The end is near. After four seasons of lying, killing, dodging death and cooking meth, our heroic anti-hero Walter White will presumedly make his peace in this upcoming fifth and final season of AMC’s epic Breaking Bad. It’s been a good run, and I’ve always finished every episode on the edge of my seat, waiting for the next, but all good things come to an end and the creators of the show are doing it a favor by not dragging it out too long. In wake and in honor of this upcoming last installment (premièring in the US on July 15th) , here are four of the show’s best moments thus far.
"THIS, IS NOT METH."
Walt’s triumphant Season 1 moment. He’s in a room with adversary and gang banger Tuco, in the man’s own headquarters, in fact, and Tuco is mocking Walt, growling at him, and Walt just stands there and takes it. Finally Tuco concludes in jeering question, “Let me get this straight; I steal your dough, I beat the piss out of your new boy, and then you walk in here and bring me more meth?” Walter calmly picks up a small bag of mercury fulminate, an explosive Tuco had mistaken for meth, and says, “you got one part of that wrong. This, is not meth,” and he throws the bag and it explodes and guess who has the upper hand now? Guess who? Walter White.
EVERY TIME JESSE TELLS SOMEONE OFF
I think it not only rather ironic but a good twist as well that Jesse Pinkman, the high school dropout, ex-addict and definition of thug life is often times the voice of reason. Though his diction is tainted with street language and his thought process hardly scientific in comparison to his partner’s, Jesse is the one who brings Walt to his senses and becomes, despite his less-than-ethical methods, the moral guardian through pressuring times. His moments of victory after expressing all this that he’s capable of in telling someone off are elegantly concluded with a brief pause and then the condemning and memetic “…bitch!” that makes one fist pump with pride for our street hero.
We’d known about the two Mexican brothers for quite a few episodes, and their campaign in tracking down and killing Walter gradually made progress; the suspense was ever-growing, every episode becoming larger and larger, but then the self-interest protecting hand of drug lord and fried chicken restaurateur Gus Fring intervened, and sent the assassins to kill Walt’s FBI agent brother-in-law Hank instead. Finally, on the man’s worst day, they made their move. But Hank doesn’t go down without a fight. He rammed one assassin between two cars, effectively dismembering him of his legs, but is shot several times by that same brother. He lays on the ground paralyzed and about to die, but by a stroke of luck the assassin decides to finish the job not by shooting Hank in the head but instead cartel style, by decapitating him, and goes to his car to retrieve the ax. Hank takes the time to load a fallen handgun and, at the last possible second, just as the ax is raised, shoots that motherfucker in the head.
THE DEATH OF GUS
This concluding moment to Season 4 was just plain epic. Watching Gus walk comfortably and unknowingly into the room he’ll die in: epic. The potency in the deaf and dumb Hector Salamanca’s eyes when he looks at Gus with that “you fucked up and now you’re dead” look: epic. The infamous ringing of the bell to trigger the bomb: epic. The terror in Gus’s eyes when he sees realizes what’s about to happen: epic. The calmness and normalcy with which Gus walks from the room after the explosion and casually adjusts his tie, only for a camera-angle change to reveal the other half of his body as destroyed and to show Gus falling to the ground, dead: oh my god that was so fucking epic I can’t even handle it.
The episode opens in another of the show’s signature abstract scenes; Walt tearing his bacon so he can arrange it to his liking on his plate. As camera angles change, it becomes apparent that he’s in a breakfast bar. He’s grown back his hair, signaling a significant passing of time since the last season ended, and he still sports the beard. His waitress, eager to make conversation, informs him that birthday meals are free, but in vain as Walt insists he’s fine, to which the waitress observes “Free’s good. Even if I was like rich, free is always good.” Walt gives in at this and gives her his ID to confirm his birthday. After a few more minutes of surface chattering, Walt takes note of a man entering the bar. They both go to the bathroom, where Walt exchanges an orange paper bag, presumably of meth, for a pair of car keys. “This won’t be crossing the border, right?” the man asks, and Walt informs him that it won’t even be leaving town and ask if it came with an instruction manual. The deal ends and as Walt leaves the bar, he leaves a hundred dollar tip under his plate for the waitress. He retrieves a bag of money from the trunk of one car and opens the trunk of another to find what looks like a shotgun alongside a manual and some ammunition, and that classic, smoked away introduction plays. This is Breaking Bad season five, people. Get fuckin’ excited.
