Breaking Bad Review: A Proper Goodbye

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Breaking Bad owns a place in the pantheon of all-time television shows for a number of reasons, from its acting to its direction to its attention to detail.

But what set the AMC series apart from nearly every other drama in history was its simplicity: this was a story about one man, one journey, one devolution from Mr. Chips to Scarface, as Vince Gilligan first sold it as to Bryan Cranston back in the day.

So it was fitting, albeit not overly heart-pounding, for "Felina" to be a relatively quiet and especially simple way for Breaking Bad to go out.

Like a majority of fans predicted as the past few weeks unfolded, Walt came home; used the machine gun on Uncle Jack and his crew; the Ricin on Lydia; freed Jesse; and died. That was it. No big twists, no real twists or turns. Just as Gilligan had a mission and a singular vision when he created the show, so too did Walter White on its final episode.

Breaking Bad Finale Photo

The best show I'll likely ever see in my lifetime is over, its main character is dead - and yet there's little to actually say about the episode itself. The story was as tight and as basic as could be. Pretty much exactly what many believed would happen did happen.

Was Walter White redeemed? I don't think so. I don't think that was ever Gilligan's intent.

Yes, he found a way to deliver his money to his children... but he did so by putting Gretchen and Elliott on edge for the rest of their lives. And, yes, he seemed to offer up a mini prayer in the opening scene, asking someone out there to help him get home... but his goal once he arrived there was to murder a whole lot of people.

There shouldn't be any debate over whether Walter White was a good person. He wasn't. But he wasn't evil, either. It made sense all along that he wouldn't think of killing Hank or Jesse, that he would keep his wedding band around his neck and he'd tear up over Holly or Walt Jr.

Walt was a narcissist. He was an insecure egomaniac. He was a control freak and a liar and a master manipulator. But Uncle Jack and his Neo-Nazi posse were evil. They killed anyone at any time, they gave no thought to life or death or anything except the bottom monetary line. Heck, they took pleasure in it.

But Walt was self-delusional and self-centered. No line in the finale, of course, was more telling than his admission that he became The One Who Knocks for himself, not for his family. He liked it. He was good at it. It replaced the bitter void that had developed inside of him ever since he left the business with Elliott and Gretchen and was reduced to a chemistry teacher and part-time car wash employee.

Walt may have saved Jesse's life (and was that even his intention going in? The best assumption he could have made was that Jesse really was Jack's partner, in which case you've gotta think he originally meant for Jesse to be gunned down with everyone else until he saw the shackles) but he didn't go out a hero. He didn't go out a cackling villain, either. He just... went out. He died by his own bullets, which may have been a disappointment to those hoping Jesse would cap him (bitch!), but it was appropriate, wasn't it? Without meaning to, Walter White killed himself. Doesn't that sum the character right up?

Isn't that what the entire series has been about? A man who thought he could control every situation, who consistently convinced himself he was in the right, sucking the life out of himself and those around him little by little?

The ending felt appropriate. There was nothing flashy or complicated about it because Breaking Bad has spent a season with its foot on the accelerator. It's been just like Walt in the face of Hank learning his secret: frenzied, all over the place, jumping from one dire situation to the next. A few weeks ago,  Gilligan himself admitted to TV Fanatic that "Ozymandias" was the best episode the show has ever done, not the finale.

The season didn't build and build toward a suspenseful finale; instead, the finale was a culmination of eight episodes in which both the lead character and the lead writer knew the end was in sight. And after doing everything possible to rail against that fact, to shoot down any claim that the journey was over, both Walt and Gilligan took a breath here and admitted:

It is over. The story is finished. There are no more tricks to play or schemes to hatch. Again, very simple. Very tidy.

And very rewarding for fans of Jesse Pinkman. He had to live. He had been through too much to end up dead or enslaved for the rest of his life. The futures of a widowed Marie and a poor Skyler may not be bright - and all the Blue sales in the world might not be able to sufficiently pay for the therapy Jesse needs - but viewers were at least treated to the welcome sight of this tortured character speeding away, free, a tear-filled mixture of shock, happiness and relief washing over his face as our last sight of him.

