Sunday, September 29, 2013

'Breaking Bad': "Felina" Review

(NOTE: Obviously, don't read this if you haven't seen the Breaking Bad series finale, "Felina.")

So after all the speculation, Breaking Bad goes out the way it always was: fiendish, gripping, unexpected. But most of all, the finale was logical and practical, the show's most underrated qualities. Vince Gilligan didn't subvert expectations so much as surprise us by how straightforward and methodical his ending was. The ricin was used on Lydia, the guns were used on the Nazis -- which a lot of people guessed -- but I'm not sure how many prognosticators would have imagined how deeply satisfying the comeuppance would be. (I can't remember -- and I'm not sure I want to -- the last time I so unabashedly enjoyed a bastard being killed as I savored every second of Jesse strangling the life out of Todd.)

It's worth noting that Walt's master plan for his return to Albuquerque wasn't one of his most brilliant, which I think was part of Gilligan's point. The show has consistently wowed us with Walt's mind, but for "Felina" we never really forgot how mortal he was: almost getting caught in New Hampshire; duping his old Gray Matter partners with an admittedly hokey gambit; gingerly reaching for those car keys while no one was looking, knowing that everyone's fate hung in the balance. The finale had its share of predictability and implausibility -- if you're Uncle Jack, why don't you kill Walt as soon as he sets foot in the house? -- but such shortcomings can be forgiven a bit because of the slowly building sense of destiny that hovered over the stripped-down proceedings.  

And in the end -- how about that? -- Walt did get some sort of redemption. There is greedy, prideful and flawed, Breaking Bad ultimately seemed to say, but they're not the same thing as evil. The white supremacists were evil, and Walt's outsmarting of them wasn't just clever but also seemed oddly right. After everything that's happened, the moral universe suddenly seemed put back into alignment, at least for a brief moment. As for Jesse and Flynn and Marie and Skyler and Holly, I hope they all have long, happy lives. You can't say they haven't earned them.