Apparently, everything above is still to come. After the opening credits finish rolling, the episode returns to the concluding scene of season four; Walt telling Skylar “it’s over, we’re safe. I won.” After the phone conversation, Walt rushes home to clean away his bomb laboratory of a kitchen and disposes of any incriminating materials. Finished and relieved, he pours himself a glass of wine, but is sent scrambling again at the thought of another problem; he runs to his backyard and takes the Lily of the Flower plant to throw away, confirming that yes, Walt indeed was the one who poisoned Jesse’s girlfriend’s son, not Gus, and also that he really is one hell of a manipulator and knows how to get shit done. His wife and children come home and Walt listens to his son’s infamously innocent and thoughtful perspective of Gus’s death from what he’s heard on television and from Hank. Walt then confronts his wife. She’s scared of him. After she leaves the room, Walt stands to alert again. “Oh shit.” Scene change.
Hank, fully hazmat-suited, is accompanying the DEA and crime scene investigation team in analyzing the superlab that Walt and Jesse burned. Hank’s partner informs him that nothing in the lab is traceable, not even the teeth from the bodies. It seems Walt and Jesse made a clean getaway, until Hank notices a heap of metal hanging from the wall. Yup. It’s that mother fucking camera. Oh shit indeed.
After Mike, still recovering in Mexico, is told of Gus’s death, he takes to his wheels and speeds back to the US. On the way, he runs into Walt and Jesse, who are presumably also looking for him, on a one lane road in a slightly dramatic near-collision. Mike pulls a gun on Walt with clear intentions to kill, but Jesse intervenes, pulling the classic Jesse line that kept them alive for so long; “if you kill him you gotta kill me too.” Oh Jesse. If only you knew the things Walt’s done to you. Walt tells everyone that the camera, if it’s surveillance was recorded, could incriminate all three of them, and realizing the need to cooperate, Mike holsters his gun and signals his hands for the keys to Walt’s car, to which Walt shakes his head, to which Mike replies “Keys scumbag. It’s the universal symbol for keys.” Kind of funny in the moment, probably not so much here. The three convene at Jesse’s place, where Mike’s contact confirms that the laptop storing the surveillance footage was taken into evidence. “You know how they say it’s been a pleasure?” Mike asks as he puts on his coat to flee town, “it hasn’t.” Jesse and Walt convince him to stay and cook up a plan - credit to Jesse here - to destroy the laptop despite its being locked into evidence. The next day, they buy one big ass electronic magnet and a truck to it in. A test run shows that the plan will work as its supposed to. They are a go.
In the mean time, Skylar goes to visit Ted in the hospital. He fell and was hurt while trying to escape during Paul Goodman’s intervention involving two thugs hired to force him to sign a check to pay off the IRS (all so that Skylar won’t be investigated for fraud, compromising Walt’s drug business). Ted tells Skylar that he hasn’t and won’t say a word, that he told the police he just fell on accident. Good boy.
Queue the Mission: Impossible theme song. It’s dark. Mike sprays down the police station’s camera, blinding it, and the truck rolls into position beside the wall behind which the evidence vault is believed to stay. Walt cranks the power up slowly and the evidence in the vault starts to go crazy in a somewhat eerily frenzied race towards the magnet. They bust out, and, quite notably, Walt establishes alpha over Mike with his “because I said so” reply to Mike’s questioning whether the plan worked. But did it? As the police go through the dislocated evidence, they reregister the laptop as damaged, though, quite frankly, the damage looks minimal. To add to the worry, a picture frame previously un-notable in evidence has been damaged, revealing some sort of meth distribution manifest. The new find is recorded.
In the episode’s conclusion, Walt makes yet again another power move over his lawyer, Saul Goodman, and whispers into Skylar’s ear “I forgive you.”
