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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???

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Episode 16 - Felina

2 October 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt drives to New Mexico and visits Gretchen and Elliot. He gives them his money and tells them to pass it on to Walter Jr. He barges in on Todd and Lydia’s meeting and asks them to let him teach them a new method for making meth. Then he visits Skyler and hands over the coordinates to Hank’s burial site. Finally he heads over to the neo-Nazi compound and puts his machine gun to good use.

The Good: This was an immensely satisfying if predictable finale.

It made little sense for Walt to try and hurt Gretchen and Elliot. Instead he sees them as his last resort for passing on money to his children. The pacing and framing of that sequence was excellent as he strolled into their home and poked around. There was also something cathartic about seeing Walt get a measure of revenge on his old partners. I doubt they deserved to be scared but from our point of view it was closure to see him finally turn his bitterness into something productive. I also liked the irony that they were so terrified of him when they probably could have held him down and called the police (given his physical state). It tied back nicely to the person Walt used to be. Seeing him play a New York Times journalist added to that. After five seasons of pretending to be a hardened criminal Walt is a terrifying figure to his middle class friends. And yet part of him is still very much that guy and we know how weak he really is.

Relying on Skinny Pete and Badger was a pleasant double cameo and an effective demonstration of both his weakened state and his attempt to get what he wanted without actually harming innocent people.

That sense of the character reaching closure continued with the brief flashback to the pilot. The reminder that the death of Hank was the real end for Heisenberg led to the melancholy resignation of his goodbye scene with Skyler. She played her defeat well. His admission that much of his breaking bad was for him was a big moment. Once he’d admitted that, at last telling her the whole truth, she was willing to take the leverage he was offering her (the coordinates) in the spirit it was intended. The final glimpses of his children were necessary farewells and the gorgeous shot of his image disappearing from the laundry window was lovely.

Then came the slaughter of the Nazis. No doubt it was extremely satisfying to see them gunned down. There was little surprise but some joy in seeing Walt save Jesse and the latter strangle Todd. Jesse got to finally refuse Walt’s orders and free himself which was about the best we could hope for him at this point.

The Bad: I don’t think any of this was bad. It was exactly what was expected.

The Unknown: That will bother some viewers. We all remember the twists we didn’t see coming and so instinctively hope that a finale will blow us away. This was nothing like that. This was a long goodbye to Walter White which ticked all the boxes left open. The ricin for Lydia was the dullest and most logical use for it. The machine gun in the trunk was of course aimed squarely at Uncle Jack and his boys. It wasn’t Walt’s best plan. It relied on him quickly understanding the layout of the club house, being allowed to get his keys back and no other members of the gang being stationed anywhere else on the compound. But really does any of that matter? Walter White righted his wrongs as best he could. He killed everyone who had hurt him and who would continue to produce his meth.

Then he died. I would by sympathetic to anyone who argued that this was almost too happy an ending for Walt. After all the pain he caused others shouldn’t he have suffered more? Perhaps losing his family, reputation and life were enough. But this certainly left the character at a moment of pyrrhic triumph.

As some have already pointed out the real fall of Walter White was across To'hajiilee and Ozymandias. These last two episodes have largely been about providing complete closure for every plot point. It’s interesting to look back and see clearly that Breaking Bad was always about Walter White in Vince Gilligan’s mind. Jesse and Hank grew to be characters that we loved but they were never meant to be as big a part of the story as most viewers assumed. Their great moment of deceiving Walt was given far less attention than the aftermath of Heisenberg’s fall. That will always remain a weakness in the show’s conclusion in my mind. However I am not complaining about the conclusiveness of this finale. Would I have liked an episode dedicated to the sting which trapped Walt? Yes. But would I have wanted the show to end on Ozymandias and leave us guessing how Walt’s life ended? No.

From the pilot onwards I have consistently questioned the value of flashforwards. Even the slightest tease can take away from the surprise which catches viewers out and sticks long in the memory. I don’t think the two flashforwards this season added anything beyond endless viewer speculation. The finale was predictable as a result. Logical and pleasing yes but with little of the tension which marked the show’s best episodes.

Best Moment: Maybe that shot of Walt walking away from his last look at his son. One of those moments when the direction added hugely to the emotion being conveyed.

The Bottom Line: Breaking Bad sits comfortably alongside Lost and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as one of the four best dramas I’ve ever seen. In the end I don’t think it threatened The Wire for true impact. It did however provide a far more in depth look at a couple of characters and several brilliant standalone episodes. I desperately hope the legacy of the show is to encourage more networks to trust show runners with a unique vision. And in turn that show runners would have an ending in mind when they begin a story and leave no stone unturned in searching for the logic in a situation. I will miss the show a lot.

