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Breaking Bad Review: Down the Toilet

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We all knew it had to end this way, right? We all knew the final Breaking Bad episode of 2012 just had to set up the inevitable showdown that would bring the series to a close in 2013.

Walt. Hank. DEA. Heisenberg. Let's do this.

Yet "Gliding Over All" still managed to shock, taking Walt to a place I never imagined he'd be prior to the big reveal: contentment. Happiness. A sense of satisfaction over a job well done, an emperor who no longer needed an empire.

Walt, All Alone

What drove Walt to that relaxed scene on the patio?

Was it the murder of Mike? The depth to which Walt had sunk and his shock over taking such an action? Think of how many times he told people tonight a killing "had to be done" and wonder who he was trying to convince.

Was it the realization that it really is lonely at the top? That it truly might never end? That once New Mexico is conquered, there's the Czech Republic and then... who know where else? But always someplace else.

The most telling scene took place in that dark hotel room, with Todd's prison connections plotting multiple murders. How many other drug lords sat in a similar seat? How many more would do so in the future? Walt was akin to that picture on the wall, just the latest in an assembly line of kingpins. He wasn't special.

Was it Skyler's expertly-delivered speech? No yelling, no screaming, no real emotion; just her appeal to Walt's ego, using logic and even acknowledging all he had accomplished?

In a word: Yes. It was all these things. And, as a result, following two gorgeous montages (never thought I'd write that about a series of prison murders and meth cooks), to paraphrase a poet not named Walt Whitman: Walter White got out of the drug business not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Except for the big, shotgun-related bang we all know is coming next summer.

The episode was laced with call backs to previous developments: the fly buzzing on Walt's desk, the ticking watch Jesse gave him, the remembering between protege and mentor over their busted RV. It was a walk down Breaking Bad lane and it legitimately seemed like Walt was out. He would have cracked open a can of Schraderbrau for a barbecue everyday for the rest of his life, if not for that pesky bathroom read.

Did I expect the concluding scene of this run to be Hank sitting on the toilet? Not exactly. But it's perfect, really. Breaking Bad specializes in details above all else. Details and the consequences of every tiny action.

It wasn't gonna be some major screw up that connected the dots and finally led Hank to Walt. Of course it was going to be something small. That's the way this incredible show rolls. Even when Walt wants to be out, he can't be. He can't ever be, no matter how well he thinks he covered his steps. Damn that inertia, huh?

The title of this episode referred to a Whitman poem by the same name. It talks about nature, time, space and the "voyage of the soul," concluding with a reference to "death." We saw Walt coughing in the opening season of the Season 5 premiere. We saw him undergo another medical test today. Hank is now finally on to his brother-in-law.

Make no mistake, we all know how this will go. The mesmerizing voyage of Walter White's soul that we've all been witnessing will come to an end next summer. He is going to die. From the cancer? From Hank's bullet? We'll find out a year from now.

But the brilliance of Breaking Bad, as evidenced by how it took us to both an expected and unexpected place on the summer finale, is how it arrives at that destination.

