Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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'Breaking Bad' finale recap: One little kiss goodbye and leaving with your boots on

SPOILER ALERT: BREAKING BAD IS GONE FOR GOOD AND WE'LL NEVER BE THE SAME. IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THE FINALE, DO SO BEFORE READING ON. ALSO, IF YOU KNOW OF A 12-STEP PROGRAM OR SUPPORT GROUP TO HELP COPE WITH THE ABSENCE OF WALTER WHITE, PLEASE LET US KNOW BECAUSE QUITTING COLD TURKEY IS GOING TO BE TOUGH. WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

'Breaking Bad' finale recap: One little kiss goodbye and leaving with your boots on

SPOILER ALERT: BREAKING BAD IS GONE FOR GOOD AND WE'LL NEVER BE THE SAME. IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED THE FINALE, DO SO BEFORE READING ON. ALSO, IF YOU KNOW OF A 12-STEP PROGRAM OR SUPPORT GROUP TO HELP COPE WITH THE ABSENCE OF WALTER WHITE, PLEASE LET US KNOW BECAUSE QUITTING COLD TURKEY IS GOING TO BE TOUGH. WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER.

We start off "Felina" with Walter White climbing into a strange car with his box of cash. He's frantically trying to hot wire the stallion when we see flashing red and blue lights through the snow-covered windows. Walt freezes the way a rodent does when it's cornered. His eyes are wide, his breathing is heavy, his movements completely stop. Suddenly, as if by divine intervention, he thinks to check the overhead visor and the keys to the car plop into his lap. Walt fires up the engine, brushes the snow off of the windshield and heads west as Marty Robbins croons from the tape deck.

At a gas station in the desert, Walt makes a call from a payphone and, pretending to be with The New York Times, manages to procure a piece of information that will prove integral to the beginning of the end for this meth-slinging cowboy. With the address of the humble abode of his former business partners, Gretchen and Elliot Schwartz, now written on his hand, Walt sets out to put things in order.

As Mr. and Mrs. Schwartz return from what was surely an extravagant charity gala with valet parking and fancy hors d'evours and a performance from a world-renowned violinist, The Danger lurks inside their lair. Once his presence is discovered, Walter White explains to his estranged business partners that they're going to take $9 million of his hard-earned-if-not-legally-accumulated nest egg and provide an irrevocable trust for Walter Jr. that will become available on his 18th birthday, which is just over 10 months away.

"My children are blameless victims of their monstrous father, a man whom you once knew quite well," he says while ordering his former partners to rationalize the trust. Though he's being facetious, there's twinge of self-realization in his voice, almost as if he's mocking himself. He seems to understand that, although he never intended to become a monster, he won't be there to see his son become a man. Holly will grow up without a father. He may feel as though he's been villainized throughout his transformation from Ned Flanders to Pablo Escobar, but the notion that his children will suffer as a result of that transformation is not lost on him.

"You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." - The Dark Knight

Walt insures his investment of funds and trust in the Schwartz family by threatening them. If they fail to follow through, "the two best hitmen west of the Mississippi" will pull their cards.

After assuring that his life's work and moral regression wasn't for naught, Walter White is ready to set out for revenge. "Crystal Blue" is still available on the streets, which alerts Walt to the fact that Jesse Pinkman isn't dead.

In fact, Jesse Pinkman is still slaving away for the Redneck Mafia, cooking up that beautiful "Crystal Blue" while daydreaming about woodworking. Back in Season 3, Jesse pontificated about the value of building wooden boxes while in a therapy session.

Walt's wheels start turning and vengeance will be realized. We're now caught up with the flash-forward, as Walt eats breakfast at a Denny's on his 52nd birthday. He switches cars in the parking lot, returns home to retrieve the ricin from the outlet, and says hello to his neighbor, Carol.

With a brief appearance at a familiar coffee shop, Walt manages to poison Lydia with the ricin—a poetic, nonviolent demise for the white collar hand in the operation who couldn't bare to look at the blood after she had Uncle Jack massacre the competition in the desert bunker—and secure a meeting with Uncle Jack and company to discuss the prospect of "working together."

The image of Walter White kneeling in the desert, mumbling the Marty Robbins lyrics and plotting his revenge was iconic. He looked like a kid playing with his Erector Set on Christmas afternoon. All of the presents have been opened. All of the excitement and adrenaline from the morning have subsided. While his family eats lunch or showers and spends quality time together, Walt's kneeling on the floor of his bedroom immersed in a creation that feels bigger than himself. Walter White might as well have been wearing choo-choo train footie pajamas while building the contraption of his revenge.

