Monday September 30, 2013

We've finally made it.  Before I inundate you with more links to more articles than you could possibly read, I want to offer my thoughts on the final episode of Breaking Bad .  I was satisfied but not blown away.   Everyone's fate ended up as I thought it would.  The only slight surprises were how they ended up  that way.  STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVE NOT WATCHED THE FINALE.  It was nice to see Pinkman carry out his wish of killing Todd personally and it was clever how Walt funneled the money through Gretchen and Elliot to make sure it got to his family.  The last scene between Walt and Skyler was amazingly powerful as was Walt's decision to pull the trigger on Jack prior to him disclosing the whereabout of the other $70M.  I had expected Walt to spare/save Jesse, which he did.  I had expected Walt to take out Jack and his gang, which he did.  I expected Walt to use the ricin on Lydia, which he did.  Vince Gilligan is a genius.  Again, overall, I was satisfied, and not surprised.  I don't have any outstanding questions that weren't answered, unlike some others (see below) other than where Huell is right now (I'm assuming still in his hotel room waiting).

Vince Gilligan sat down with EW and explained the final scene (amongst other elements of the show): 

“'We didn’t feel an absolute need for Walt to expire at the end of the show. Our gut told us it was right. As the writers and I worked through all these different possibilities, it felt right, but I don’t think it was a necessity for us. There was a version we kicked around where Walt is the only one who survives, and he’s standing among the wreckage and his whole family is destroyed. That would be a very powerful ending but very much a kick-in-the-teeth kind of ending for the viewers. We talked about a version where Jesse kills Walt. We talked about a version where Walt more or less gets away with it. There’s no right or wrong way to do this job — it’s just a matter of: You get as many smart people around you as possible in the writers room, and I was very lucky to have that. And when our gut told us we had it, we wrote it, and I guess our gut told us that it would feel satisfying for Walt to at least begin to make amends for his life and for all the sadness and misery wrought upon his family and his friends. Walt is never going to redeem himself. He’s just too far down the road to damnation. But at least he takes a few steps along that path. And I think more importantly for him than that is the fact that he accomplishes what he set out to accomplish way back in the first episode: He leaves his family just a ton of money.  Of course, Walt for years now has been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. … For years now, he thought if he makes his family financially sound — that’s really all he has to do as a man, as a provider, and as a father. They’re going to walk away with just shy of 10 million in cash, because of Walt’s machinations with Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Elliott (Adam Godley). But on the other hand, the family emotionally is scarred forever. So it’s a real mixed message at the end. Walt has failed on so many levels, but he has managed to do the one thing he set out to do, which is a victory. He has managed to make his family financially sound in his absence, and that was really the only thing he set out to do in that first episode. So, mission accomplished.'”

 Time  offers up suggestions on how to cure your BB  withdrawal.

Howard Stern called the finale a "home run" and Fred Norris called it the "greatest f'ing series ever."  Well-said. 

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul discuss their last scene together.   

Rolling Stone  said the finale might have been more satisfying if it was a little less satisfying.  I kind of see the point.  "'I can't shake the sense that Felina as a finale, and Breaking Bad as a whole, would have been more satisfying if it had been less satisfying. No, I'm not calling for a Sopranos-style cut-to-black stunner, or a Battlestar Galactica-style mystical mystery, or a Lost-style oh, shit, we forgot that Walt's psychic powers seemed like the whole point of the first two seasons – let's put that kid in the DVD extras, I guess, so we can make room for explaining how we consider ourselves, like, spiritual, but not religious, man, you know what I mean?'"

Slate  offers up its take.  "In the end, Breaking Bad protected Walt from the worst possible death and us from having to watch it. But as Breaking Bad demonstrated so memorably with Skyler’s remark that 'Someone needs to protect this family from the man who protects this family,' sometimes protection is overrated." 

