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Earlier tonight, I was ready to destroy the world because someone posted a key spoilery screenshot of the Breaking Bad season finale. Seriously, I was ready to spread destruction across the globe in my fury, as I'd been waiting all week and all night for the episode to pop up on SOME site, since I couldn't watch it when it aired due to fatherly duties. So when I saw that screenshot, I was in full-on KILL ALL HUMANS mode. I instantly knew that it was one of those moments that, had I seen it in the episode itself, would have utterly floored me in the way that Breaking Bad has floored me in ways that no one show in recent memory has, and I was furious that such a rare viewing experience was stolen from me.

But having seen the episode, even that jaw-dropping awesomeness was nothing, nothing compared to that last shot. In that instant, all my excitement was tempered with a bone-chilling twist in my gut that I must exorcise.

I know that most people haven't seen Breaking Bad (Best show that no one is watching? Probably), but I NEED to hash out that ending with people. If you haven't seen the show yet, please, for the love of god, don't click the cut-tag, don't read the comments, basically abandon this post entirely and either rent the series or watch it on Netflix Instant.

So... when do you think that Walter White--the Walter White who wept at the prospect of killing the petty criminal in episode 3--died entirely, leaving only Heisenberg? At what point did his moral center entirely rot away? When did he become the kind of monster who would put Rick from The Walking Dead to shame?*

Because I think it happened so gradually, through so many justifiable/sympathetic/understandable steps, that it's hard to say. I'd LIKE to guess that it happened the moment he burst out laughing in the crawl space, that that was the breaking moment. But then I wouldn't be taking poor Gale into account. Gale, whom I dearly loved, but whose ending I completely understood from Walt's perspective as no other way out based on the situation he found himself in thanks to Gus. It was so easy to place it all on Gus, to believe Walt when he put Gale's death on Gus' head in Season 4 Episode 1 "Box Cutter."

But what about Jane? All the way back to the end of Season 2, there was Jane. Now, it's been a while since I've seen the episode, but when I watched it with Mom, she actually said, "Good," approving of the way Walt let that potential mess neatly handle itself. I truly cannot remember how justified he was to do what he did, or rather, what he didn't do. Even still, it's clear from "Fly" that he shows deep remorse and guilt over Jane, or at least how much it ended up torturing Jesse. Even at that point, Walt was still Walt, no matter how far he'd fallen.

Can the case still be the same? Does it count that he let out a sigh of grateful relief when his poor oblivious neighbor called back safely, or when he got the news that Brock was going to be all right? Does it show any shreds of decency that he intended no maliciousness, that he lacks Gus' cold-hearted efficiency and still feels the pain of every horrible and evil decision he makes? Is there any humanity left in Walt, or had he finally embraced Heisenberg, now and forever?

I'd hate to think that, but then, that may have been the path he was inevitably on once he decided to start cooking meth. If you want to get truly moralistic, that single decision is what kicked off the irreversible degradation of his soul, even if wasn't sold outright at the start. And even if it's not entirely lost, it will be. I don't think there's any coming back for Walt now. But the show has surprised me in the past, no more so than in this episode, so maybe Vince Gilligan has a plan. Maybe Walt has a last-minute redemption in store. Or maybe there can be some happy ending for Skyler, Hank, and/or, most importantly, Walt Junior, who could somehow come away from all this without scars, without his father dragging him down along the way. Maybe Skyler's horror at the realization about Walt will keep Walt Jr. safe.

But Walt... Jesus, Walt. Deep down, I still wonder how he could have fallen this far. Vince Gilligan has said that he envisioned the show as "Mr. Chips becomes Scarface," but that never clicked for me because Walt never seemed like the Kingpin type. In fact, he STILL doesn't. He's too desperate, too emotionally-fueled to ever be half the Kingpin that Gus was. Gus' one failing--which Walt and Tio** beautifully exploited--was his sole emotional Achilles Heel of revenge cloud his impeccable business sense. Gus was a monster, but what he wasn't was sloppy. Walt is sloppy. Walt escapes his problems by the skin of his teeth, leaving death, destruction, and ruined lives in his wake.

Up until now, those lives were at least arguably criminal, thus giving Walt an excuse. But even if he KNEW for certain that the Lily of the Valley wouldn't have killed Brock (and his damming "Thank god" indicated to me that he didn't know for sure), the fact that he was willing to poison an innocent child, even in a scheme to ultimately protect his family, has pushed him into full-blown evil territory. While Gus was figuratively (and then literally) two-faced***, he never excused himself the way Walt has up till now, and if he tries to fill the power vacuum left by Gus, he will fail. Hard. And if even if he wins, god help anybody around him, because they're all expendable to him at this point.