Review

Editor Rating: 4.8 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 (230 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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A short review I wrote:
I finished watching Breaking Bad, the complete 4 seasons this weekend (2008-2013, a 5-year long TV Series by AMC). It is by far, hands down, the best Criminal TV Series I have seen in the last 20 years of watching film of my life. Ever since I was watching my first TV series at seven years old at home, there has never been a more facinating blow-you-out-of-the-water Criminal TV series for me. If you are a fan of Criminal-mystery/Gangster movies and series such as The Goodfellas, The Godfather, Minority Report, American Gangster, Pulp Fiction, Traffic, Leon the Professional, Nikita (2009) and many others in the similiar Criminal/Gangster/Mystery category of Film and Series, then don’t stop reading: Imagine all of the best sequences that you’ve experienced in your years of watching criminal movies and series and put them all together in one large basket of good movie memories of suspense, action, drama. Put those all together and add them up in you mind’s eye and you’ll come to the realization that some of the most intense scenery you’ve seen on-screen have been from the best crime movies out there. Put all of that together in your mind, and it will still not add up to the sum of intense suspense and drama you will experience from watching Breaking Bad. This TV series is an experience that will blow you away. Looking back at some classic directors such as Hitchcock; the old-fashioned famous thriller movie director, Spielberg; the modern-day but still one of the most famous criminal action/mystery/thriller directors in the past 15-20 years, George Lucas; for his Star Wars films the last 50 years, and Joel Surnow; La feme Nikita (‘90s TV series) they all have one aspect in common. They present to the viewer a ‘Get ready for it, here it comes!! - suspense intensity’ that is kind of expected to be found. The director wants you to expect it to enjoy what you are watching so that you crave more excitement. Director Vince Gilligan of Breaking Bad creates suspense in a wholly different manner. What you will experience while watching his series is a strung-out, slow-paced ‘Wait for it, the consequences will hit the fan a few episodes from now...’ Then when you expect the drama to play out, after he creates that mindset for you, it won’t happen. Dead stop. Why? Because later, instead, it will come back so hard and so intensely at the least expected moment, that it will practically knock you off of your seat. The intensity that Vince builds up for you is nothing short of genius. Figuratively describing this, as long as you’re paying attention, you will not believe how dramatic and strong the suspense comes and hits you right in the face and smacks you down onto the ground. Then after it hits you down, it then proceeds to take a bulldozer and flatten you until you’re about as thin as a coin, after which the coin is dropped into magma and liquidized. That’s a small taste of how this series will make you feel, in a good way. Given to say if you’re not focused and you’re not paying attention to an episode with scenes that happened two episodes ago, you’ll probably not remember what the consequence will become in the episode that you’re watching at present. If that's the case then don’t watch Breaking Bad because you don’t deserve it anyway. Don’t live life without experiencing maybe the best criminal TV series in today’s era, because it will probably change your life. Take a couple of weeks from your regular movies or series and watch the four seasons of Breaking Bad and you’ll agree, it was worth every single minute. Did I mention? It will change your life.

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Another forshadowing portion in the narrative was Hank's mention of his brewing as product in heavy demand. Walt should've taken the 5 million deal and walked. He could've used his brains and 5 million to create a legitimate empire. Heck I know I could with half his brain power. Walt his been surprisingly short sighted, but its his character. Now that his product is international and in "high demand" - he ain't walking away from nothing. Sounds like he'll have as much blood on his hands as his name sake.

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(Continued).... a critical clue, in my opinion, is an example of flying too far from the sun. If the heat doesn't get you, the cold will.

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I thought it was pretty careless for someone as detailed as Walter to leave that book in his bathroom, but it seems more realistic in my opinion because Walter was never more detailed then when it seemed like the world was about to cave in on him. His mistake proves he is human. What do most people do when they retire? Statistics show that if there is nothing meaningful to replace what a person has spent a lifetime doing to reach their retirement - they die sooner. In this case, the stress in the drug trade is enough for 10 lifetimes as Skyler stated it would probably take to spend the money acquired. The moment Walt chose to hang it up he let his guard down. It was his initial paranoia that caused his creativity to flow into genius evasion tactics and that was because the heat was on. Just as Walt was saying about Gustavo's personal message to him through slicing Victor's windpipe, about flying to close to the sun. Walt's decision to hang up his hat and Hank catching on to a critical clue is an example of flying too far away from the sun. If the heat doesn't get you, the cold will.

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I think that there is a piece of Walt who wants to be found out. "say my name?", the discussions with various characters in the know about what Walt has accomplished, how he always has to check himself and say "we" instead of "I" when talking about the meth.... I think that it is an egotistical move, believing that Hank was not clever enough to figure it out and if he did, I think part of Walt knows that he is going to die soon as well. He will NOT want to go having family members believe he is a gambling addict. As for the rushed kingpin idea, I don't know about any of you but I did not need to see any more of Walt's happy empire with Todd as a fake Jessie than what I was shown. I don't want to see Walt's successes after his disposal of Mike, Jessie, Skylar and Saul, each in their own depressing manner. everyone I have grown to care about have been disguarded by Walt and I look forward to watching his demise.

