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'Breaking Bad': How did the finale compare to other iconic show ends?

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Walter White
Ursula Coyote/AMC

[Breaking Bad finale spoilers to follow, so tread lightly]

Now that fans have had a whole fifteen hours to process all the exhilarating! terrifying! suspenseful! moody! moments from last night’s Breaking Bad series finale, the question must be asked: Where does this finale rank among other highly anticipated television endings?

Creator Vince Gilligan told EW, “I think plenty of people out there will have had a different ending for this show in their mind’s eye and therefore we’re bound to disappoint a certain number of folks but I really think I can say with confidence that we made ourselves happy and that was not remotely a sure thing for the better part of a year. I feel that the ending satisfies me and that’s something that I’m happy about.”

Last night Jonathan Banks told a crowd, “If anybody bitches or moans about the way this show ended, come see me.” Response on Twitter seemed positive, if not overwhelmingly glowing right away, to a finale that for the most part seemed to wrap up all the loose ends: Gretchen and Elliot returned, Walt figured out a way to get the money back to his family, Jesse was freed (!), Lydia got the Ricin (!!), and the Nazis got what was coming to them — particularly Todd, whom Jesse brutally strangled to death (!!!).

It’ll be interesting to see how opinions shifts as more time goes on. There was public outcry over The Sopranos‘ fade-to-black ending when that praised drama went off the air in 2007, but more fans have come around since then; Bad‘s ending also went with a musical number, but the final moments were much more definitive than the mob drama. Breaking Bad was able to wrap up more mysteries than the much-discussed Lost ender in 2010, and in some ways — despite the brutal end for many of the characters — Bad seemed almost like a comedy finale, with characters actually more or less getting what they want.

EW recapper Denise Warner said as much last night, titling her recap, “And They All (Sort of) Lived Happily Ever After” and noting, “If there was a happier final hour for Breaking Bad, it would only involve Jane, Andrea, and Hank coming back to life.” It wasn’t just a dream nor was it all a child’s imagination, but for fans expecting an everyone-will-die blowout, the final hour of Walt seemed a bit more peaceful than expected (minus that five minutes with an M60).

How do you think the finale compared to others? And how did the final showdown compare to your expectations going into the final installment?