So who deserves to take him down? The German cartel that Gus was involved with? No, not them. Not more drug dealers. Hank? Hank dearly needs vindication, which he may have now, but I don't want to see his reaction should he learn that Walt was lying and manipulating him all along. I cheer for Hank now, and that truth would crush him, just as it would crush Walt Jr. Skyler already knows the truth, and it's on her to preserve the myth of Walter White for her family, but even she wouldn't and shouldn't be the one to finish Walt off.

It has to be Jesse. He's come too far in this show, come into his own too much. He needs to learn the full extent of Walt's actions. He needs to know not just about Brock, but about Jane. Only he could understand every action Walt took, every reason behind it, and thus be the only one who can truly call out Walt and give him the comeuppance he deserves. Jesse has seen the depths of personal hell, and his final confrontation with Walt will be what finally sets him free. And who knows, maybe he'll have Mike along to help him out. That'd be nice.

This final season cannot come fast enough, and yet, a part of me is hesitant to witness the depths of degradation and ruin we'll be seeing by the end. Until then, I'm gonna rewatch the entire series by showing it to Henchgirl and Captain, to see if I can map out just where and just when it all went so irreversibly wrong.

*Rick from the comics, I mean, although I bet we'll definitely see it in TV's Rick too over the next season or two. Now there's a character you can dislike entirely while still understanding where he's coming from. You can hate him, but it's hard to judge him either way.

**I think Tio is the going to be the most awesome part of this episode that no one talks about. While everyone's all about Gus' death or the revelation of Walt's actions, what really sold the FUCK-YEAH awesomeness of the nursing home scene was the transformation in Tio's face. I've admired character actor Mark Margolis this whole time for performing while doing so little, but in those final moments, he was King Badass Motherfucker Fuck You. For such a loathsome character to become so awesome is a testament to the combined skill of Margolis, Gilligan, and Giancarlo Espositio.

***I believe in Gustavo Fring.

Date: 2011-10-10 01:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
When the show started, Heisenberg was the mask that Walter White wore to convince the bad guys that he belonged with them.

Now, Walter White is the mask that Heisenberg wears to spend time with his family.

Heisenberg is firmly in charge

Date: 2011-10-10 03:00 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So do you think that he will get his Scarface downfall, or that it'll just be the cancer that gets him in the end? Because those seem to be pretty much the only two options left, and the latter will hardly be satisfying if it means he gets away with everything else.

By the way, there are a couple great Vince Gilligan interviews, first this one about the finale, and this first part of a four-part series where he's being interviewed about every single episode of season four.

Date: 2011-10-10 10:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm thinking Goodfellas when I think of the ending; Walt ends up going into witness protect, working as a substitute teacher and miserably reduced back to nobody status. He may have Skylar and the kids with him as a hope spot, but generally having Walt in a depressed state because he is back where he was at the start of the series.

Date: 2011-10-10 09:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For me, one of the most crucial scenes regarding Walt's descent was the scene with him and Gretchen in season two, where Gretchen confronts Walt over his lie that she was paying for his treatment.

It basically revealed that Walt=Heisenberg as far as the fact that Walt was always a vile person (dumping your faithful girlfriend without even TELLING her why you were dumping her, over imaginary slights involving things Walt believed her family was saying about her when she took him to meet them and then rewriting the past so that you tell everyone that Gretchen and his best friend backstabbed him in order to explain why he wasn't rich and successful like them). Gretchen's reaction, where you can tell that Walt's dumping her had hurt her as far as her being haunted at why the man she loved dumped her without even bothering to tell her why, showed that Walt never a nice guy and that he's spent his entire life creating justifications and rewriting his past so as to create a narrative where he's the victim, rather than an asshole who's ego causes him to destroy everything he touches (case in point, his relationship with Gus and his relationship with Jesse).

Finding out that he had terminal cancer was a major moment though: until he found out he was going to die, Walt (ever the excuse maker) was finally able to justify giving in to his dark impulses under the logic that producing one of the worst drugs ever spawned (Breaking Bad really pulls it's punches with regards to the horror of meth abuse) to bank cash for his family, was justified. Pairing up with Jesse just clenched it, as Jesse is too much of a weak-willed sycophant, desperate for approval of any kind, to enable his darker impulses and even serve as a go-to punching bag for him, since Walt couldn't dare show his true face to his family. The meeting with Gretchen pulled the mask off Walt IMHO and showed that he was already a bastard, long before he officially gave his dark side a name (Heisenberg), before we actually saw Walt take his steps over the moral event horizon with Jane's death.

