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Subject: Breaking Bad Finale Discussion -- Season 5 Ep 16 "Felina" [Spoilers] rss

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Brian Bankler
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I binged on the first few seasons of Breaking Bad, but I watched the last 10 in real time. There's something to be said for both. By binging, I tend to avoid a lot of good shows that start off strong, but then fade.

Vince Gilligan didn't reveal much prior to this, but I saw he said something like "Sometimes the ending you expect is the best." And the finale felt like clockwork. It set everything up in the first few minutes, then sat back as characters talked, smoked cigarettes, reminisced, and said goodbye. All major plot points had been set up episodes in advance.

And then the blood was let.

Breaking Bad has the most satisfying ending of any show I've ever seen. We got to see all the main characters, but without any histrionics. We even got Badger and Skinny Pete.

I have no idea if Walter's plan to get the money to Junior will work. I'm happy with that ambiguity. I don't think Walter is convinced it will work, but whether he views it as a hail mary, or just minor vengeance against Elliot and Gretchen (who didn't deserve to die, but did annoy him) with a side chance of a nice bonus.

I liked that Walter succeeded with his plan to see people because he stayed in the shadows, for once controlling his ego that has gotten the better of him the entire series. That was capped off by Jesse's "Say that you want this."

Killing Nazis may be cheap catharsis. But catharsis at any price is fine.

And my wife "Do you think the Ricin is in the Stevia?" "Well, the show certainly wants me to think that." A good enough place for it.

My only problem, and it's been one for the entire final season, is that it was tough to understand some of the lines. I may watch it again with subtitles. I certainly plan on revisiting the entire series, perhaps in a year or two.
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So much of this half-season has been speculation. Who will do what? When will it happen? What about the ricin and the gun? Who are they for? What about Jessie and Walt? Will they get away?

And most importantly: Will Walt redeem himself?

The answers came with last night's episode, and it reminded me just how wild a ride this entire show has been.

What did I get right? Well, I had guessed that the gun was for Uncle Jack and his crew. For a gang that relies so much on firepower, the kind of heat Walt packed in his car was the most obvious response. I also guessed correctly that the two gunmen on Gretchen and Elliott were Badger and Skinny Pete, but only when I saw them run across the road back to the car.

What did I get wrong? The ricin, for one. Despite the fact that Walt had gone to her house to kill her in episodes past, Lydia never really seemed like a threat. She seemed too mousy and unsure of herself. But she was a connection, and one that had to be removed. I also figured that Jessie would be the one to kill Walt, but the writers surprised me again with that one. He came close, but I guess killing Todd was all he had left in him to do.

What surprised me? I didn't expect Walt to use Gretchen and Elliott as a means to get the money to his family. I figured he was going to go full Heisenberg on them and use the ricin on them. And what a scene that was, I should add. That cold, calculating menace he achieved without even raising his voice was brilliant. Neither did I see Todd's death at the hands of Jessie coming. I should have; Todd had put Jessie through so much that it was impossible for it not to happen that way, but I'll be damned if it didn't catch me by surprise. And I had forgotten about that lottery ticket, but I'll be damned if Walt didn't be a man about it and give that closure to Marie. I also noticed that Walt killed Uncle Jack the same way Uncle Jack killed Hank -- mid-sentence, with a shot to the head after being wounded.

What made me cry? The scene between Walt and Skyler. I was glad to see Walt own up to what motivated him to do what he did and say it was all about him. The fact that Skyler could still find it in her to be somewhat sympathetic to him was touching, and Walt had a chance to see his entire family before he went off to end everything. And I won't lie to you; I cried when Walt died. I knew it was the only way things could end, but it still made me sad. The biggest question of all was if Walt would redeem himself, and the fact that I could still cry over him tells me that he did. Despite all the horrible things he had done, in the end his final decisions were made for the right reasons.
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Verkisto wrote:
I also guessed correctly that the two gunmen on Gretchen and Elliott were Badger and Skinny Pete, but only when I saw them run across the road back to the car.


I too guessed that one. I usually enjoy their banter but I felt the humor in it broke the seriousness of the scene for me.

Verkisto wrote:

Despite the fact that Walt Mike had gone to her house to kill her in episodes past, Lydia never really seemed like a threat.


Agree. I suppose it had to happen. My wife had an interesting response: she wanted to see Lydia sicker. When Walt mentioned she was a schedule-driven individual I called the Stevia. Especially when he seemed to simply just walk away from the encounter.

Verkisto wrote:

What surprised me? I didn't expect Walt to use Gretchen and Elliott as a means to get the money to his family. I figured he was going to go full Heisenberg on them and use the ricin on them. And what a scene that was, I should add. That cold, calculating menace he achieved without even raising his voice was brilliant.


I expected Walt to link Gray Matter to the production of the blue meth to bring them down so, yes, I was surprised as well.

Verkisto wrote:

Neither did I see Todd's death at the hands of Jessie coming.


