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Breaking Bad: Walt breaks free, his way

Walt gets a modicum of satisfaction seeing his name as pop culture graffiti.

Walt gets a modicum of satisfaction seeing his name as pop culture graffiti.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

In the series finale of Breaking Bad, Walter Hartwell White indeed did it his way.

An explosive, sad, painfully touching end to a character viewers both loved and loved to hate. 

The final episode of arguably the greatest TV series ever, didn’t disappoint. Vince Gilligan and the writers wrapped things up in a special way that truly fit the show. There were moments of suspense, science, killing, and even a ringtone of humor.

But most importantly, Breaking Bad stayed true to its roots to the bitter end. It was a natural finish for Walter White, who finally admitted who he was.

For the final showdown, Walt returned to Albuquerque to right some wrongs. When he showed up at Elliott and Gretchen’s, presumably to kill them, I was groaning, “Oh no, this is stupid…” But that wasn’t what Vince Gilligan had planned. Of course he wanted us to think that would happen, but then he pulled the rug out from under us.

That’s been one of the show’s major strengths for viewers. We think it’s zigging, then it zags.

I loved how the tension in that scene was cut by giving a final shout out to Badger and Skinny Pete. I think they deserve a spin off on the CW network, or maybe a series of pizza commercials.

In the incredibly deft and moving kitchen scene with Skyler, Walt finally comes full circle. We see Skyler’s pain, she has suffered immensely — a single mother living in public disgrace with an angry son and infant child. She’s broke, lost her home, and is smoking way too many cigarettes. Walt doesn’t ask for forgiveness, it’s far too late for that. Instead he offers her “leverage,” giving her the lottery ticket with the coordinates where Hank and Steve are buried which she can exchange for immunity from prosecution. (I needed that loose end tied up. Am I the only one who was worried that Hank and Steve wouldn’t get a proper burial?)

Then Walt delivers the line that sums everything up. He doesn’t tell Skyler he did this all for the family. He comes clean. “I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really… I was alive.”  In just one line, Gilligan and company managed to make Walter White the man we loved again, coming to terms with who he really is. 

Tying up another loose end, Walt disposes of the threatening Lydia with the elusive Ricin, which he slipped into a packet of Stevia. Finally doing what Mike should have done. And how about that one final dab of humor? It was like “Hello Kitty cell phone” time again with Todd’s ringtone, “Lydia oh Lydia…”  a snippet of Groucho Marx’s signature song Lydia the Tattooed Lady.

Not to disappoint fans who reveled in the show’s action scenes, we get a doozy climax — Walt’s final showdown with Todd, Uncle Jack and the neo-Nazi thugs. With a tip of the hat to McGuyver, Walt concocts a great revolving machine gun that mows the bad guys down. Walt refuses to deal with Jack about his money and shoots him. It doesn’t matter to him anymore.

And then there’s Jesse. Poor Jesse who is tethered like the gimp in Pulp Fiction to the sleazy meth lab, fantasizing about the wooden jewelry box he once made in shop class — a moment he recalled with pride in drug rehab in an earlier episode. Jesse is broken. When Walt sees Jesse’s condition, he does a final noble thing and shields him from the machine gun, taking a couple shots in the process. Their final conversation is brief but meaningful. Walt asks Jesse to shoot him, telling him he knows it’s what he wants to do. Jesse demands Walt admit it’s what HE wants Jesse to do, and Walt does. But Jesse is done taking orders, and refuses to kill him. 

Staggering around the meth lab, fatally wounded, police sirens blaring in the background, we get a final closing shot of Walt smiling as he lovingly strokes the meth kettle. This ordinary, overworked, under-appreciated man, finally achieved greatness and success on his terms, with an empire he built. He was proud of it and died loving it.

In the ‘Talking Bad’ interview after the finale, Vince Gilligan compared Walt to Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. In the meth lab, he was at last reunited with “his Precious.” So in that earlier scene when Walt sees “Heisenberg” spray-painted in his living room, he’s most likely appreciating the fact that he has left his mark in the world.

The show ends fittingly with Badfinger’s Baby Blue playing at Walt’s end:

Guess I got what I deserved
Kept you waiting there, too long my love
All that time without a word
Didn’t know you’d think, that I’d forget, or I’d regret
The special love I have for you my baby blue.

This was a brilliant ending to a brilliant show. The likes of which we may never see again. Thank you Vince Gilligan for creating something so special and to Bryan Cranston and a wonderful cast that made it work.

END NOTE: I think Frank Sinatra’s signature song, My Way, also sums up the story of Walter Hartwell White:

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
and more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets I’ve had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each chartered course
Each careful step along the by-way
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes, there were times
I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out

I faced it all
And I stood tall
And did it my way

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed, and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
“Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way”

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way

Yes, it was my way

Breaking Bad Cast Color

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One thought on “Breaking Bad: Walt breaks free, his way

  1. purusharth on said:

    brillant post.. miss the show so much.

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