Breaking Badder Than I Thought

Almost exactly a year ago, I speculated about how Breaking Bad would wrap up.

I wondered about Walter White‘s eventual fate:

[P]erhaps the writers will give Walter a glorious back-to-the-wall-defending-his-family-shootout kind of death, saving  them from the depredations of a ruthless set of ganglords, thus redeeming himself in spectacular fashion even as he loses his life….Hank will finally catch up with Walter, his Heisenbergean nemesis, a man who has nearly caused his death, and caused him plenty of misery.

I seemed to be on the mark here. In a fashion. But there were other speculations that I got wrong:

[W]hen Hank catches up with Walter, it will be too late; Walter will be dying, and Hank will let him go, cognizant of the price to be paid by the family if Walter’s cover is blown. Most centrally, Hank will keep Walter’s identity secret so that Junior does not come to know his father was a demented meth cook….As for Jesse, Walter will apologize for having induced such a catastrophic trajectory to Jesse’s life, but I do not know if he will ever spill the beans about his role in Jesse’s girlfriend’s death….These redemptions add up to a happy ending of sorts: there will be a funeral and tears will be shed, but Walter will have provided for his (extended) family, eased the uncertain torments of Hank, and maintained his image in the eyes of his befuddled son.

As the series heads for its finale next week, it’s pretty clear there will be few happy endings. Indeed, the only outcome that could count as such would be Jesse liberated from his horrific servitude. Every thing else would be very weak balm on a large sucking wound. Walter White is at the bottom of a deep pit; it’s going to take some desperate scrambling up its slimy sides to get ‘out.’

Not that there’s much waiting up top:  his money seems destined to go waste; wiping out a gang of feral killers seems unlikely. As does reconciliation with his family, the unkindest cut of all. And of course, a painful death from lung cancer awaits in any case.

Vince Gilligan had indicated that Breaking Bad would ‘not end well,’ and if the current trajectory of the show is any indication, that seems very  plausible. Still, I have been surprised by the bleakness of these last few episodes and wonder how much of the feel-good wrap-up style I had relied on in my earlier speculations will be on display in its conclusion next week. Walter donning his Heisenberg hat and the flash-forward earlier in the season which showed him with a gun suggest that at least some dramatic, blood-soaked resolutions lie ahead, and the wrinkle introduced by the mention of Gray Matter Technologies is certainly an interesting one.

If Gilligan remains uncompromising and brings the White nightmare to an end in as unsparing fashion as he has shown recently, then Breaking Bad will have performed a very useful service: it will make conventional endings look almost unsustainably trite.   It has already set new standards for bleakness–Jesse Pinkman‘s recapture and Andrea‘s execution were merely the latest flourishes.

I’ll be sad to see the show end, but I wouldn’t mind a little relief either.

5 thoughts on “Breaking Badder Than I Thought

  1. Samir, do you think there is a plan in the near future to assist CHINA become cricket playing NATION? If yes is there any time frame? If no, why not?

  2. I loved the part where he tried to get Walt Jr. a measly $100K and he didn’t even want that. Such a powerful rebuke to what he’s been doing all along, and shows how he really broke bad back in S01E01. That said, the re-introduction of Gray Matter is interesting, and ties everything back to what’s been driving him all along – the need to reassert his wounded ego. Can’t wait to see how this “resolves.”

  3. What I can’t believe about my own reaction to the show is that despite the level of asshole behavior Walt has put on display, I still feel sorry for him and want things to turn out somewhat ok for him at the end. And I thought I had a good sense of ethics…

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