Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 16 - Felina

After a final stretch of episodes that ran at breakneck speed and left everyone (and everything) in his wake in ruins, Walter White's coda, Felina, was a largely quiet hour (plus) of storytelling that wrapped a neat bow around a tale famously described as turning Mr. Chips into Scarface.

The Breaking Bad finale used three threads to tie the story together:

  • Walt breaks into Elliot and Gretchen's home and gets them to agree to fund a multi-million dollar trust fund for Flynn using the remaining $9 million plus from his ill-gotten gains;
  • Walt visits Skylar at her humble apartment and gives her the lottery ticket that has the coordinates to Hank and Steve's burial site, encouraging her to use it as a bargaining chip to get the prosecution against her dropped; and
  • A final showdown with Uncle Jack and his evil band of neo-Nazis where a deus ex machina (gun) kills them all save Todd, who meets his fate at Jesse's hands. 

Having secured his son's financial future, (possibly) extricated his estranged wife from the threat of incarceration and liberated his former partner from hellish servitude, Walt, fatally wounded by a stray bullet, spends his final moments in the place of his triumph and downfall - a meth lab he examines approvingly before collapsing in death. 

As series finales go, Felina was satisfying if a bit anti-climactic, but perhaps that was to be expected. Having piled up bodies over the course of five seasons, Vince Gilligan could have gone for the apocalyptic ending where everyone ended up dead, but instead, chose to highlight Walt's duality and humanity. "Walter White" salvaged what little he could for his family - having dragged them into penury, notoriety and an unimaginable future living with the knowledge of his sins, he used his wits and intelligence to at least ensure they would not live with the continued pressure of poverty and prosecution. He also reclaimed a modicum of his dignity and that for his fallen brother-in-law by allowing for a decent burial. Small change perhaps, but better than part-time taxi dispatching and an unmarked grave in the desert. "Heisenberg" comes up with a clever scheme to turn a 6:1 disadvantage into a shooting gallery that vanquishes all of his foes. That he slips Lydia ricin, causing her to die a slow and painful death, just closes one last loop. 

And perhaps it was that all that time of solitude gave Walt to "think on things" as his fixer suggested he do - to finally give up the ghost of claiming he cooked meth to provide for his family and instead admit he did it because he liked it, he was good at it and it validated his genius. That he saw in his action a need for a karmic comeuppance, so, with a weapon in hand and an opportunity to exact vengeance on Jesse, Walt does the opposite - handing Jesse the gun and offering him the chance to take his revenge on him. We will never know whether Jesse, seeing the expanding pool of blood coming from Walt's abdomen, would have otherwise pulled the trigger, but regardless, in a moral universe, Walt's death was preordained, there would be no happy ending, for him, or anyone else in his world. 


  1. I was satisfied with the finale - it exceeded my expectations. I felt that Walt died happy. His loose ends were tied up and he was in a meth lab - the place where he felt the most a live, where he was the happiest. In a sick, twisted way this felt like a happy ending to the series.

  2. I felt...relieved. I think after all of the everything, Walt ultimately did the best he could with what he had. Hopefully Flynn can recover, maybe Marie, too. Skylar? Well, she always wanted to be a writer. As Walt said on the pay phone in the ghost town, it should make a hel of a story. And I loved seeing the Schwartzes petrified- and Skinny Pete and Badger! So elated to have them included.
    I guess I'll now have to catch up on Homeland until Mad Men begins...