By Elliot Levy, contributing writer
Junior, Public Relations andPolitical Science Major
WARNING: The following article contains MASSIVE spoilers about AMC’s hit show Breaking Bad.
After five incredible, heart-stopping, mind-bending seasons, all bad things have finally come to an end.
Breaking Bad, which may very well go down as the greatest television drama in history, reached its epic conclusion on Sunday night. Throughout its run, the show has been lauded for the depth and brilliance of its writing, direction and acting. “Felina,” Breaking Bad’s final episode, is certainly no exception.
At its core, Breaking Bad is about the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment that comes with excelling and living up to one’s potential. For almost his entire life, Walter White was a man who had largely allowed events to control him. Walt’s unfulfilled and unrewarded genius is represented by his buy-out from Gray Matter Technologies, the company he founded with his ex-best-friend, Elliot Schwartz, which was worth billions by the beginning of the show. Walt’s employment as a lowly high school chemistry teacher and his diagnosis with lung cancer further demonstrate his life’s unrequited potential. Becoming the best at something, even if it is cooking crystal meth, gave Walt a feeling of power and control for which he had thirsted his entire life.
In the finale, Walt at last acknowledges what viewers of Breaking Bad have known for years: while he may have prioritized providing for his family when he first began cooking, it was really all about him. “I did it for me,” Walt tells his wife Skyler, whose face reveals relief as Walt tells her the whole, unreserved truth for the first time in the two-year span of the show. “I liked it…I felt alive.” Walt’s devotion and dedication to his product is symbolic of the natural human desire to excel and to have that prowess acknowledged by others.
Even as he nears death, Walt takes great and dramatic measures to maintain control of surrounding events. He threatens Elliot and his wife, Gretchen, with death at the hands of “the two best hitmen west of the Mississippi” if they fail to transfer $9.7 million of Walt’s money to his son, Walt Jr., on his 18th birthday. He sets up an ingenious mechanical device in the trunk of his car, which he uses to obliterate Uncle Jack and his crew of Nazi thugs with his newly purchased M60. Walt, whether intentionally or not, even controls his own death. In the end, it’s not the cancer that kills him, not the Nazis, not Jesse Pinkman, and not the police. Walt dies by a bullet from his own gun, on his own terms, in the place where he felt best about himself: the meth lab. The nature of Walt’s death and his elimination of every person connected to the meth ring ensure that the legacy of Heisenberg will remain his alone.
The true genius of Breaking Bad is that it convinces its audience to root for a man who would be universally despised and condemned in the real world. For all of Walt’s genius and intuition, he is still a man who cooks and sells one of the most addictive and harmful illegal drugs in existence. He is either directly or indirectly responsible for the death of no less than 31 people over the course of just two years (significantly more if you count the plane crash in the second season.) The sympathy for, and often admiration of Walt by viewers of Breaking Bad despite all his faults and misdeeds demonstrates our collective desire for success and control over our own lives.
The world owes eternal gratitude to Vince Gilligan, the creator of Breaking Bad, and its writers, directors, and cast for producing such a spectacular, deep, and meaningful series. Although the show has finally reached its conclusion, there is no doubt that the world will recognize the name “Heisenberg” for generations to come. Were it not for Breaking Bad, that name might be remembered mostly for the Nobel-prize winning physicist that inspired Walt’s moniker. Instead, “Heisenberg” will represent the genius, triumph, and demise of Walter Hartwell White as explored in the greatest TV drama of our generation.