Meanwhile, Marie is being Marie and freaking out over the phone about Walt's return to New Mexico. The cops found the stolen car at the diner and know he's back. By the time she calls to warn Skyler, though, Walt's already standing in front of his wife.

In "Cornered" (the sixth episode of Season 4), Skyler is fraught with motherly concern that Walt's legal dalliances may have jeopardized the safety of her family. She openly theorizes that some mild success in the drug-dealing arena has swallowed her husband. She thinks that he's gotten too deep to see the surface. Walt, obviously, responds by conjuring Heisenberg, demonstrating exactly who The Danger is, and assuring his wife that he's the one doing the knocking.

This time around, Walt slinks through the shadows and back into Albuquerque, appearing in his wife's new home to confess that he did it all for the nookie himself. Upon seeing her husband standing in her kitchen, Skyler's immediate concern isn't motherly. She's not frantically calling police or wielding a knife or threatening anyone. She just wants to know how many people had to be dissolved in a tub of acid or crushed with an ATM machine in order for Walt to be standing in that kitchen without handcuffs on. She still knows who The Danger is.

Walter White cheated on his wife. He betrayed his family and left them alone in the world. Some men have penchant for the ponies or a love of the bottle or seek the company of strange women. Walter White was addicted to himself. He was hooked on that rush he felt when he exerted his superior intelligence. He got off on cooking the best methamphetamine that the world had ever seen. The Cook was his mistress. The Cook was his One and Only. The Cook was his Beloved.The Cook was his... Felina.

At the end of Marty Robbins' cowboy anthem, "El Paso", the protagonist returns to the West Texas town for one last glimpse of Felina. He realizes that the odds are stacked against him. He realizes it's a deadly mission. But, quite frankly, his new reality is far worse than certain demise.

Tonight nothing's worse than this
Pain in my heart.

And at last here I


Am on the hill overlooking El Paso;

I can see Rosa's cantina below.
My love is strong and it pushes me onward.
Down off the hill to Felina I go.

Walt returns to New Mexico to avenge the death of his brother-in-law. He returns to New Mexico to make sure that Walt Jr. and Holly will benefit (at least financially) from the sins of their father. He returns to New Mexico to stop other people from selling his signature recipe of meth. But, really, Heisenberg comes out of hibernation to prove to himself that he's smarter than everyone else in his life. He does it to feel that rush one last time.

As he meets with Uncle Jack, Walt deliberately parks the car so that the passenger's side is closest to the house. He exploits Uncle Jack's warped sense of honor and loyalty by accusing him of freeing Jesse Pinkman and establishing a new partnership. In faux rage, he tackles Jesse to the ground and uses his keyless entry to start up his Erector Set M-16 and send the Redneck Mafia into oblivion.

Jesse lashes out and strangles Todd in one of the more passionate and gruesome kills we've seen on Breaking Bad. Uncle Jack dangles Walt's stolen money in front of him to negotiate for his life, but Walt's renewed sense of morality prompts him to put a bullet through Jack's head halfway through the sentence.

When Walt and Jesse are alone and knee-deep in racist, meth-dealer blood, The Danger lays down his weapon. He's wounded and dares Jesse to put him out of his misery. But, Jesse Pinkman is no Aaron Burr. He's satisfied with Walt's confession that he is ready to die. He speeds away as Walt answers Todd's phone just in time to tell Lydia that everyone's dead and she's going to die from ricin poisoning.

As The Law rushes to the scene of the latest New Mexican massacre, Walter White reaches Felina's back door.

But my love for

Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen,

Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.

From out of nowhere Felina has found me,

Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.

Walt spends the waning moments of his life with his Beloved. He caresses one of the tanks in Todd's meth lab, losing himself in his own reflection in the sterling container. Bleeding out on the floor of a meth lab, with the bodies of his rivals lifeless and riddled with bullets just steps away and The Law closing in, Walter White died an outlaw's death.

Every step of the way, Walter White managed to stay one step ahead of his competition. He outlived Krazy-8 and Tuco and Gus and Hank and Todd and Lydia and Uncle Jack. Though some might complain that the culmination of the series was a bit tidy for their taste, Walter White's demise was appropriately poetic. He died by his own hand doing what he loved more than anything else... being the smartest person in the room.

Notes

"Elliott, if we're gonna go that way, you're going to need a bigger knife." - Walter White, Badass

Badger and Skinny Pete with laser pointers = The two best hit men west of the Mississippi

"Baby Blue" by Badfinger plays us out while Walter White bleeds to death, adding the song to the Pantheon on soundtrack choices

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