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.
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.