Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 16 Series Finale Review- ‘Felina’
Super mega double spoilers.
There’s not much to say about this one. Not that it was bad. At all. Quite the opposite, incidentally. It’s just that there’s not much to discuss.
There are no meaty bits of story to chew on here, and no fun preponderances as to what might happen later. Unlike Lost or The Sopranos, this is a definitive, fall over, smack down finale. I have no further questions.
It was the weirdest choice in the world to take the character of Walter White, the terrible, awful, wretched man who poisoned a child and watched a woman die, and make us feel for him again. I could never have seen that coming. And it worked. Goddammit, it worked. When he was stripped of everything and made his last ploy to set the record straight, I was back on Walter White’s side again, which is something I’m going to have to war over with myself for a while as to whether the show really earned it.
I love how simple Breaking Bad is. That’s a compliment, by the way. For all of the things the show continually does well, keeping things simple is one of its largest strengths. There is a very small and tight cast of characters who square off against each other in ways that make sense and come directly from their motivation. The plots are simple and that’s why they work.
Barring much else to talk about in paragraph form, I’m just going to go through what worked and what didn’t, and send this Viking Funeral off into the night.
What Didn’t Work
To Quote The Green Goblin, “You’re Pathetically Predictable”
Breaking Bad has always thrived as a show that forced you to sit back and wait for the show to think of something you’ve never thought of. Vince Gilligan and company have become the masters of that most central and simple of narrative storytelling mechanics: Back your characters into a corner and think of a great way for them to get out of it. This principle is the voice behind great moments like Walt and Jesse being cornered by Hank in the RV, and Walt taking out Gus by blowing him up using a guy in a wheelchair. It always pulled the rug right out from underneath you and left you with brittle stumps where your finger nails used to be.
While many of the things in this finale were creative (hell if I ever come up with something as cool as a swiveling gun operated by a car battery), but the way in which that gun would be operated was telegraphed all the way from New Hampshire.
Also, the keys were in the sun vanity mirror because of course they were.
When Lydia poured her confectioner sugar into her coffee and we got a full twenty-second shot of it in close-up, I figured that it was a red herring. There was no way this show would play it that obviously, in case we didn’t notice, in case we didn’t all expect that exact thing to happen. When it turned out to be the actual case, I was really disappointed how obvious it really was.
But, that being said, this episode was the good kind of predictable, the Pacific Rim kind of predictable. Every moment that I saw coming from a mile away was another moment I could look forward to seeing and being wowed by. The predictability made me excited for what was to come.
The Neo-Nazis. Oh, Boy, Those Neo-Nazis
I was never truly sold on Uncle Jack and his band of merry racists. They were introduced so late in the game and ended up being so underdeveloped that to have them as the main antagonists of the finale felt cold and strange, and didn’t pack nearly the same impact Gus or even Tuco did.
Breaking Bad has always been a show where the presence of the writers is always felt, like they’re telling us this awesome story and out-matching us at every turn, but when Uncle Jack called in Jesse because Walt gave him a weak taunt, I knew it was only because our people needed Jesse in the room and that was the fastest way to do it. It’s a minor transgression (one I’ve already forgiven), but it still remains that the show’s principle bad guy, who took the mantle away when Walt became our protagonist again, played right into our hero’s hands. But, in the great Breaking Bad tradition, the hired guns never are very smart, are they?
However, seeing Uncle Jack gunned down in the middle of bargaining for his life is one of the more satisfying moments of the entire series.
Walter White, Ninja Kin
The DEA suck at their jobs. Can we just talk about that for a second? This is the most-wanted man in the entire country, and they have maybe four people guarding each of the three major locations he’s liable to show up. And those four people can’t so much as stop him from getting into those places? No wonder he got away with it for so long. These guys need to really step up their game.
Oh thank God!
My biggest question going into the finale had nothing to do with Walter White. No matter his fate, it was going to be decidedly his. But Jesse has been a frequent victim of circumstance and of falling in with the completely wrong crowd. He has lost everybody who was important to him (nuclear family seemingly notwithstanding) and was being kept in a torture pit by Neo-Nazis. A torture pit they just kind of have for some reason. Jesse’s fate was the only one I truly wanted to go one way and only one way. Pinkman had to live. Obviously, if the show had killed him off I would have come to terms with it and may have thought it worked in the moment, but his life was important to me.
So when Jesse goes roaring out of the compound, that phenomenal smile on his face, we knew everything was going to be okay. Walter deciding to save him was just bonus Jonas.
So… Much… Closure
I can picture in my head Vince Gilligan thinking about the notable television finales of our time (namely Lost and The Sopranos), and thinking about how half of the people who watched them absolutely hated them, mostly due to a lack of real closure, turning to his writing staff and going, “You guys, we’re going to wrap this all up.” Even if the bow was tied a little too nicely for my taste, there can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the show did not fundamentally and fully tie up every loose end they could remember. Brock’s fate and Jesse’s future are the only mysteries I can think of, and I have a sneaking suspicion that their futures will be very closely tied. So, good job there, Executive Producer Vince Gilligan.
It’s sappy, and the song’s a little on-the-nose, but I also can’t deny that that shit worked. The Irredeemable Walter White has been solidly redeemed, off to fade away into the annuls of television history.
It Was Really Cool
Automated rotating turret guns will never not be my jam.
It never reached the heights of episodes like “Ozymandias” or moments like our superhero Flynn leaping to save his mom in “Ozymandias,” but there was so much to like here that I almost don’t care.
Final Verdict: B+ – A flawed finale, but a wholly satisfying one.
Chekhov’s Gunman is a film and television blog moderated by Kevin Lanigan, a future writer of movies and TV and current writer of love letters to Jesse Pinkman. Comment with your thoughts below, and be sure to comment or subscribe above.
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Executive Producer Vince Gilligan.