Breaking Bad series finale recap: 'Felina'
All good things (or in this case, bad things, as the promos for part 2 of season 5 said) must come to an end. And thus, Breaking Bad finished its run with a bang, a few tears, and an act 3 full of ricin.
“Felina” is jam-packed with almost everything a Bad fan could want. (Though we don’t know if Huell is still waiting for Hank.) Walt outsmarts everyone, gets the money to his family, kills Lydia and the Nazis, and saves Jesse — who gets away. Then, Walt dies in the one place he feels at home — a meth lab.
The hour begins with Walt stealing a snow-covered car. He digs around for the keys, and a Marty Robbins tape pops out of the glove compartment. When he’s finally able to start the car — after a tense scene where police lights flash outside — Robbins’ song “El Paso” begins to play, before the opening credits roll.
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa’s cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.
The song speaks of a man obsessed with a girl named Felina. In Walt’s case, however, it’s his meth that represents his true love.
The hour ends with Walt lying dead on the floor of the Nazi’s meth lab, as Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” plays.
Guess I got what I deserve
Kept you waiting there, too long my love
All that time, without a word
Didn’t know you’d think, that I’d forget, or I’d regret
The special love I have for you
My baby blue
These two songs perfectly bookend a masterful finale. Meth is where it started. It seduced him, and changed him. And meth is where it ended; Walt got what he deserved.
From the beginning, Walt always insisted he did everything for his family. And yes, he was a family man. No one could deny that. But he finally admitted what Skyler, Jesse, and more astute members of the audience already knew — deep down, Walt was really cooking for himself. Meth was his redemption. His business. His empire. The blue rock literally and figuratively kept him alive.
When Walt finds Skyler for one last goodbye, he gives her the lottery ticket with the coordinates of where Hank and Gomez are buried. He tells her to give it to the DEA in exchange for immunity. Before he leaves, he says that he wants to tell her what everything was all for. She stops him. She doesn’t want to hear him say he did it all for the family again. But he surprises her.
“I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. And I was really, I was alive,” he says.
After Walt takes his revenge on the Nazis, he walks over to Todd and Jesse’s lab, picks up the gas mask, and strokes it lovingly. He falls to the ground, police lights in the background, and dies where he really belongs. Walter White has come full circle.
Walt’s death isn’t the only gratifying denouement in the Bad world. Vince Gilligan and company constructed a truly satisfying ending for everyone — although perhaps it could have used a little more Jesse. If there was a happier final hour for Breaking Bad, it would only involve Jane, Andrea, and Hank coming back to life.
Let’s break the rest of it down.
First, Walt figures out how to get the money to his family. Posing as a New York Times reporter, Walt tracks down Gretchen and Elliott’s address. He sneaks into their house, while they obliviously talk of their rich people night, and what they plan to do with all their rich people money.
NEXT: Walt gets Gretchen and Elliott to work for him
Gretchen — and I keep wanting to write Susan, because I will forever see her as Carol’s lesbian lover on Friends — notices her ex-boyfriend standing in her house, and screams. Elliott looks like he’s about to crap himself. Walt calmly tells them he has something to show them in his stolen Volvo. Elliott brandishes a small knife.
“Elliott, if we’re going to go that way, you’re going to need a bigger knife,” Walt admonishes.
Gretchen and Elliott shouldn’t have worried. Walt’s big reveal is his money — a little over $9 million dollars. The two of them, Walt explains, are to place it in an irrevocable trust for Walt Jr. when he turns 18. You see, Walt can’t give the money directly to his son, the government would take it. (And Walt Jr. clearly wouldn’t accept it from his father, regardless of the legal implications.) However, if Walt Jr. thinks its coming from a rich benefactor, he will take it. (And later on Talking Bad, RJ Mitte says he believes Junior would accept the money.)
Walt insists that if there are taxes or fees involved with the trust that Gretchen and Elliott are to use Walt’s money, not theirs, to cover it. Oh and Walt has paid two of the best hit men in New Mexico to follow Gretchen and Elliott, just in case they don’t follow through. If Walt Jr. doesn’t receive the money, the Gray Matters co-founders will be dead. (In reality, the red dot that appeared on Gretchen’s and Elliott’s chests were laser pointers wielded by Skinny Pete and Badger, not the light from a sniper’s rifle.)
With the matter of the money settled, Walt gets a moment with his family.
Marie calls Skyler to warn her that her husband is back in town. “That arrogant asshole thinks he’s some criminal mastermind, but he’s not,” Marie says, sure that the police following her and Skyler will catch Walt.