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  • Ah, good call. Obvs I was thinking of their first meeting. That explains how Walt knew where the club house meeting spot would be.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 09/10/2013 9:03pm (6 years ago)

  • I checked; they definitely had met at the clubhouse. You can see the pool table so prominent in "Felina" in the background during the scene in "To'hajiilee".

    Posted by Matt E., 09/10/2013 5:40pm (6 years ago)

  • I think they were in a motel. Isn't that what Walt says about the art on the wall?

    Posted by The TV Critic, 07/10/2013 9:34pm (6 years ago)

  • Just one question. I heard in this podcast and I read somewhere else that Walt had never been to Jacks place before, but I thought that he had been in the club house in tojajiilee, when he and Jack discussed the terms of the hit on Jesse? I could be wrong, but I assumed that's where they were and that's how Walt was able to find the place in felina.

    Posted by Dan B, 07/10/2013 8:01pm (6 years ago)

  • Great way to finish things off. I`m glad all loose ends were tied up and they stuck to their guns. Will miss this show!

    Out of curiosity, Robin, just wondering in your experience with critiquing shows, have you often come across an episode so late in the game like Granite State which has scored as high or higher than earlier episodes? I think it is rare for a show to keep its quality like Breaking Bad has in the final 8 episodes and I`m interested if there have been other cases where you have scored later episodes very highly. Not sure if I`m too late for the podcast! Cheers

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Mike, 02/10/2013 10:56pm (6 years ago)

  • I would like to hear your take on the ending song when walt was dying.

    the song felt off for me, the lyrics were kinda suiting but the music delivered more of a good old times vibe while all i could think of were those broken lives.

    in hindsight the andrea murder was too much for me. the show established well enough that jessy was at his lowest point when being tortured.
    i would have appreciated if in the ending jessy at least knew there was a safe haven out there even if he wouldn't be part of it.

    instead he has nowhere to return to but two friends who are still in the same mindset they used to be since season 1.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by willi, 02/10/2013 4:59pm (6 years ago)

  • Unfortunately I don't have a lot of time so I have to keep this brief. Overall I really enjoyed this episode. There is a part of me that wanted something a little darker and less forgiving to end Walt's story, but this worked too well for me to complain. I thought some parts were absolutely perfect, especially the entire scene with Skylar, Walt jr and Holly. It had me really emotional as did the final moments he shared with Jesse. I also really liked how creepy the first 15 minutes or so were. When Walt sat in the car and whispered "just get me there. I'll do the rest." it didnt seem to me like he was praying to God but rather that Heisenberg was speaking to Walt. It reminded me of the moments from Lord of the Rings when the two personalities of Golem communicated with each other. And after that, for a short while I thought Walt might actually be planning on murdering Gretchen and Elliot which made for a couple of unsettling but very cool scenes. I have to run, thanks so much for your reviews, Robin. It's been a lot of fun listening. I will definitely post for the blog on the entire series.

    Viewer score: 87 / 100

    Posted by Dan B, 02/10/2013 3:43pm (6 years ago)

  • This wasn't necessarily the finale I expected or even wanted, but I must say - after the merciless devastation of the last two episodes, I think this was the finale I needed. Walt had gone too far to really achieve redemption but this final grace note episode offered a little hope and relief to the characters who survived him. He can't undo the damage he's done to both Skyler and Jesse but he can at least admit that his motivations have always been selfish and free them both from the gaslighting treatment he has imposed on them for so long.

    There were a couple of bum notes like Lydia's clunky predictable poisoning but largely everything felt right and cathartic in this final episode. I love the irony of Walt only being able to give his family the money through Gretchen and Elliot's charity, the charity Walt could have taken from the start and spared them from so much misery. I also like that there are no guarantees that Elliot and Gretchen will follow Walt's orders or that Skyler will not be convicted for her part in Walt's crimes or that poor Jesse will ever truly recover and make a fresh start somewhere. But there's a chance that Walt's demise will mark the end of the horrors in their lives and that from now on things might slowly get better for them.

