Thursday, September 25, 2014

AMC's "Breaking Bad" binge: Did Walter White win in the end?

(Spoiler alert: The following reveals the conclusion to "Breaking Bad." A "Breaking Bad" binge is currently airing on Sundays on AMC. The series ran from 2008 to 2013).

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul.) AP photo

Watching the final minutes of the greatest TV show ever created this week, I was an emotional wreck.

In the final scene of the series finale of "Breaking Bad," I think we're supposed to be rooting for the greatest TV anti-hero ever created - Walter White, aka Heisenberg - to finally get his.

That wasn't what I was thinking. Walter, near death from a gunshot wound, stumbled into a crystal meth lab with the Badfinger song "Baby Blue" playing in the background. It was like there was no other place he wanted to be, but what was Walter thinking during his final breath?

Was he thinking about his creation, his near-perfect blue crystal meth? Of was he thinking of the crimes he committed, the people he killed and the pain he caused? Or his tortured wife, the son who now hated him, or his infant daughter? Or that his partner from the outset, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), was finally free? Or that he finally won, going out on his own tearms?

"Breaking Bad" is emotionally draining, addictive and fabulous. It pulls you in so many directions, I wasn't sure what to think of Walter when it was over.

Show creator Vince Gilligan has made a masterpiece. A show might come around to equal "Breaking Bad," but I'll be shocked if anything surpasses it.

Actor Bryan Cranston, who played Walter White, will go down in history, with the Emmys to prove it.

AMC began a "Breaking Bad" binge in August, showing eight episodes every Sunday. For me, better late than never.  AMC's binge is nearly over, but the wait for the series' conclusion was excruciating, so I pushed ahead myself. 

The race to the finish of "Breaking Bad" is an experience unlike any other in pop culture. It will rock you to the core. It will entertain you, make you laugh and make you cringe. During the final scene, it might bring you to tears.

Now, back to the series' final scene. When creating "Breaking Bad," Gilligan said, "How can I do a show in which the fundamental drive is toward change?" 

Gilligan created a complex character in Walter, who at times showed great humanity, then followed with unspeakable acts. What made this character tick? It's revealed in the series finale, "Felina," when Walter tells his wife Skyler his true reasons for becoming a meth drug lord: "I did it for me. I liked it. And I was good at it," he said. Walter also tells his wife he felt "alive."

In the pilot, Walter seems like a man whose life has passed him by. It only gets worse when he's told he has cancer. The next five seasons, the transformation from a timid man to a ruthless killer hell bent on getting whatever he wants at any cost is breath-taking.

While we're led to believe Walter's motive all along is his family - his goodbyes to his family in the finale are gut-wretching - in the end his greatest love is for chemistry and his near-perfect creation, the blue crystal meth.

The series' final scene doesn't bring complete redemption for Walter, but there's some of it. He frees Jesse, and relieves some of the burden he brought to his family simply by expiring. Before that, he does find a way to leave millions to his family (watch to find out). All along, I can't help but think the man is a bit oblivious to the destruction he caused in doing so.

So in his final moments, I couldn't but think Walter - or better yet Heisenberg - won. 

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

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