As soon as I saw Todd hit the deck and him not getting shot like everyone else, you had to know Jessie was going to get his chance.

I'm glad Walt seemed to recognize he'd hit bottom and did his best to head uphill again. I felt the last 10 minutes were very rushed and the big gun contrived. It did manage to wrap everything up in a bow. I would have liked to have seen Hank play a bigger role in the end. I missed seeing Saul. Was he in the final episode?
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Brian Bankler
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matthew.marquand wrote:
I would have liked to have seen Hank play a bigger role in the end. I missed seeing Saul. Was he in the final episode?


I thought the brief flash of Hank was appropriate. I had actually expected more flashbacks in this episode, perhaps a full flashback with Hank or maybe Jesse. (Jesse already got the flashback treatment in 'Ozymandias' I believe).

Saul wasn't in it. I like the fact that he went to the Vacuum guy and then stayed disappeared.
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How I wanted it to end: Walt completely gets away with it while staying evil, guilt-free, in business and cancer-free to the end. One of my favorite movies is Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors. Escape is great but every once and awhile it would be nice for the popular culture to not only show that good people can "break bad" (as this show amazingly did) but that sometimes evil wins.

But that wasn't going to be possible in the last episode with how the rest of season 5 went, so I wasn't disappointed at all with the finale. Compare it to Lost or BSG!

Like you all, I especially loved Walt's explanation of why he did it and the scene at the Schwartz's.
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shumyum wrote:

Compare it to Lost or BSG!


My actual words to my wife after we watched the episode:

"That definitively proves that Ron Moore had no hand in this show."

She had no idea what I meant.
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shumyum
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I suppose I could Google this, but during the series was there ever a detailed scene explaining why Walt left Gray Matter? Was it an affair/infatuation with Gretchen? I've been watching off and on since Season 1 actually aired so I don't remember it (or missed it) if it happened. If not, I was kind of hoping it would happen in the finale (and it would be juicy).
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Brian Bankler
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shumyum wrote:
I suppose I could Google this, but during the series was there ever a detailed scene explaining why Walt left Gray Matter? Was it an affair/infatuation with Gretchen? I've been watching off and on since Season 1 actually aired so I don't remember it (or missed it) if it happened. If not, I was kind of hoping it would happen in the finale (and it would be juicy).


I don't think it happened on screen. There was Walter's comment -- "I can count on you for this?" which kind of implied some past thing that Walter feels he was swindled on. And of course there was his Empire speech, but no. He was dating Gretchen. I believe she's supposed to be the young woman in he's talking to in the 2nd (3rd?) episode of S1 when he's listing the elements of the human body. I didn't catch that until it was pointed out to me. But I believe the romantic relationship was supposed to be never stated but strongly implied by the first season or two.

I have read in interviews that a backstory about Walter and Gretchen was fleshed out (spoilers, I suppose)
Spoiler (click to reveal)
they were almost engaged but he felt inferior when he met her 'old money' family and basically stormed out of the relationship because of it
but it never appeared on screen, I think.
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The ending I felt was completely appropriate. Like had been mentioned earlier, no surprises really.

And that was good.

I watched with about 6 other people so at commercial break we would discuss. I figured out the getting his money to his family by using the Schwartz's almost right away in that scene. I did figure he hired hitmen but seeing Badger and Skinny Pete gave them their final piece in the story (which made sense).

No real final story for Brock but I don't know how that would have happened. Maybe his final piece kept Jesse from killing himself?

Sort of sad it's over but, for me, the beauty of this series was that is was going to end. To me, it was a very long movie with a beginning and an end.

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Bankler wrote:
Saul wasn't in it. I like the fact that he went to the Vacuum guy and then stayed disappeared.


I was hoping to see something like an old dilapidated billboard, with half of his face ripped off. Or just something about him, without him actually appearing.
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I thought it was great, but not epic - and I'm happy with that. They didn't mess it up. Ozymandias was epic, and this just played things out to a nice conclusion.

I especially liked that Jessie didn't kill Walt. I think it's because Walt wanted him to do it and Jessie was tired of doing what Walt wanted him to do. A last act of defiance.

I really thought Marie was going to do something important in the episode, just to give her character some narrative importance to wrap up the series. That is probably my only gripe.
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The more I think about the finale, the more I like it. It was pretty much everything I had hoped would happen, but didn't actually expect to have happen.

Also, this has been floating around a bit after the previous episode, but there's apparently a quote from Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium (two copies of the movie in the NH cabin) that seems pretty perfect:
Quote:
When King Lear dies in Act V, do you know what Shakespeare has written? He's written "He dies." That's all, nothing more. No fanfare, no metaphor, no brilliant final words. The culmination of the most influential work of dramatic literature is "He dies." It takes Shakespeare, a genius, to come up with "He dies." And yet every time I read those two words, I find myself overwhelmed with dysphoria. And I know it's only natural to be sad, but not because of the words "He dies." but because of the life we saw prior to the words.

