Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Breaking Bad to the Bone

And so it ends.

BREAKING BAD, Vince Gilligan’s sublime Scarface meets Goodbye, Mr. Chips saga on AMC, ended its run with a highly satisfying grand finale that has already infuriated self-important critics who always know better which direction to steer the ship and is currently being dissected, scrutinized and rehashed by anyone with an opinion and a keyboard from here to Andromeda and beyond. 

What else is new? In this era of the mega-hype nothing can possibly live up to the ridiculously outrageous expectations set for a show whose supporters and fans were as rabid as pit bulls on blue meth. Since this show had the honor to be a critical and ratings success, not mention ending way before it wore out its welcome, the pressure was on to deliver THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH.  But whatever Gilligan came up with would never be enough, not even the shopworn dream ploy when Walt wakes up next to Suzanne Pleshette.  

In days past, series finales have always been a mixed bag, usually delivering high ratings numbers with dubious results. Mostly they’re bloated, overlong affairs concocted to deliver maximum ratings numbers and quality be damned. The concluding episodes of THE FUGITIVE and M*A*S*H* set the standards back in the sixties and seventies, garnering huge numbers with shows that at least matched up to the rest of their respective runs. But when SEINFELD, CHEERS and FRIENDS said goodbye, it was almost as if they couldn’t wait to into their cars and drive home. THE SOPRANOS, a definite precursor to BREAKING BAD, wrapped up feebly and is only memorable for its ambiguous closing shot that has polarized fans to this very day.

But BAD’S last season, almost rushing to a conclusion, took a methodic approach for this episode entitled "Felina" under writer/director Gilligan, almost like Bryan Cranston's swan song performance as Walter White. This chemistry teacher turner druglord attempted to right the wrongs in his life in one step at a time, trying to find the soul he lost along the way. It coincided with Gilligan's approach to this last hour. This was no more evident than in what I consider to be the highlight, Walt and his wife Skyler quietly powerful confrontation, a scene that was in turns tense, brutal, tragic and touching in its short five minutes. Cranston and Anna Gunn, so deserving of her Emmy win, set a high standard for acting that should be studied for years to come. Aaron Paul’s Jesse finally graduated from Mr. White’s class with honors, ending their twisted father/son relationship once and for all. The episode contained those brilliant fine touched that help propel this show in to legendary status like the Marty Robbins tune, Lydia’s ringtone and those damn laser pointers. As for Water White, did he redeem himself? Not one iota. There’s no way he could. The only thing he could do was go out with a bang and a whimper, laying on the floor of a meth lab, staring at the Heaven he will never see as he forever resides in the Hell of his own making.

For both Walter White and Vince Gilligan, the last stand of BREAKING BAD can all be summed up in what the Man Who Would Be Hiesenberg finally admitted:

"I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. I was really… I was alive."

If it wasn't the best ending, it was the right ending for Vince Gilligan, for Walter White and for those of us who have taken the journey with them and accept this is indeed Felina.


Remember its name.

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