Spoiler Alert: This review is about what happened Sunday night on the series finale of “Breaking Bad.” You’ve been warned.
Vince Gilligan’s “Breaking Bad,” in so many ways the ideal TV show, gave until the very end, until its lead character, Walter White, a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher who turned himself into a drug kingpin of the gritty Southwest, died on the floor of (most fittingly) a meth lab.
There was never a dull episode in the five seasons that “Breaking Bad” ran on AMC, including Sunday night’s heart-poundingly satisfying finale. Walt (Bryan Cranston) had his revenge on nearly everyone, in one way or another — from confronting his former business partners in their mansion to poisoning the Stevia packet of the duplicitous Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser).
Up until Walt’s jury-rigged machine gun started firing from the trunk of a car into the compound of the neo-Nazi meth-makers who stole Walt’s money, it was a quiet and deliberate ballet of comeuppance, closure and very little in the way of moral recompense.
Since its first episode, the entire saga had been set for a slow burn but told in a manic, anxiety-filled style. It took forever to catch on, but once it did, if you were hooked, you had to have more.
Like all cultural triumphs nowadays, the show became something we tortured ourselves and one another over: Have you watched it? Are you watching it? Did you see it? (“Don’t you want to know what happened to my friend Walt?” asked Aaron Paul during an Obamacare sketch on the opening of “Saturday Night Live” the other night, playing his “Breaking Bad” character. “No, no!” a gathered crowd shouted, terrified by the idea that the secret of the show’s ending would somehow get out.)
Jesse Pinkman! He lives! Walt rescued Jesse, set him free. Jesse refused to kill Walt (“Do it yourself,” he said) and then drove off in a blaze of . . . well, not quite glory, but as close to it as “Breaking Bad” ever gets.
(A beatific, Christ-like hallucination of Jesse as a carpenter, building what looked to me like a nice container for ashes — that had us worried. Some of us wanted nothing more from Sunday night than a happy-ish end for Jesse, whose bad fortune became a much-forwarded video montage last week by Slate.com.)
This eight-episode “second half” of Season 5 brought about some of “Breaking Bad’s” finest moments: the full transformation of Skyler White (recent Emmy winner Anna Gunn) into a criminal accomplice who is willing to lie, blackmail and break family ties to get away with it all; Walter White’s stare-down with his federal agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris), in Hank’s garage; the “tableside guacamole” dinner during which Hank and his wife, Marie, confront Walt and Skyler about turning themselves in; the horrifying shootout at the To’hajiilee Indian reservation; Walt’s phone call to Skyler after he took baby Holly (and later left the baby, unharmed, at a fire station) — in which, with police officer and feds listening in, he believed he was giving her a plausible chance at freedom.