Apparently Vince Gilligan wasn't aware of that quote from the movie, so it seems more coincidence than anything. But still, kind of beautifully appropriate.

And, finally, the song, from which the title of the episode came, and what plays during the episode:


A song about a cowboy who gets in a gunfight and gets shot in the side, but manages to ride back to his love, Felina, and die in her arms. Walt's true love was chemistry (Fe Li Na), the final scene where he pats the tank and then collapses in one of the only places he truly felt alive.

So good.
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Are you curious about what happened after the credits (not schawarma)?
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Keggy wrote:
Bankler wrote:
Saul wasn't in it. I like the fact that he went to the Vacuum guy and then stayed disappeared.


I was hoping to see something like an old dilapidated billboard, with half of his face ripped off. Or just something about him, without him actually appearing.


I heard he was getting his own spinoff series, so figured that is why his storyline was vague at the end. I imagine the pilot will pick-up where he and Walt parted ways.
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Kilgore_Smores wrote:
Keggy wrote:
Bankler wrote:
Saul wasn't in it. I like the fact that he went to the Vacuum guy and then stayed disappeared.


I was hoping to see something like an old dilapidated billboard, with half of his face ripped off. Or just something about him, without him actually appearing.


I heard he was getting his own spinoff series, so figured that is why his storyline was vague at the end. I imagine the pilot will pick-up where he and Walt parted ways.


Actually Gilligan has said Better Call Saul will take place well before the events of Breaking Bad.
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Kafka wrote:
Kilgore_Smores wrote:
Keggy wrote:
Bankler wrote:
Saul wasn't in it. I like the fact that he went to the Vacuum guy and then stayed disappeared.


I was hoping to see something like an old dilapidated billboard, with half of his face ripped off. Or just something about him, without him actually appearing.


I heard he was getting his own spinoff series, so figured that is why his storyline was vague at the end. I imagine the pilot will pick-up where he and Walt parted ways.


Actually Gilligan has said Better Call Saul will take place well before the events of Breaking Bad.


It had better! I need more Huell. And Saul the lawyer is much more interesting than Saul the Cinnabon manager.
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I don't know how accurate that is. He couldn't very well tell us that it was after BB. Then we would know that Saul lived. There was a point in time we weren't sure about that.

Imagine Saul running his Cinnabon and things from this coming back to haunt him. Could be interesting.

Or give me a pre-BB show about Saul that has a different adventure every week X-Files style. That could be fun.
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stormseeker75 wrote:
I don't know how accurate that is. He couldn't very well tell us that it was after BB. Then we would know that Saul lived. There was a point in time we weren't sure about that.

Imagine Saul running his Cinnabon and things from this coming back to haunt him. Could be interesting.

Or give me a pre-BB show about Saul that has a different adventure every week X-Files style. That could be fun.


If it means Mike can come back, then I choose prequel over sequel 100%.
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Although I enjoyed season 5 I preferred the end of season 4. I thought it made a novel change to have the murdering drug dealer actually getting away with it for a change. Season 5 felt a bit like someone getting leaned on to tell the 'crime doesn’t pay' story. Again.
Also, Walts plan to kill Fring was much more believable than the 'I hope they're all standing in the right place and we don't meet in a basement of 1st floor' plan.
And the bit with Badger and Skinny Pete really felt contrived.
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Greendan wrote:
And the bit with Badger and Skinny Pete really felt contrived.


He's used Badger and Skinny Pete for small jobs before, like when they needed the gig boxes for Vamanos Pest.
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A thoughtful analysis of the finale:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/monkeysee/2013/09/30/227740741/brea...

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Sinister Dexter wrote:


tl;dr: She liked the finale of Lost. She didn't like the finale of Breaking Bad.
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Following @NormMcDonald I see he's been going on about a rather interesting theory.

Walter White froze to death in a car in New Hampshire, and the rest of the final episode is his dying hope/fantasy.

(Emily Nussbaum also wrote that she hoped that was the intent, see http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2013/09/breaki...)

This theory works pretty well and is fairly satisfying. Still pondering it.
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ejmowrer wrote:
stormseeker75 wrote:
I don't know how accurate that is. He couldn't very well tell us that it was after BB. Then we would know that Saul lived. There was a point in time we weren't sure about that.

Imagine Saul running his Cinnabon and things from this coming back to haunt him. Could be interesting.

Or give me a pre-BB show about Saul that has a different adventure every week X-Files style. That could be fun.


If it means Mike can come back, then I choose prequel over sequel 100%.


One imagines Gustavo Fring would be occasionally present as well.
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Bankler wrote:
Walter White froze to death in a car in New Hampshire, and the rest of the final episode is his dying hope/fantasy.


The problem with that theory is that there's no evidence whatsoever to back it up. If you want to start playing that game, you could pick any point in the entire show and say that's where the dream starts.
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