While the writers have repeatedly trying to have their cake and eat it too with Walt (making him overly sympathetic yet still doing bad things), I pray that this season's finale, with it's wiping the slate clean type endgame, will result in the show having Walt embrace his full dark side with no more wobbling.

As for next season, with the addition of several additional episodes, I would not be shocked if they spend the first 3-4 episodes doing a back to basics deal with the show. Walt buys a new RV and he and Jesse go back into the desert to make meth and sell it to re-establish themselves locally and try and sooth over the last couple of seasons of acrimony due to them jumping from local dealers to the big time cartel drug empires.

As for big bad, I think it will have to be Gus's backers, perhaps tying into his mysterious past in South America, which was why the Cartel did not outright kill him. They will want to find out who killed Gus and of course, nature hates a vacuum, so they will try and fill the void Gus has left in the meth trade. Plus, they need some form of big bad to make sure we can still root for Walt, given that he's now jumped to child poisoning (which, after the Jane incident, isn't that big of a stretch when you think of how far Walt will go to control Jesse) after all.

Date: 2011-10-11 10:32 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Damn, I've completely forgotten about who the hell Gretchen is, or what her story's about. Welp, that's something I'll now be focusing on when I get to season two with Henchgirl.

... producing one of the worst drugs ever spawned (Breaking Bad really pulls it's punches with regards to the horror of meth abuse)...

And that's something that I wish could be looked at. Was it impossible to explore that fact while trying to still root for Walt up until this point? Maybe the last season is the time to finally see the consequences of his drug on others (besides Wendy), at which point he will find another way to justify it to himself. Actually, if he truly does come into his own by the end, maybe he'll Gus-up, no longer make excuses, and own his own evilness.

I'm reminded of Gale. I loved Gale. I identified with Gale. I felt for him in ways I haven't felt for anybody else on the show. He was the most innocent of them all, in many ways. And yet, he was still someone who was willing to fall back on the bullshit "well, if I don't do it, somebody else will" justification for producing meth. When Gale died, I kept that in mind. He made his choice, just like Walt did, and he was only as innocent as a corrupt man could be.

...which, after the Jane incident, isn't that big of a stretch when you think of how far Walt will go to control Jesse...

Yeah, I've been keeping that in mind too. Frankly, I'm amazed that any of us stayed with Walt after the Jane incident, not to mention the subsequent plane crash he helped inadvertently caused. Shouldn't that have been the point that the show jumped the shark and made us go, "Fuck it, I hate this guy, why should I care?" Why the hell didn't that happen? Why was the Brock thing still so shocking?

Date: 2011-10-11 03:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Frankly, I'm amazed that any of us stayed with Walt after the Jane incident, not to mention the subsequent plane crash he helped inadvertently caused. Shouldn't that have been the point that the show jumped the shark and made us go, "Fuck it, I hate this guy, why should I care?" Why the hell didn't that happen?

For me, it's because Cranston is amazing. And because I didn't want to give up on Walt that early, y'know?

Why was the Brock thing still so shocking?

This is going to sound strange, but parts of this season made me forget just how far gone Walt's moral center is. And maybe not so strange, because Gus is fascinating and wonderful and delightfully evil and terrifying. So maybe that's why it was so shocking to me.

Date: 2011-10-11 01:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Myself, I wondered why Breaking Bad decided that NOW was the time to be "Funny Breaking Bad," but it made sense once I thought about it. I still don't quite buy Walt as a poisoner, though; it makes more sense to me that Gus would do this (the plan requires Walt to trust both Jesse and his own ability to talk his way out of a situation, the latter of which is clear but the former is pretty wobbly), and I still don't understand how Walt pulled it off. If he involved Saul (which, given that Huell is part of it, seems likely--and some people think perhaps Saul gave the kid the berries), this is EXACTLY the kind of thing that Saul would dismiss out of hand as A Bad Idea. Walt might be a murderer, but Saul wouldn't be willing to stick his neck out for anything this risky. Gus is a more elegant solution, but what's done is done, I suppose. That being said, an awesome episode all around. Gus is a goddamn Terminator, and once I saw what happened to him, I immediately knew that you would be going nuts over it XD.

As for when Walt went over the edge, I'd say it was the death of Jane. Jane wasn't a THREAT to him, just an inconvenience. He let the girl die because it would make his life easier; it's far more heinous than what he did to Brock or Gale. He was never a nice person, but that was the first truly evil thing he did--nothing else he's done since then has surprised me (except running over the drug dealers, but that was more of a WTF?! moment than anything else).

