‘Breaking Bad’: “I Did It For Me”

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Vince Gilligan made sure the ending to Breaking Bad, arguably one of the greatest television shows of all time, was neat. It was clean. There were few questions (although not none) and none of that open-endedness that is often associated with quality dramas (most famously The Sopranos).

Breaking Bad sought to wrap up every loose end you could think of. Wondering what happened to Badger and Skinny Pete? Easy–Walt paid them to shine lasers into Gretchen and Elliott’s living room to make them believe hit men could kill them at any time. And speaking of Elliott and Gretchen, they’re back in the picture too, just long enough to pass Walt’s drug money on to his son. Lydia’s oft-referenced obsessive compulsive need for Stevia plays into the ricin poisoning. Marie will be able to know where Hank was buried.

And on and on. You want closure? You got it.

Except for one person, of course. Jesse. I’ve been a little obsessive with my focus on Jesse this season. I devoted more space to him on here than his screen time ratio allowed for. I understand that it’s Walt’s story, but for me, it’s always been about Jesse.

So what about Jesse? In a moment unplanned, Walt saves him. Jesse frees himself of the cuffs (a significant choice on Gilligan’s part), strangles his captor Todd, and decides not to kill Walt. He refuses to follow his orders, and then he breaks free of his hell, laughing or crying or both, probably.

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Before Aaron Paul cleared it up in Talking Bad, I wondering whether that short clip of Jesse crafting a box was a flash forward, a flashback, or a dream sequence. I hoped it was a flash forward–giving some sort of insight into Jesse’s future. But if it was only a dream sequence, as Paul said, what do we know about Jesse? He’s a wanted criminal. He has no money or family or help to his name. His life could still very well turn out terribly. I know, I know, you’re arguing that after living on a leash on Nazi prison for God knows how long, Jesse will appreciate his freedom and his life. But is that enough? Hasn’t Jesse endured all he ever should? I wish that sequence was a flash forward.

As for Walt, I say these last two episodes felt rushed. We got all our closure, but it felt almost like running down a checklist, hitting as many boxes as possible before time ran out. Breaking Bad might be one of the few shows in history that actually understayed its welcome.

What I was grateful for was that final shot. You might mistake the finale–“Felina”–as a redemptive episode for Walt. It is absolutely not. He gave Skyler a moment of honesty, telling her he did it for himself. Meth cooking made him feel alive. He was the best at it.

So even though Walt saved Jesse, even though he was honest with Skyler, got his money to his children, and said goodbye to his daughter, he was still a man who chose to die within his beloved meth lab. He loved being Heisenberg. Despite what it did to his life and his family, he still loved it. This finale episode didn’t redeem him–it buried him. He died not of cancer, but of a gunshot wound from his own gun. What a fitting way for Walter White to die: killed by Heisenberg himself.

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