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BREAKING BAD Recap: Felina

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by on September 30, 2013

One word review: Satisfied.

For the final episode of Breaking Bad, series creator Vince Gilligan shed the show’s signature foreboding ambiguity in favor of an ending both resolute and earnest. Writing is a bit like having a child; you spend a lot of time with your creation before putting it out in the world, you do your best to protect it while hoping it stands on its own merits, but in the end, you want the best for it, and if anything is clear from the final episode, it’s that Vince Gilligan wanted only the best for Walter White. Of course, this is still Breaking Bad we’re talking about here, so “best” is a relative term, but in many ways “Felina” presented the closest thing to a “happy” ending possible for the show and the characters.

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Starting with the fate of the money: what little of it is left (9 million), Walt delivers to Gray Matter’s Gretchen and Elliott after acquiring their address by pretending to be a reporter. He asks them to use his money (and only his money) to set up a trust for Walt Jr. They agree, reluctantly, but to ensure they cooperation Walt scares them into thinking he’s hired hit men who will kill them if they don’t follow through. It is revealed a few moments later (to the viewer, not Gretchen and Elliott) that the “hit men” were actually Badger and Skinny Pete. They help Mr. White one last time by confirming that blue meth is still on the streets, thus confirming his suspicions that Jesse is still alive.

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Todd joins Lydia at the same coffee shop that they hold their meetings. Walt’s waiting for them; he pulls up a chair and interrupts their conversation to beg Todd to bring him back in. He claims to have a new method for making meth. Todd agrees to set up the meeting later that night at his uncle’s place. After Walt leaves, Lydia dismisses his reappearance, stirring a packet of stevia (the only one on the table) into her tea as she and Todd plan Walt’s demise.

Walt’s next stop on the road to the end is Skyler. He gives her the lotto ticket and tells her to trade the coordinates for Hank and Gomez’s burial site for a deal with the DEA. If Walter White has anything close to redemption it’s at this moment; in the strained silence of Skyler’s tiny apartment he apologizes one last time, and in a moment of true clarity explains to Skyler that his actions were selfishly motivated. “I did it for myself,” he said. “I liked it. I was good at it. It made me feel alive.” Being Heisenberg, building his empire, made him “feel alive,” and for the first time since we’ve met him Walter White has told the truth.  It’s an interesting move from Gilligan, removing the ambiguity of Walt’s actions with a simple admission of guilt. This wasn’t a man controlled by a split personality, or a tumor from the cancer, this was a deeply disturbed man who saw an opportunity to leave his “mark” on the world and he took it, regardless of the causalities he left in his wake.

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After a final visit with Holly and fleeting glimpse at Walt Jr., Mr. White leaves his family – secure in the knowledge that on Walt Jr.’s 18th birthday he’ll get a sizable trust from Gray Matter for his father’s contributions to their company. It isn’t a sure thing, but it’s the best Walt can do, and it’s the closest thing to a happy ending for the White family that Gilligan could realistically deliver.

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With most of the heavy lifting out of the way and almost all the loose ends tied up, Walt stops in the desert before approaching the Nazi compound. We see him building a robotic lever as the sun sets over the stark landscape. However, before we witness his final plan unfold we’re treated to a series of shots of Jesse Pinkman, in another time, lovingly crafting a box made of wood. It’s a nod to an earlier episode of the series; Pinkman is in an NA meeting when he confesses to being at his happiest in a woodworking class in high school, and also a small preview of the life that could await him should he survive the final confrontation.

Unarmed, Walt parks his car directly in front of the tiny, stucco building Uncle Jack and his crew call home.  He’s stripped of his wallet and keys, which are tossed on the pool table a few steps away as he faces Jack. Unmoved by Walt’s offer to cook for them, Jack orders Walt’s execution, stopped when Walt calls him out for not killing Jesse as promised. He accuses Jack of partnering with Pinkman on the new batch of meth. Angry at the accusation Jack orders Todd to bring Jesse up from the lab to prove to Walt he’s nothing more than their slave.

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A submissive Jesse, now with a full beard, shuffles in his shackles into the room coming face to face with Mr White one final time. Jack says, “See, does he look like a partner to you?,” distracted long enough for Walt to snatch his keys off the pool table. Walt takes a step towards Jesse, neither men says a word as they stare into each other eyes, the history between them saying more than words ever could. Suddenly Walt tackles Jesse to the ground, screaming as they hit the ground, and furiously pressing the car alarm button on his key chain.