    I'm rating this as an 90. It doesn't top the dramatic high point of 'Ozymandias' for me but it offered me a very satisfying sense of closure and release. It reminded me of the wonderful 'Six Feet Under' finale which was equally unsurprising yet closed in the way that was most true to the show's spirit. So grateful for that. And thanks as ever for these podcasts Robin.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 02/10/2013 10:07am (6 years ago)

  • After realising that this season was increasing in quality overall and especially after the greatness of Ozymandias, I came to the conclusion that I didn`t have any expectations for the finale. However Gilligan wanted to end it (unless he decided to employ something extremely out there) would work for me and decided to sit back and enjoy the ride. I`m so happy to see a series go out the way it came in with a clear direction. Ozymandias was the climax for me and Granite State and Felina were a completely organic way to show the fallout and wrapup of events. Ending this way was satisfying and I am glad the writers didn`t try any cheap tricks or twists for shock value. The twists along the way (Jane`s death, Gus`death, Crawl Space) have been impactful enough. Bravo!

    Posted by Kay, 02/10/2013 5:03am (6 years ago)

  • All bad things must come to an end, and unfortunately so do all great things. Breaking Bad is the greatest television show I have ever seen. This finale may not have packed quite the punch I may have hoped for in certain aspects, but it was certainly not a disappointment. Not by a long shot. This episode may not have been as strong as Ozymandias, but that didn’t affect the impact it had on me whatsoever. After all, looking back on season 4, I think that Crawl Space was even better than Face/Off.

    My favorite part in the episode was either Walt admitting he had done this all for himself or the entire scene in Gretchen and Elliot’s house. I was tense as hell as Walt walked around their house, taking in the life that could have been his. The bitterness and resentment we would have seen in any other set of circumstances was completely gone, because he knew that he was about to get his revenge, and that it would be sweet indeed. The double whammy of causing his former partners to live in fear for the rest of their lives while simultaneously devising a plan to finally get the money to his family was brilliant and satisfying.

    I do have a problem with anyone who says that Gretchen and Elliot deserved this. They have never struck me as monstrous, selfish people. Gretchen even said herself that it was Walt who dumped her out of nowhere and left them. Do people actually believe that they are the bad guys just because Walt told Jesse that was the case in the episode Buyout in a failed attempt to win back Jesse’s sympathy? Walt has always played the martyr and twisted events in his mind to rationalize his behavior and make himself appear the good guy.

    Walt using the ricin on Lydia made sense, but admittedly it was a little underwhelming and predictable. Ricin has remained the “Chekhov’s poison” since season two, and to have it ultimately used on a fairly minor character was a little disappointing but it didn’t bother me too much because I kind of figured that was where it was going.

    The fact that Walt’s plan to take out the Nazis relied heavily on luck didn’t bother me, because five seasons have shown us that Walt has no shortage of insanely good luck. He didn't know for sure that he would be able to position his car just right, or that they wouldn't search his trunk, or that any number of ways this could have gone wrong wouldn't happen. Having said that, I think he considers himself to be quite a bit smarter than Jack and his crew, which is obviously true. He is also aware that they don't take him very seriously as a threat. He has never been quite the calculating, attention to every detail kind of mastermind that he fancies himself to be. He didn't know for sure that Gus would be driven by his lust for revenge enough to want to be the man who puts Hector down himself, but he took a huge gamble because he was out of options and it paid off. This situation was similar.

    I loved the whole scene with the Nazis, even if I still don't think they were as great of villains as this show has given us in this past. I was laughing and nearly applauding as Walt's plan went into motion and Jesse was given the chance to kill the dead-eyed opie piece of dung that had brought him so much misery. I was very happy to see Walt save Jesse, and even though it was obviously not enough to reconcile the two of them, as virtually nothing would be at this point, seeing that look of understanding and the little nod between the two of them was enough for me. The song El Paso that plays during the opening tells a tale of a man who falls in love with a girl named Felina and eventually dies in her arms, so how fitting was it for Walt's felina to prove to be the meth lab? He died in the only place he had ever felt truly alive.

    The only real thing that wasn't predictable, besides the Gretchen and Elliot scene, would be just how happy of an ending this ended up being. Walt finds a way to leave money for his family. Jesse lives. Those are two things I have to admit I never would have seen coming. Vince has said that he intended to tie up all loose ends, and it can certainly be argued that he tied it up in a little TOO neat and tidy of a bow, but I didn't have a problem with it and thought it was a fitting end to the series.

    I am going to miss the hell out of this. Never before have I been this emotionally invested in characters, and never before have I seen a show that had so few missteps as this show. I can't wait to see what Vince Gilligan and all the other members of the cast and crew go on to do next. It has been great tuning in to this podcast and sharing my thoughts, thank you so much for giving me this outlet to do so.

    Viewer score: 83 / 100

    Posted by Riley, 02/10/2013 3:50am (6 years ago)

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