This wasn't a jaw-dropping finale, but that's largely because it was a jaw-dropped television show. Gilligan didn't save any rounds for the concluding episode. He emptied them as he went along. Episodes and seasons weren't crafted with a bombshell reveal in mind; there was never anything contrived to tease the following week. The series was logical and detailed and precise, taking viewers on the journey of a chemistry teacher who believed he worked the same way.

Unlike The Sopranos and unlike Lost, this isn't a finale we'll be talking about for months and years to come. We'll be talking instead about the series as a whole. Much like Walter White on everyone he touched, it left a significant mark on the TV landscape.

What did you think of the Breaking Bad finale?


Editor Rating: 4.1 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 (216 Votes)

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


Great review! Spot on! Fair well Breaking Bad. Thank god for The Walking Dead.


@Kim, I must disagree with you that Walt kept everyone he loved safe. In the finale, you can see just how broken Skyler and Marie were. They may have excaped with their lives, but their lives will never be the same. Because of Walt, directly and indirectly, they were subjected to horror and terror that left them both in pieces. He was a malignant tumor in the lives of everyone who came into contact with him.


I did not think it possible, but in the finale I was actually rooting for Walt again. Not to escape the fate which he had created for himself, but to take down with him the other b@$+@rd$ who had been part of his dark path. They were all equally deserving of their demise. There was something wickedly satisfying that Walt got to deliver their just desserts.


I don’t understand why you say Walter has not been redeemed or that he’s not a hero. He admitted the lie to Skyler (that he was doing it all for his family, the lie he told himself to justify his actions), he let go of Jesse, by admitting he wanted him to pull that trigger.
He saved Jesse and destroyed the Blue Meth production at the root. I also don’t agree that he was an egomaniacal narcissist. Maybe in season 5, but before Gus’ death, Walter kept seeing all his plans go awry from some unexpected situation, and his genius has always been how he deals with the unexpected, on the fly. He began as a real loser (rewatch eps 1-2 from season 1!) and built everything himself, out of nothing, in a very dangerous world while keeping everyone he loved safe. I’m also against the idea of his need for control and how it’s so terrible that even in the end he was controlling his fate. He didn’t count on Jesse being Todd’s bitch. He didn’t count on getting a stray bullet in the gut. He expected his plan to fail, and die. But he wiped out the Nazis and blue meth in one swift stroke, and if that bullet had missed him, he would be in custody heading for the electric chair. Like everything on this show, his plan went south. Only this time he didn’t come up with a way out. A marvelous character.


I only started watching this because I was so curious as to what the hype was all about. I watched the entire show in 16 days until I caught up with the last few episodes, never wanting to know what was going to happen from one episode to the next until I saw it. It is truly one of the most addicting shows in history. The ending was amazing, albeit it would have been lovely to have Walt dying on the beach on some secluded island with his family and Jesse by his side. But this show was anything but lovely, wasn't it? Bravo.


There will never be another show like it! This show was so addictive!! I love, it love it!!


Great show, appropriate ending, Jesse is free finally and Walt bascially did himself in b4 the cancer did


People sometimes clap in a movie theatre at the end of a good film. I always thought it was ridiculous: the actors and director aren't there to receive the applause, so what's the point? Last night as the screen zoomed out on Walt's face as he lay on the ground, while the police moved toward him, all wary with their guns out, I applauded. What an amazing series. Has Vince Gilligan set the bar too high for other programs? We'll have to see. Anyone who would meet that bar must first have a vision, and the will to see it through from A to Z, as he did.


I only started watching BB this past summer, and actually haven't seen most of the earlier episodes, but I fell in love with it as if I had been following it from Day 1. I was happy with the way Gilligan wrapped things up, and I thank him for creating one of the very best shows ever!


RIP Breaking Bad!! You will surely be missed :.(
The episode was simple but perfect! I was satisfied with the ending.
I cant believe there wont be anymore of BB.

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