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Still trying to figure out the lily of the Valley plant.,and what did happen to that special cigarette that was Jessie's

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@the guy who put his name as "Feedback" cont.... the book as evidence, "G.B" could be ANYBODY in his eyes. I highly doubt he'd figure that if hank finds the book, he'll associate "WW" with the same "WW" in Gale's diary. However on the same note of realism, the ending can still be seen as "realistic."

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@the guy who put his name as "Feedback" It's understandable that you feel as though the ending is less than "admirable" but it's not exactly unrealistic. First and foremost, I think Hanmk finding the book and making the connection instead of through "Investigative work" so awesome and brilliant. Do you really want the repetitive "We're going to come to your house and search you? And we find out you're the guy with he meth empire, and bam you're arrested." type of ending? No. Yes realism is important to many people in these types of TV shows, including me, but you can't expect EVERY aspect of the show to be realistic, this IS tv we're talking about. Saying "Walt's too smart to leave a book there" is like saying "Gustavo is too smart to not figure out a bomb was going to be attached to that old guys(Hector I think?) chair (Sorry, I'm awful with remembering names)". I don't care who you are, you're not going to pay attention to EVERY single detail in your entire life. Walt didn't see the book as evidence, "G.B" could be ANYBODY in his eyes. I highly doubt he'd figure that if hank finds the book, he'll associate "WW" with the same "WW" in Gale's diary. However on the same note of realism, the ending can still be seen as "realistic." A guy (Hank) sits at the toilet and naturally looks for material to read. The first magazine looks boring, so he gets a new one. However, in this case it was a book. Book looks interesting, look at the pages. Although I do find it random how he only flipped the pages without even glancing at them, then just happening to want to look at the "Dedication page", it's still a believable scenario. Lastly, the part where Hank immediately makes the connection to the episode where Walter goes "You got me", we've all made connections like that in our lives. We see something, and go "Wait a minute, did't so and so do this, or whatever". basically without prolonging my point, the ending is absolutely "realistic", and was in fact, brilliant.

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To elaborate on your first idea. I think Walt finally achieved find peace and happiness because he finally came to the realization of "Now what?" That or he finally felt that he accomplished what he set out to do. Earlier in the season (Season 5) he was talking with Jesse, about how what happened with him and Grey Matter. He always felt like he never accomplished ANYTHING in life because of that (Buying out early). Because of this, he felt as though he wouldn't stop the meth empire until he was at the top. The majority of the time, he was just trying to fill that void he'd been missing since he bought out his share of grey Matter. He wanted to have that feeling of "Being at the top" which again he felt he missed because of his buyout. I say "Majority" because the whole reason he started the whole meth ordeal, in his words was to leave enough money for his family to cover any and every expense in the future for his family when he was gone. Essentially, he's finally set out to do what he wanted. He got all the money he could ever want, he's "AT THE TOP", and he and his family are safe now. (So he thinks I guess).

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So Walter doesn't look over his shoulders anymore? In the same episode, he just killed 10 men to avoid any of them ratting him out. And that was just a few months after blowing up his lab and destroying a computer with a giant magnet to make sure the DEA never found out. The reason Hank has never been able to catch Walt even though he was right under his nose was because Walt has always been ridiculously attentive to every detail. He was as paranoid as they come. Having him keep a book Gale personally signed in his bathroom is a ridiculous cop-out. Not only is it completely unbelievable on Walt's part, it is a cheap moment for Hank who instead of solving this case with top-notch investigative work, ended up "figuring it out" by having it spelled out in front of him due to a lucky happenstance. It was a cop-out ending, and it's sad coming from a show I admire so much.

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