TV Review: Series Finale, Breaking Bad, S05E16, Felina

Show creator Vince Gilligan bids his viewers a final goodbye in this most explosive and redeeming series finale

Sharin Bhatti October 2, 2022
  • Direction
  • Acting
  • Screenplay
  • Cinematography
  • Editing


Like all great TV series, which have over the duration of their airtime, been followed as savagely as a climax of a superhero caper, “Breaking Bad’s” own superheroes and supervillains reached the blitzkrieg heights of fanhood. Since it’s opening season,”Breaking Bad” has enjoyed cult status only enjoyed previously by fantasy shows like “Star Trek” and even “Star Wars.” Surpassing it’s genre predecessors like “The Sopranos,” “Breaking Bad” has occupied mindspace, TVspace and webspace in a way no other sausage drama has yet managed to. Like football season, “Felina” was screened all across bars, pubs, speakeasies and restaurants in USA. Fans in scores, travelled for the screening time happy hours, to handhold each other when the credits would roll for the final time on Vince Gilligan’s hugely celebrated show. And as many other reviews and blogposts will tell you, it was a most befitting goodbye to series that held our moral equity captive for six long years.

Gilligan & co perhaps realized the frenzy the nation seemed to be caught up in, and broke head several times on the drawing board on how to bring closure to the “Breaking Bad” fan. “Felina” is the answer to that question. In many ways, “Breaking Bad’s” final episode seemed like fan fiction. A fallen King (“Ozymandias”) nearing his death (yes Walter White dies, hardly a spoiler), grabs the chance to tie up all loose ends and secure his loved ones from his lost kingdom. In the first 50 minutes Walter White (Bryan Cranston) says his goodbyes. His first devise is to see to it that the remaining money gets to his family, free from the sight and imagination of the FBI and the DEA. His first stop is at the Schwartz residence. Graceful and composed as a cat, Walt follows Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) and Elliot (Adam Godley) home. He mulls over their pictures while the couple, blissfully unaware of his presence, argue over tales they carried home from dinner. Threatening them with death and playing their condescending card back at them, Walt hands over the remaining US $ 9 million of his barrel cash and goads them into starting a trust fund for Walter Junior (RJ Mitte). That’s the least they could do, Walt figures, after denying him his share of the Gray Matter and the multi-million dollar charity they started for the rehab of meth users after discovering their former partner was a meth kingpin.

Next Walt stops to say goodbye to his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) and promises her it would all be over tonight. In his own way, Gilligan spoke to his audience through Walt, telling us it would all be over tonight. His writing and direction of this ultimate episode is as much a tribute to a sausage standoff, as it is to his fans. He’s employed framing techniques that give the scene a dual reality. Two pivotal things occur in the same frame twice, once when he lands in unannounced on the Schwatzs and the second when he’s cloaked behind a pillar in Skyler’s new residence. The dramatic use of a fast paced dolly-in highlights the underlying tension in the scene. The duality that exist in Walt’s own nature comes to the fore. The sometimes Mr Chips (Walt) and sometimes Scarface (Heisenberg) are but dopplegangers of one another as there is no real black or white in his world. He confesses to Skyler at this moment why he cooked. “I liked it, I was good at it,” Walt’s only moment of pure honesty in the series came as a befitting goodbye.

Now for the end. Lydia (Laura Fraser) has been passed the ricin in her Stevia when she comes to meet Todd (Jesse Plemons) at the coffeehouse and Walt has planned just the revenge for Todd and his sadistic, supremacist family of assassins . Driving into their secluded, desert barracks in his jalopy with the boot pimped up with an automated robotic machine gun that can be triggered at the click of the car’s central locking key, Walt arrives at Uncle Jack’s (Michael Bowen) headquarters. Walt already knows Jesse (Aaron Paul) is a captive of the Nazis and is cooking his pure-blue meth formula for Lydia. Jesse, dog chained to the lab, drifts back and forth from reality to fantasy, as he reminisces over what life would’ve been had he become a carpenter. When Walt walks in, guns go blazing. Jesse lives. Walt is found in his lab that he created sprawled eagle-position on the cold steel floor of his temple. Marty Robin’s song El Paso fills the air as the camera dollies out. He did all that he could. He even saved Jesse, after signing his death sentence only a while ago. And just like that, Walter White, the chemist, the purveyor of redemption dies a hero. The blue stuff is suddenly no more.

Had Gilligan thought of any other way to end his show, like “The Sopranos” black screen, the story wouldn’t have been over. The series could very well have ended at “Granite State,” but he did finish the legend of Walter White for us. He turned his Scarface back into Mr Chips again, loaded with a karma-injection. Walt is no supervillain. Walt is Batman.