The premiere was incredible in that it brought back the classic Breaking Bad atmosphere at full throttle. Character and relationship development is still as intricate and as well-planned as always, and Mike’s disgruntled humor only adds to the show. As far as expositions go, however, this premiere was somewhat mellow. Yes, it started with a problem; the camera, but that problem seems to have been solved quickly and I for one, despite the few other problems that exist, feel the trio of guys to be in no immediate danger. There’s been no indication of what will fill the rest of this season or even the next episode, leaving me a bit disappointed (I like a good cliffhanger). That said, I still have questions that will certainly continue bringing me back to the show; why does, Walt, in the future, buy a weapon? Is the laptop really completely destroyed? (probably). Who does that distribution manifest lead back to? Mike?
Vince Gilligan hasn’t spoken a ton about Breaking Bad since doing the press rounds after the mid-season finale last August. What we did find out then, however, is that he didn’t yet know exactly how the show will end. That, apparently, hasn’t changed, although he and the writers are down to the last three episodes, and they seem to be vacillating on a few different directions. Over on Vulture today — and I can’t recommend enough that you read the entire interview — Vince Gilligan discussed, at length, the end of the show. While giving away no spoilers (except, perhaps, the fate of Saul Goodman), Gilligan offered nine clues as to what elements may be worked into the finale, and what viewers can expect. I’ve taken the liberty of breaking them down below.
1. He and the writers have not yet made a definitive decision on how the show will end.
“I had this strange confidence in the beginning that I had an idea [for the ending] that was sound,” he said of Walt’s fate. “But I look back at the life of the series and realize I cycled through so many possible endings, it would be disingenuous to say I had always had it figured out. It has evolved in the last five years and probably has some evolving left to do.”
2. Not everyone will like the ending.
“It’s going to be polarizing no matter how you slice it, but you don’t want 10 percent to say it was great and 90 percent to say it sucked ass. You want those numbers to be reversed.”
3. He’s hoping it will be as satisfying as the end to Casablanca.
“Our story doesn’t line up [with Casablanca]. But we’re looking for that kind of satisfaction.”
4. The end will likely echo the beginning.
“Are there echoes of the beginning [the pilot episode] that we should have in the end? There’s a certain kind of circularity that might be pleasing. We think a lot about that, in fact.”
5. The end will hopefully feel both surprising and inevitable.
“We try to have a surprise around every corner but inevitability as well. The opposite of surprise. It’s something that I feel should and will be an important component to the end of the series. To me, that is an interesting thing and a thing to be embraced, that feeling of ‘I think I know where this is going.’”
6. Walter White should be punished, but he won’t necessarily be.
“I’m very cornball in my own view of the world. It just makes sense to me that bad people should get punished and good people should be rewarded. I know it doesn’t work like that in real life, but there’s always that yearning.” But “I don’t feel any real pressure to pay off the characters, morally speaking.”
7. There will be an homage to The Godfather.
“We’re always asking ourselves, How does this relate to The Godfather? In the finale, we may give even a more overt tip of the hat.”
8. Saul will survive.
“I like to think of Saul as a cockroach in the best possible way. This is a guy who’s going to survive while the rest of us have been nuked into annihilation. He’ll be the worst-dressed cockroach in the world.”
9. There won’t be a movie. The end of the series will be the end of Breaking Bad.
“Rightly or wrongly, there will be a conclusive ending,” he told me. “Our story from the beginning has been designed to be close-ended. It’s very much designed to have a beginning, middle, and end and then to exist no more.”
I Am The Ding-Dang-Diddly Danger of the day: Two of the best TV shows ever collide in this YouTube mash-up. Contains a few Breaking Bad spoilers if you’re not completely caught up and waiting hungrily for the last few episodes like the rest of us.
Breaking Bad Gag Season 5 Reel: Four days ‘til the final run of Breaking Bad kicks off, and the tension and anticipation is likely killing some of you, so here’s something a little more jovial whilst you wait. Never thought we’d hear Walter White say the words “rectal exam”.
Photos from inside the Breaking Bad writers room, during the writing of season four
Pop Culture Crossover of the day: You know when you never knew you wanted something so much til you actually saw it? Well here’s Game Of Thrones, starring Walter White. Make this a reality, HBO.