HEAVY SPOILER WARNINGS: I am discussing the conclusion of BREAKING BAD; if you have not seen the final episode yet, skip this. If you have not seen the series at all, well, I recommend it, because it is overall a tough, well-made work, and you should watch it from the beginning and not read this about the ending.
The final episode of , and there seems to be nothing but paeans out there. And there is indeed much to be said for it, particularly in contrast to various other major series finales that one might cite. It is a tightly-made piece, it didn’t ignore or forget what went before, and it granted full closure. I appreciate it all, and I enjoy watching it. But…
But thematically it was wrong. Thematically it doesn’t fit the flow of the story.
The series Breaking Bad is a chronicling of bad decisions. Walter White, in due panic over his own mortality, made the bad decision to help cook meth, and support that with a series of increasingly bad decisions which wreaked havoc on his family and his world, even as they rewarded his ego. Many people died as a result, the corrupt and the innocent alike.
The final episode seems to be about justice on many levels, justice delivered as a body count to those in the drug trade, to those who have killed. They got what they deserved.
But what did Walt get? What did he get for his history of bad decisions, for his crimes, for his destruction?
Walter White got what he wanted.
Oh, he died, yes he died, but he was dying from the beginning. That was never a variable. He dies from an unintended shot from his own gun, perhaps, but he does in seeming contentment, in the comforting (to him) surroundings of a meth lab. He has just destroyed all those who would destroy him, going out as the man of power. And he has provided for his family through money earned from his deadly trade. Whether you accept the goal he always stated or what he claimed to his wife on his final day, he has achieved his goal.
Walter White has won. The victory is true and permanent. And it’s not just that this is not morally right, not at all justice, but that this seems out of step with what has come before.