Little does Marie know that Walt is standing in Skyler’s kitchen. Skyler says she’ll give him five minutes. After his confessional, he asks to see baby Holly once more. Skyler allows him the time with his daughter. And as Walt Jr. gets off the bus, his father watches from a distance, with the cops oblivious that the fallen Heisenberg is so close. Walt can be at peace knowing he’s seen his children again. And even husband and wife receive a small amount of closure. (Plus, Marie and Skyler have come to a truce. The Lambert sisters will be alright.)
Now for Lydia, Todd, Jack, the Nazis, and Jesse.
Lydia and a dressed up Todd meet in the diner, with Walt sitting at the counter unbeknownst to the two of them. Lydia grabs the only pack of Stevia left at the table and orders her tea. Walt interrupts Todd’s attempts to flirt with his boss. Walt offers Lydia and Todd a new recipe for meth that doesn’t require methylamine, and he’s only asking $1 million for it. Todd is hesitant. Lydia seems amenable, but she dismisses Walt when the waiter comes back to the table with the tea.
“Of course, we’re not doing business with him. Todd, please, don’t make me walk you through this,” she says to Todd when he starts to protest working with Mr. White again. Lydia pours the Stevia into her tea, and it ominously dissolves.
Escorted to the Nazi compound, Walt negotiates with Jack.
“The thing is, we’re not really in the market,” Jack says.
“Todd, please, would you explain things to your uncle?” Walt asks.
“You really shouldn’t have come back, Mr. White,” Todd says, semi-apologetically, and a gun is pulled on Walt.
NEXT: Walt’s last heroic gesture
Walt screams that Jack owes him Pinkman, and accuses Jack of partnering with Jesse.
“You think I’d partner with a rat?” Jack says angrily. “I’m going to show you just how wrong you are, and then I’m putting that bullet in your head myself.”
Todd marches Jesse in on his leash.
“Does this look like a partner to you?” Jack says of the chained Jesse.
Jesse stares at his former mentor with hatred, but Walt is devastated at the state Jesse is in. (Gilligan revealed on Talking Bad that Walt did intend to kill Jesse, yet Walt changes his mind when he sees Jesse.) Walt lunges at his ex-partner, pushing him to the ground. Walt then presses his key fob, which activates the M60 that was rigged in his trunk. A shower of bullets kills most of the Nazis, save for Todd and Jack. (Walt takes a bullet himself, too.)
Jesse does the honors on Todd, strangling him with his chains as Walt watches. Walt picks up a gun, but it’s not meant for Jesse. Jack lies in the corner, still alive. Walt shoots Jack.
Then, Walt slides the gun over to Jesse. Jesse points it at Walt, in a shot very reminiscent of Jesse aiming the gun at Gale in season four’s “Full Measure.”
“Do it,” Walt says. “You want this.”
“Say the words. Say you want this. Nothing happens until I hear you say it,” Jesse screams.
“I want this,” Walt whispers.
“Then do it yourself,” Jesse says as he drops the gun, and walks outside.
Todd’s phone rings; it’s Lydia. Walt picks up, and explains that he killed everyone, and poisoned her with Ricin in her Stevia. “Goodbye, Lydia.” He hangs up the phone.
Before Jesse drives away to his freedom, he stares at Walt one last time. From Jesse’s vantage point, Walt is just a dark figure. His Mr. White has turned completely black.
As the cops raid the meth lab, and Walt lies dying from the bullet wound in his stomach, the camera pans away — much like the shot in “Crawl Space. That’s the last we’ll see of Walt and Breaking Bad.
Gilligan, in my mind, made a brave choice. He didn’t “fade to black” (which I joked about in our predictions story). Gilligan gave all his characters a fitting send-off in this episode. (Sure, Saul was short-changed in “Granite State,” but he will have his own spinoff shortly, so I won’t quibble over that.) Gilligan also didn’t write a depressing ending. (Considering the last few episodes, it could have gone a much darker route.) The characters all got their just deserts. The White family has the money. Skyler and Marie made up. The Nazis and Lydia are dead. Jesse is freed, saved by his mentor. The anti-hero is dead too, but not before making everything as right as he could, in his last acts of penitence for his sins. Breaking Bad ended with everyone as happy as possible.
What did you think of the series finale? How does it rate amongst the pantheon of greatest TV finales ever?
Walter White descends into the criminal underworld.