyler scene, one last scene with Marie, one last look at Walt Jr., and even a brilliant cameo by Badger and Skinny Pete. Breaking Bad has always had a tight show in terms of cast size, and even though most people not named Walt or someone directly related to Walt were marginzaled in Season 5.2, they were able to remind us how great the shows band of characters were.
As always, the cinematography was stunning, if understated. There were few beautiful shots of New Mexico scenery, something that was as important to the early success of the show as anything else - at least from a critics perspective, but there was great camera play like the slow reveal of Walt being there for the phone call between Skyler and Marie and even the final aerial shot of Walt lying in the meth lab he helped design. Some parts of the show were lost over the years, most noticeably the loss of the 'Buddy-Cop' of Walt and Jesse and the show's isolation of the beauty of Chemistry. There was no real meth cooking in Season 5, which was regrettable, but for it to end with Walt dying peacefully in a meth lab was a really nice way for the show to finally fade to black.
I've never seen a show that was able to really introduce a new Big Bad at the very end of a show and still make it work, but that is really what Breaking Bad did with the Nazis, and that is my only real gripe of the Final Season. We entered the final half season of Breaking Bad with the impending Walt vs. Hank battle and that really seemed like the natural way for this show to end. Hank spent years trying to find Heisenberg and now he has. There were so many ways to take that battle and to Gilligan's credit, they did explore most of those areas, but to me that should have been where this show ended. I understand the idea of Uncle Jack, but he wasn't a real creation of the meth game but of Walt. He was inserted in the last season maybe even just for people not to totally hate Walt by the end of the season, but that seemed easy. I would have liked to see it just end with Hank vs. Walt. It didn't and Vince wrote and directed the shit out of these final eight episodes, but something in me wishes that it did.
I don't think Breaking Bad reached the overall brilliance of The Wire, but it came about as close as anything I can imagine. It had the best single character I have ever scene and one of the best performers doing an All-Time performance in portraying him. It created its small little world and could be brilliant at both large overarching dramatic moments and suspense and also even more brilliant at highlighting the small moments in life. Breaking Bad is a show that on paper should have never worked. But it did, it worked amazingly well. We may never see another show like this again. We probably will because something better will always eventually come along, but it will be a long time.