(Obviously, spoilers present. 'Nuff said.)
I suppose I'm not surprised that many felt less satisfied with the "Felina" – excuse me, the finale – of Breaking Bad than I was. I've read tweets and posts that seemed even more enthusiastic; and others – including from huge fans of the series – who were obviously at least a bit disappointed. Many people have spent the past year or two proclaiming Breaking Bad as the greatest television show of all time due to its complexities and nuance. Yet now, their perceptions that the series wrapped itself up too neatly has led to dissatisfaction with its conclusion. Based on what I've read so far, most people imagine that since Walt's death seemed inevitable, there were only two possible resolutions: Walt would die redeemed, heroically; or Walt would get the comeuppance he deserved. And yet, that binary option seems to ignore that more complex and nuanced middle ground in which both may have occurred.
Linda Holmes, who writes NPR's "Monkey See" pop culture blog (a must read, in my book), expressed her own dissatisfaction with the episode stemming from her interpretation that ultimately Walt went out exactly as he wanted to, by his own design, allowing for his own megalomania. Even with his admission to Skyler that it was all for him – and not the family – and that "I liked it," decisions such as manipulating a method to pass along his money to his kids – thereby depriving them the choice of declining it -- was neither loving nor kindhearted.
Willa Paskin described on Slate why the finale was unsatisfying to her, or at the very least left her conflicted: "After everything, after five seasons in which the writers were clocking Walt’s every misdeed, at the very end, they turned out to be Team Walt. Despite everything he did, Walt was rewarded—not with life, too much had gone down for that—but with a death on his own terms. He died having provided for his family, without going to jail or giving up on his legend."
I really enjoy reading both Holmes and Paskin, along with the A.V. Club's Donna Bowman and the throngs of other great writers expounding on Breaking Bad, and yet unmentioned in everything I've read is the one element that formed the heart of the entire series, which also happens to be the one area where Walt irrefutably had no control and did not "win": His relationship with his son Flynn, a/k/a Walter Jr.
Continue reading "On the "Breaking Bad" finale - Walt didn't win: Don't forget Walter Jr." »