Rewatching the series of Breaking Bad finale, a few things occurred to me. If you haven’t yet seen it, here’s a brief synopsis: Walter White is a high school chemistry teacher who, diagnosed with terminal lung cancer, decides to cook methamphetamine, ostensibly to leave his family with a considerable chunk of change after he passes.
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The meth is good, like, really good, like almost 100% purity good. Soon, he graduates to greater and greater levels of notoriety amongst the drug users, rising among the ranks and becoming the best at what he does.
This is an extremely glossed-over synopsis and leaves out much of the action and plot twists over the course of five seasons. There were, as with many things, some unique elements I noticed. So, at the risk of major spoilers (I recommend stopping here if you’re reading and don’t want it ruined), here are five things I picked up on.
His rise to the top occurs in less than two years.
How anyone could go from a timid high school teacher who avoids confrontation to the world’s premier methamphetamine kingpin, is a question that has yet to be answered to any satisfaction.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. Breaking Bad is, of course, a work of fiction. Even though it’s incredibly realistic, it does require some suspension of disbelief. But a gaping error in its premise is a huge oversight, at least for me.
While it doesn’t ruin the show (and I suppose you couldn’t have the program itself without this quick climb occurring), it still feels like a major issue. Perhaps I’m overthinking, but still.
The rollercoaster of a finale follows one of the more subdued, slow-paced episodes of the series.
I only just realized this last night. I’ve watched the entirety of the show at least three times – two times more than many movies. I vastly prefer television, as the drawn-out time span offers more room for producers, writers, and even actors to more fully develop and expand on plots and themes.
Where a film has maybe two hours to introduce characters and plots, TV shows generally run for years. And these days, many small screen offerings edge closer to movies than ever before. Breaking Bad is a perfect example.
The whole show had this sort of rhythm, where a violent episode would be surrounded on both sides with a calmer, more character-driven portion.
But it’s especially apparent when you watch the next-to-last episode (where Walt is in a prison of his own making, exiled in snowy New Hampshire like a postmodern Napoleon Bonaparte), and follow it with the conclusion (in which Walt murders a group of neo-Nazis on their secluded, possibly off-grid compound and frees his former partner, Jesse, from meth slavery before a stray bullet claims his life).
This was an amazing creative decision on the part of the creative team, and the show is better for going with this ebb-and-flow.
All other TV shows pale in comparison.
I can’t lie. From the first time I watched it, five or six years ago (the series finale aired in 2013), every other TV series suddenly felt cheap. While this isn’t anyone’s fault, I couldn’t shake the impression. I still can’t, to some extent.
The little flourishes creator Vince Gilligan and his team added to Breaking Bad further my view of it being two cuts above the rest. It’s these little touches that can make or break a show, and these made the series what it was and still is: television with a purpose.
How did he acquire the machine gun used to commit the mass murder?
A recurring question for me is who sold him the M60? It’s pretty much a given that the man who earlier armed Walter with a handgun for personal protection is responsible. But as there is no specific mention or appearance of this character in the episode, it’s really only speculation. It’s this lack of a genuine answer that leaves me wondering, years after the show closed.
What happened to Jesse after he escaped should have been left open.
Unlike how Walt got the gun, this was a plotline that didn’t need to be answered (watch the Netflix movie El Camino, if you’re curious). Most people want that clean ending and pretty little bow tying it all together, but I find open endings to be better. We get to speculate and come to our own conclusions and answers to the frayed ends and what-ifs – none of which are wrong.
My friends and I had a lot of fun playing the parlour game of guessing as to Jesse’s fate after being freed by Walter. While it didn’t ruin the series at all, getting an answer to this question made the film unnecessary. It’s not a bad film (on the contrary, I enjoyed it), it just strikes me as a bit pointless. Anything to capitalize on past success, I suppose.
If you haven’t watched Breaking Bad yet – I’m curious to know how many fall into this category (I don’t personally know many who haven’t) – I highly recommend you do. And if you’re like many and have seen it, you may have come to these realizations as well. Happy viewing!
IMDB link to Breaking Bad
Stephanie Knarr recently moved to Pittsburgh, PA from the Harrisburg, PA area. Her writing appears in Harrisburg’s local magazine, The Burg, and her work will soon appear in Unwinnable and Five:2: One. Her favourite drink is RC Cola, and her favourite band is probably Animal Collective.