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Bidding goodbye to ‘Breaking Bad’

Will Neal | Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Warning: Full spoilers

Breaking up is hard to do. Wait, no … I meant, “Breaking Bad” is hard to say goodbye to. Many of us witnessed a tragic loss this past Sunday on AMC, as the critically acclaimed and beloved American drama concluded the tale of Walter White. So, how did it turn out? 

The whole final season of “Breaking Bad” is as shocking and satisfying as any die-hard fan could possibly hope for. Picking back up right after Hank’s revelation (on the toilet) of Heisenberg’s true identity, we soon realize things will never be the same again for Walter White and his family. No more Raisin Bran breakfasts with Walter Jr., no more patio barbeques with Marie and Hank, and no more cooking meth. Everything changes now, and there’s no turning back. 

Walt’s world crumbles around him as those most important in his life begin to turn on him. Every episode gave us a moments that were as hard to watch as they were entertaining, but what’s most important is that the show did it’s best to make sure no stone was left unturned. 

Among many things, Jesse finally discovers Walt’s role in Brock poisoning (and doesn’t handle it well), Walt admits to Jesse that he watched his former girlfriend Jane die and Walt realizes that everything he has worked toward in building his meth empire has destroyed his family, not saved it. He was a proud man and did everything in his power to ensure he would never get caught. But all kings must fall, and all bad things must come to an end. 

Walt’s pride unintentionally led to Hank’s (and Gomez’s) demise and ruined the lives of Jesse and his own family. Considering where the series began, there is nothing more upsetting than the end of episode “Ozymandias,” when Skyler and Walt Jr. quiver in fear at a man they no longer see as a husband and father, but as a monster. So Walt leaves with the mindset of never returning and isolates himself during a nationwide manhunt until he is nothing but the broken shell of the man he once was. After nearly a year away from home, Walt tells himself his journey can’t end here and decides it’s time to close the book on his past. 

In the series finale, entitled “Felina,” which chemically represents “Blood, Meth and Tears,” every character gets a most appropriate ending. He closes the door on his past (speaking with Gretchen and Elliot), makes amends in his present (rescuing Jesse, seeing his family) and opens the door to a brighter future (giving Skyler Hank’s burial site to make a deal with the DEA, giving Walt Jr. the money he worked so hard to provide eight months from now). 

He uses his ingenuity to defeat the bad guys and finally admits his true reasons for cooking meth. “I did it for me,” Walt tells Skyler, “I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really I was alive.” 

After all this time of saying it was “for the family,” Walt knows he cooked meth to make him into the man he always wanted to be. And as Walt’s life ended after the final battle to rescue Jesse, he rested in his meth lab to die in the one place where he felt most alive. 

Beautiful, powerful and masterful: all words to describe what this final season, and this series as a whole, accomplished. Endings are never easy for most shows (looking at you, “Lost” and “Dexter”), but “Breaking Bad” isn’t like most shows. It’s a journey that was relatable because we could see what even the most simple and humble family man was capable of. It reached into dark territory but never stopped feeling real. It brought us characters that were not only fascinating, but felt incredibly human. It was a show unlike any other, and one people will remember for years to come. 

“Breaking Bad” not only set a standard for how to craft an amazing final season, but also for how incredible a television series could be. Thank you, Vince Gilligan and the rest of “Breaking Bad.” You truly created an unforgettable experience for us all. 

Contact Will Neal at wneal@nd.edu