After a few missed tries the alarm responds and the car’s trunk pops open, revealing Walt’s robotic contraption. With the M60 mounted to the top, it springs to life, firing an steady stream of bullets into and through the thin walls of the small building. The hail of bullets manages to hit everyone in the room, killing most of them instantly. A stray bullet ricochets off the wall and hits Walt’s side… it would have hit Jesse but Walt is still on top of him, shielding him from danger. Finally the gun runs out of bullets and as the smoke clears an injured Walt rolls off of Jesse, coughing as a spot of blood blossoms through his t-shirt.  As the smoke clears Todd sits up, scrambling to the window, unsure who attacked them, calling out for his Uncle Jack, paying no attention to Jesse as he creeps up behind him and wraps the chains of his restraints around Meth Damon’s neck. After a few moments of pathetic struggling, Todd dies. Uncle Jack sputters a few last words before Walt puts a bullet in his head, no longer concerned with the whereabouts of the remainder of his money. It’s over.

Walt slides the gun to Jesse, fully expecting his former partner to take his justified revenge. Jesse’s ready to do it; he demands Walt say he wants to die, which Walt does, but before he pulls the trigger Jesse notices the wound on Walt’s side. Taking the high road for the first time in his life, Jesse drops the pistol and tells Walt, “do it yourself.”

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While Jesse heads outside to one of the Nazi’s cars, Walt intercepts a call from Lydia on Todd’s phone. She’s sick in bed, warning Todd about Walt and quickly realizing when she hears Walt’s voice she’s too late. For the benefit of Jesse, Walt takes the phone call outside, saying loud enough for Jesse to hear that he’s poisoned Lydia with the ricin and that she’ll be dead soon. With the last of his ties to his life of crime severed, Jesse takes off in the car, screaming with tears of joy running down his face, as he finally has found freedom.

In the final moments of the show Walt heads to the Nazis’ meth lab. Bleeding out from the bullet wound, he lovingly walks around the lab, holding a gas mask under his arm as he goes, admiring the empire he built, sickly satisfied with how things worked out. In the end he got what he always wanted; the family will get the money and Walter White will go down as the kingpin of blue meth. And so it goes, as the police close in on the compound, Walt falls to the ground in the lab, the gas mask by his side. The police approach his lifeless body, securing the legacy of Walter White aka Heisenberg – the notorious meth cook who died in his lab, in the arms of the only thing he ever truly loved… his own satisfaction.

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Final Thoughts:

- Glad Marie gets to give Hank a proper funeral. Also happy that Walt found a way to get some money to his family. Although on the one hand it means he won, it would have been pretty depressing for his family to continue to struggle, plus have the black cloud of his actions over their head with no glimmer of hope. The money and the Gray Matter trust represents a sliver of possibility for a happy future, at least for the kids.

- Skyler, in the end, was complicit in many crimes and her suffering is well-earned. She, unlike Walt, truly did what she did out of love for her family, so giving her some final sense of closure with Walt was a smart move by Gilligan.

- Huell died in protective custody… that’s the story I’m telling myself.

- Sucks for all the innocent victims of Walt’s crimes, in the end he got what he wanted, and although he died, he never truly got payback for all the pain he caused. Perhaps that’s the most telling of Gilligan’s affection for his character, that in spite of knowing Walt for the selfish man he was, Vince just couldn’t make his main character suffer a tragic end, opting instead for a rather uplifting sort of finale, perhaps more so than any season finale in the 5 season run.

- FeLiNa — Iron, Lithium, Sodium… Blood, meth and tears… certainly an accurate description of the ending.

- The other interpretation of the episode’s title was a reference to the Marty Robbins song “El Paso,” another theory which turned out to be somewhat accurate. If one considers the “Felina” of the song to be Walter’s love for the “empire business,” then the final image of Walt dead in the lab is akin to the character in the song both die in the loving arms of the one thing they were willing to risk their lives for.

Off to my right I see five mounted cowboys
Off to my left ride a dozen or more.
Shouting and shooting I can’t let them catch me.
I have to make it to Rosa’s back door.
Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying to stay in the saddle,
I’m getting weary, unable to ride.
But my love for Felina is strong and I rise where I’ve fallen,
Though I am weary I can’t stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.
From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I’ll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, goodbye.