Breaking Bad Season 5, Episode 16 – “Felina”
Directed and written by Vince Gilligan
Starring: Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, Aaron Paul, Dean Norris, Betsy Brandt, RJ Mitte, Bob Odenkirk, Laura Fraser, and Jesse Plemons
Air date: September 29, 2013
SPOILERS FOR THE BREAKING BAD SERIES FINALE. You’ve been warned.
“I did it for me…. I was alive.”
So much of Walter White’s (Bryan Cranston) Mr. Chips to Scarface journey has been caged with idea that Walter was doing everything for his family. It’s much like the idea that I highlighted a few weeks ago about his Batman-esque “no killing family rule” – the origin of Heisenberg in so many ways came from a place of gray morality for Walter, a justification that was the weakest of crutches as the show progressed.
As a viewer, it’s been clear to me for a while that Walter made every choice because he wanted to do so. And last night finally provided closure to all that.
It’s always been personal for Walt. It’s the thrill, the excitement, and because he was good at being bad.
“Felina” continues to reinforce that idea as Walt uses the legend of Heisenberg to accomplish each of his goals. We’re reminded just how good Walter is at all of this. He’s a master chemist, understanding how all the variables will play out when his own catalyst is introduced into the reaction, it’s just a matter of watching it all unfold.
And unfold it does.
This finale isn’t my favorite episode of Breaking Bad, but it is an incredibly satisfying one in which every reaction is completed according to Walter’s plan. Skyler (Anna Gunn), Holly, and Flynn (RJ Mitte) will be taken care of, finally. Walt gets a semi-revenge on Gretchen and Elliot by having them be terrified for the rest of their lives (even if it is by the LEAST smart ‘snipers’ ever). Jesse (Aaron Paul is free. Lydia (Laura Fraser), Todd (Jesse Plemons), and his Nazi family are either dying or flat-out dead. Heisenberg emerges victorious.
It’s fitting then, that Walter White dies doing what he loves. As he steps into the lab, looking at the equipment he designed, he’s at peace as he takes final ownership (literally, as the blood contaminates the steel) of the one thing he has left and the one thing he loves. Things end nice and neat for Mr. White, but those who came across his path can’t say they’re as lucky.
The products of the Walter White chemical reaction have been forever changed. They’ll live on, while their producing catalyst has expired.
Selfish to the end, Mr. White. You truly did it all for you.
– I’m not in the habit of wanting to have a conversation about how good or bad this specific finale was over other show finales. It’s all about the context in which it takes place. I will say that Breaking Bad‘s finale was perfect for the show and that’s all that matters to me.
– For those wondering, Vince Gilligan specifically referenced “The Searchers” during Talking Bad in terms of Walt’s approach to handling Jesse. Walt had every intention of killing Jesse until Walt saw just how bad things had become for his former partner. It’s in that moment that Walt reaches out and saves Jesse.
– Also, it’s in that moment that Walt offers Jesse his first real choice. The reason Jesse and Walt started to cook is because Walt saw Jesse escaping from the DEA raid and uses it as leverage. Here, Jesse finally has an option to truly do what he wants.
– There’s that bit before Jesse drives off after Walt drops the phone with Lydia in which the two men share one last glance together. There’s acknowledgement as Jesse seemingly thanks Walt. They both know that Walt won’t last much longer, but there’s a bit of poeticism there, as Jesse is free from Mr. White. He’ll never be able to fully escape the horrors of what’s happened, but he has a fresh start and that’s what matters.
– The Joker reminds us that in their final moments, people show you who they truly are. The conversation I want to have is this: Did Walter’s actions absolve him of his sins? I’m going to hold off on fully answering that question, but I will say that so much of Breaking Bad has lived in shades of gray and that’s how I’ll determine Walter’s ultimate fate. However, I’m very interested in hearing everyone else’s take.
– I’ll agree with the line lots of other critics are taking: that the story of Walter White ended with “Ozymandias” and that both “Granite State” and “Felina” play as a really neat, extended epilogue.
– I’ll continue to think about the finale over the next days and weeks with the intention of revisiting it further down the line. However, I will probably come back and write about the series as a whole towards the end of this week.
And thus we’ve reached the end of the satisfying chemical reaction that was Breaking Bad. It’s been my pleasure to interact with you all for the past eight weeks as we watch this show conclude. I’m very curious for your thoughts on the finale and perhaps the series as a whole. Be sure to sound off in the comments – I’ll be sure to chime in with mine. Thanks for reading and making these last episodes so fun to review for you all.