Now that Walt has more or less destroyed everyone in the underground who could hurt him, it falls to civilized society to take him down. Between the IRS, the German multinational, the FBI, the DEA, whoever's investigating the death(s?) of Gale and possibly Ted, and whatever scary motherfuckers back in Chile were keeping Gus alive, there are plenty of aboveground institutions that want to take a chunk out of him. I think Hank will probably be the one to back him into a corner, but I could see Walt taking the easy way out by committing Suicide-by-Jesse (while hacking up a bunch of cancer blood, why not). That way, he gives Jesse closure (like a good teacher would) while still going out on his own terms.


Date: 2011-10-11 03:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
ALSO, how the hell would Walt feed the kid the berries without the kid knowing that some man (maybe one of Saul's guys) gave them to him? And more importantly than that, Walt's plant is in flower. Plants in flower don't have berries, and in neither scene did his have any berries visible. It seems like this one was sort of half-assed.

I have no problem with Walt being a poisoner; the problem I have is that this is exactly the kind of thing that depends very heavily on the characters involved in order to make it work. Even if Walt wanted to do this, he would need to rely on Saul to pull it off--and that's where I run into trouble. Knowing what we do of Saul, is it really possible for him to stick his neck out for Walt, a man he despises, and possibly expose himself to a murder rap or worse (worse being whatever Gus does to him when he finds out his role in all this)? Whenever he's done something he considers ill-advised, it's never been at direct risk to himself--so what's changed now? And don't tell me he's afraid of Gus and willing to take a crazy risk; Saul Goodman is ALL ABOUT mitigating risk.

Date: 2011-10-11 10:15 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I recently started showing BB to Henchgirl, who was a huge fan of Vince Gilligan's work in The X-Files, particularly the Lone Gunmen. We're only five episodes into the first season, but while she thinks it's fantastic, she's a touch disappointed that it's not funnier.

But then, she's the kind of girl who saw the melting bathtub scene and pretty much thought, "Well what did you EXPECT to happen, idiot? Sheesh" rather than my own "AAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA AWESOME." Because she's more practical and sensible when it comes to body disposal, I imagine.

I can accept Walt as poisoner only if I can accept that he's been capable of doing that for some time (for reasons I already mentioned above), or that he became capable in his last-minute desperation following Jesse's rejection, the "I WILL KILL YOUR INFANT DAUGHTER," and the meltdown in the crawl space. Can I accept that Walt's relentless self-justification for anything he does allow him to do that? I don't want to, but I'm not sure I can deny it, know what I mean?

But the biggest hurdle is the logistics, and I think (don't quote me on this) that even Gilligan pretty much admitted that they hadn't quite figured out how Walt pulled it off. Now, I clearly missed something, but how is Huell involved here? I've heard some theorize that Huell took Jesse's smokes, which I don't recall.

...the plan requires Walt to trust both Jesse and his own ability to talk his way out of a situation, the latter of which is clear but the former is pretty wobbly

It's way wobbly, but then, I think Walt has always been wobbly. Like I said, he makes it by the skin of his teeth, without any of Gus' efficiency. Walt is a messy, messy man, but at least before, he was a messy, messy antihero, who made it look like he did the best in a series of bad situations he found himself in for reasons outside his control. Now, he's poised to become a messy, messy kingpin. Even if he's switched fully from good to evil, that ain't gonna make him a better businessman or tactician.

I know I previously thought that there was NO WAY that Walt could have done it, but even at the risk of making myself foolish a second time, there's NO WAY that Saul would do that. Or maybe there's a way. No, no, you're right, it's a classic Bad Idea, and while Saul may be many things, he's surprisingly sensible about matters that count (see also: Skyler pwning his stupid Laser Tag idea and being generally right about everything until she was HORRIBLY STUPIDLY WRONG about Asshat Ted, the worst character in existence).

Now that Walt has more or less destroyed everyone in the underground who could hurt him, it falls to civilized society to take him down.

Yes. This exactly.

That way, he gives Jesse closure (like a good teacher would) while still going out on his own terms.

That sounds like the the ideal, perfect ending. Let's see if this show delivers on that, or throws us another curveball.

Date: 2011-10-11 02:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
That curveball? MIKE SUPREMACY

Date: 2011-10-11 03:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Seriously! How kind of Gilligan to have Mike shot up and left safe in Mexico, because otherwise he'd surely be as dead at Tyrus, Gus, and Thug #2 and #3!

