First of all, memo to David Chase: This is how you end a critically acclaimed series. Vince Gilligan and his crew executed the long-awaited finale just as brilliantly as every episode before it. Here’s the thing about that ending — Walt on the floor, Jesse racing away into the night and Lydia realizing the inadequacy of her humidifier — it didn’t leave you wanting more. You were left with a pretty good idea about the fate of every character that mattered, and all of those fates seemed fitting.
The episode does have its critics, certain aesthetes and artistes and ignoramuses who may have cheered when Jeff Daniels won an Emmy for Newsroom. Some complain that the ending lacked realism, that it pandered to an unwashed audience by giving them just what they wanted, that it blithely allowed Walter White to have things his way after all the evil he’d done.
Yeah, well. Point one: There’s a difference between realism and believability. Rigging an M60 machinegun to take out a roomful of neo-Nazis may not be realistic, but it was certainly believable in the context the show took pains to construct over five seasons. Walt was capable of this. The Aryans were capable of falling for it. And it was good to understand why Walt needed a ’77 Cadillac as opposed to, say, a 2008 Kia. They don’t make trunks like that any more.
Point two: The pandering thing. I’ve never accepted that popularity invalidates art. The purpose of art, especially fiction, is to tell us something about the world and the people who inhabit it. Breaking Bad did that, in spades. If it ended with some sort of uplift, that’s a legitimate view of the universe. Go Jesse. Somewhere there’s a wood shop, and I hope you find it.Point three. Going out on your own terms doesn’t mean getting things your way. It isn’t the same as “winning,” as some have said. If that were what Vince Gilligan intended, he’d have ended the show with Walt and Skyler surveying their big pile of money in the storage unit. Instead, Walt lost his family, his cash, the grandiose legacy he had labored so long to create. He lost everything that mattered, including that sweet Pontiac Aztek. All he had at the end was a certain measure of dignity. Maybe that’s the best any of us can hope for, no matter our sins or good works. Kudos to the writers for making the point in such an elegant, poignant way.
Anyway, here’s to Breaking Bad. It was epic in scope, Shakespearean in depth. Never a false note. I’ll miss the show, but I’m really glad that it ended when it did, the way it did. I wouldn’t change a thing.