By Samantha Leach
My initial reaction to the long-awaited series finale of Breaking Bad was paralleled with my reaction to the show’s closing song, “Baby Blue” by Badfinger. As Walt walked around a meth lab, slowly dying with a wistful smile upon his face, “Baby Blue” began its opening verse: “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 had for you, my baby blue.” With the first line, “guess I got what I deserved,” I was shocked by the heavy-handedness of the final song for a show made famous for its clever subtleties. However, as the verse concluded with “my baby blue,” I realized the song’s message. The song was not intended to depict Walt’s purported love of his family, but rather his signature baby blue meth. This perfectly aligned with his confession earlier in the episode in which he told Skyler that he didn’t cook Meth for his family, that he did it for himself. In this instance I went from thinking it was the most overindulgent way to end a series to realizing it was the most brilliant. Or maybe it was the second most genius musical moment of the episode as Todd’s ringtone “Lydia the Tattooed Lady” by the Marx Brother’s going off after his death was pretty fantastic.
Throughout my viewing of the finale, entitled “Felina”, I was often caught up in thinking of the pragmatic plotlines of Breaking Bad episodes past. Unlike previous episodes, the finale called for a vast suspension of disbelief. I was bogged down in questions such as, how is it possible that Walt could maneuver his way through Albuquerque without being spotted by the police? Or, how was Walt able to get the Ricin into Lydia’s Stevia packet? A Vulture article by Matt Zoller Seitz compared the episode to A Christmas Carol claiming the only way this episode worked was to think of Walter White as a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge. I wouldn’t go as far as to compare Walt to a ghost in the finale, but rather say that this episode only worked in terms of an epilogue. The true finale of the show was the third to last of the season, “Ozymandias.” This is where Walt is exposed to the world and loses his family. Although this could serve as a technical ending to the story, it does not end Breaking Bad in the way that Vince Gilligan set out to. The underlying premise of Breaking Bad is to see a man go from “Mr. Chips to Scarface.” The show is one of transformation, taking Walter White and turning him into Heisenberg. Thus, the show has a clear trajectory that must be wrapped up in order for the premise to be a success. To tie up all loose ends and provide catharsis to the viewers, the episode must be different than all Breaking Bad episodes that hang in tense suspension. The penultimate episode served as a bridge to cross between the vastly different Ozymandias and Felina , building immense suspense for the coming episode that would alleviate all tension. Felina is a standalone epilogue, different in style, tone and purpose.
Another primary element of Breaking Bad is that it is a contemporary Western. One of the most unrealistic moments of this episode to me was the Nazi’s delay in shooting Walt. Why would they indulge Walt and bring Jesse out of his cage to prove that they were not “partners?” Why should the opinion of a man they were about to kill matter? This did not make sense to me until I saw the necessity of a gun- fight. It is a common premise amongst Western films to end in gun-blazing glory. For the final episode of Breaking Bad they returned to all the influences and arcs it had utilized since the beginning. Walter White, the shows protagonist/antagonist had to end in his own version of a Western shoot-off, made perfectly fitting by his scientifically engineered remote-controlled super-gun. In Walter White’s epilogue he got what he deserved, and Gilligan made good on his initial promises. In the midst of the bloody battle-royal that concluded Breaking Bad the plot appears fantastical. But, when the camera pans out on Walt’s dead body awaiting the police, and you realize Walt’s journey has just been completed, it is as perfectly fitting as Badfinger’s lyric, “my baby blue.”