Thing is, Mike is also damn sensible. Makes me wonder if he'll just settle into retirement, or the odd job for Saul, rather than work for Walt or take Jesse under his wing again to go and solve/create crimes as a wacky father and son team!

Date: 2011-10-11 02:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Oh my goodness. Oh my goodness. We'll say more articulate things when I've recovered from having my mind blown.

This much I can say: I loved your write-up. And Giancarlo Esposito continues to rule my world.

Date: 2011-10-11 10:33 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
He must return in flashbacks, dammit. He must. Along with a new Gale karaoke tape. I've had "Major Tom" stuck in my head for WEEKS now.

Date: 2011-10-11 02:49 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I totally agree. Besides the fact that he's fascinating, I feel like there's more story there.

I've had "Major Tom" stuck in my head for WEEKS now.

This does not surprise me!! (Gaaaale. ♥)

Date: 2011-10-11 03:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
In an interview, Gilligan admitted that he doesn't actually KNOW what Gus' full story is! I imagine they'll only outright figure that out if elements of that past come to bite Walt in the ass (elements such as the German corporation, for example).

Have I mentioned how much I wish I could have tastes Gale's coffee? I want to know what a master chemist's brew would be like!

Date: 2011-10-11 03:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Plus, more Giancarlo Esposito is always good, right?

I'm sure Gale made amazing coffee. Your comment about his being only as innocent as a corrupt man could be was heartbreaking, just so you know. (I'm composing a comment in a different thread because there's SO MUCH to talk about with this fantastic show!)

Date: 2011-10-22 08:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
i'm... i... everyone is fucking screwed.

Date: 2011-10-22 03:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Why? Because Walt's gonna fuck them over intentionally, or because they'll ALL be collateral damage that he'll find some way to excuse to himself?

Hector was fucking amazing in this last episode. The show did such an effective job portraying him as loathesome, sadistic, the kind of cruel monster who makes Gus look better, especially after Gus' flashback. And then, by the end, he's all DING DING MOTHERFUCKER awesome. The actor pulled off so much with just those EYES.

And what point did Hank take advice from the Great Gazoo? "Mmm, you should definitely investigate Los Pollos Hermanos, dum-dum!"

Speaking of Hank, do you agree that he really came around with this season and how he started putting the pieces together about Gus? That speech he gave to his skeptical, condescending bosses, and they way he paused and delivered the "... except..." was masterful.

Also, I can never, ever hear "Major Tom (Coming Home)" the same way again. In fact, Gale's version is now stuck in my head, at least until the new Shatner version finally released. Because there's a new Shatner version.

Did you think Walt would manage to kill Gus this season? Or at all? And what did you think of how Gus went out? Worthy of a great villain? Or at least a great character? I don't know if you still see him as not a villain, even after "I will KILL. Your INFANT. DAUGHTER."

And what the hell do you think of that last reveal? SO MANY QUESTIONS TO FINALLY ASK YOUUUUU.

Date: 2011-10-22 07:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
it's not even that they are fucked because of heizenburg (walt is dead, walt has been dead since the moment he told that man to stay out of his territory.) it is that no matter what, the house of cards that has been built on the lies and deceits of these people must and will eventually come tumbling down and it will take everyone with it.

I was stoned when i came up with the hank and gazoo theory. that said, i still think there needs to be a spin off with hank and gazoo, dum dum.

I'm kinda not really gonna believe that hank isn't stupid until he catches Heizenburg. Jessy deserves to take him down, yes, but Hank, he's a better cop than i gave him credit for, but i think he's still kind of a puts.

john, what is it like to be gale.

and no, i still can't call gus i villain. I can say that he is evil, but i can't call him a villain. i can, however, say that that man is EL FUCKING HEFE!

John, seriously, what is it like to be gale? do you think gale had a red headed, bullying friend who gives him a hard time because he went to a hippy private school?

Date: 2011-10-23 01:21 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I just worry about Walt Jr. He's a good kid, from what we've seen. Perhaps the only true innocent in the show now. Maybe now that Skyler knows more about just how ruthless Walt can be, she'll start trying to drive a wedge between them to protect her son.

Which reminds me, I hope Ted's dead. I don't think he is, but I hope so. That would be nice.

Also, Saul. I fucking love Saul Goodman.

Being Gale isn't so bad now that I've found Lydia, and I think I'd be safe considering that I'm a geek not a nerd, and thus not important for any Gus in real life to want. Which reminds me, this exists:

I am currently watching Do the Right Thing. It's blowing my mind that Buggin' Out is Gus.

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