The Atlantic  offers up the idea that this was the "happy ending."  "I’m genuinely surprised that Vince Gilligan & co. allowed Walter to conceive and then perfectly execute a plan for the best outcome he could, by this point, have hoped for. Money to his family. His brother-in-law’s death avenged. Blue meth off the market. Jesse doing ok. And Walter meeting his demise entirely on his own terms—not claimed by cancer, not rotting in a jail cell, not exiled with two copies of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium."

 Did Walter White "win"?  "I don’t see Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan as any sort of moral prognosticator. He is a talented and occasionally traditional fantasist who understands that, at the end of the day, the most significant part of the word “antihero” is still 'hero.' Gilligan coyly lets us know how shit’s going to go down in the very first scene of the finale: The cops cruise by; Walt escapes capture. Then, as our lovable dirtbag looks to the heavens,  the keys to the car he’s attempting to steal fall right into his hands. God, i.e. the writer/director, is on his side. Walter White is going to win. And he’s going to win quite possibly for no better reason than that this has always been his story."

Or did Walter White lose?   

Alan Sepinwall's review can be read here.   He intimates that the show's ending might have been "too neat."  "So for the finale to feature Walt largely operating solo (with the occasional small bit of help from Skinny Pete or Jim Beaver) and having everything work out as planned — with the sort of precision one might have expected from the watch Walt left behind at the gas station pay phone — didn't feel exactly like the kind of ending I might have expected from this show." 

Andy Greenwald offers his take here.   He too suggests that the show might have ended too neatly.  "Felina brought Breaking Bad to a close in the most perfect way imaginable. It squared each circle. It righted all the wrongs. Everything that had been done was undone. The pieces fit together. The keys were in the car. The car was in the compound. The gun was in the trunk. The cat was in the bag. And the bag's in the river.

In the end, there was no art. Only science. And this was sort of the problem, wasn't it? After five-plus years of watching everything break bad, the finale gave us 75 minutes of watching everything break just right. There was plenty of sweet coincidence and even sweeter revenge. The timing was deliberate, and immaculate."

The Washington Post  suggests that there were still a number of questions left unanswered.  I don't disagree, however, they were the unimportant ones.  For example, "[w]e never got a full picture of what Skyler, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) and little Holly White’s lives were like during all that time Walt was hiding in New Hampshire.  We never got to see how the DEA picked up where Hank Schrader’s secret investigation left off and how they began sorting (with Marie Schrader’s help, no doubt) through the tangled mess of the Heisenberg meth operation."

TheWrap 's Tim Molloy also points out some loose ends that were not tied up.  He also calls the finale "just perfect."

Vulture 's Matt Seitz offers his take here.  "About that last fifteen minutes. I'm not crazy about it. It boasted major firepower and nearly mathematical score-settling, which is what a good many fans wanted and needed. Jesse strangles Todd with his handcuff chains. Walt shoots Uncle Jack dead, not even giving him a chance to bargain for his life. Walt tells Jesse to go ahead and shoot him because he knows he wants to. And Jesse, who told Walt on the phone in Rabid Dog that he would never again do anything Walt wanted, made him say, 'I want this,' then told him, 'Do it yourself' — and Walt did, quite accidentally, via a ricocheted bullet."

In other news . . .  

I was surprised that the Aloha truck edged out Tika Tika Taco on Food Truck Race .  I stand by what I said weeks ago that Tyler Florence is a GREAT host and could very easily be hosting shows outside of the food space.

I enjoyed Robin Williams' new show The Crazy Ones .  I'm a sucker for advertising agency shows (The Pitch, Trust Me , etc.)  Williams' act is about as tired as Chris Berman's but the storyline was interesting and Kelly Clarkson's cameo was impressive.

 Bachelor  "winner" Courtney Robertson landed a book deal?  Please do not buy this as it might encourage similar deals in the future.

 Homeland  came back strong out of the gates last night.  I watched it while still digesting the BB  finale so I probably did it a disservice and will watch it again, but I'm glad its back.  On the flip side, watching this show on the heels of BB  really underlines how absolutely unbelievable BB was (that was a tough word to type), and why I'll stand behind what I've been saying for months: Breaking Bad is the best drama in the history of television!