Thursday, October 3, 2013

Breaking Bad - Felina Recap

It’s over.  In a nutshell, the finale was satisfying and fitting.  Walt found a way to get the money to his family.  He made amends with Skyler and told her the truth.  Lydia got the ricin.  Walt’s robot machine-gun spectacularly offed all the Nazi henchmen.  Jesse killed Todd, Walt killed Jack, and Walt got shot saving Jesse’s life.  Walt secured his legacy, dying in all his Heisenberg glory as he bled out in the lab. 

For a show that kept a legion of viewers guessing for six years, there were few surprises in the finale.  But I loved it that way.   Most of the loose ends were wrapped up, and as the first strains of “Baby Blue” by Badfinger played, I felt content knowing the fates of characters that were part of my life for the better part of a decade.   As a self-proclaimed ‘Team Walt’ member, I was rooting for him all the way through.  In the end he got what he deserved, but in the most oddly touching way.  And the finale was certainly his episode.  

The episode opens with Walt in New Hampshire, getting into a snow-coated car.  He pops open the glove box, finds a Marty Robbins tape and a screwdriver.  After a few minutes of trying to break into the cars console, sirens and red and blue lights approach.  As the cops get closer, Walt says a little prayer to no one in particular, “Just get me home.  Just get me home.  Ill do the rest”.  New Hampshire police must not be that observant, because despite what have got to be obvious tracks in the snow leading from the bar up to the Volvo’s door, they drive away.  Walt magically finds the keys in the visor and drives away to the refrain of Marty Robbins ‘El Paso’, which includes a female named ‘Felina’ (hey, that’s the name of this episode!).

About 30 or so hours later, Walt pulls into a gas station down south with a trunk full of cash and cancer meds.  He pops a pill and takes a swig of water from the hose dangling next to the pump.  Gross.  (Side note - Can someone please tell me why Walt is still taking his cancer meds?  Maybe because Mr. Hoover charged him 50 grand for them and he doesn’t want to be wasteful?  Otherwise I don’t get it.)  Walt walks over to a pay phone and makes a call to the Schwartzes’ assistant under the guise of being a reporter from the New York Times.  He gets their address and their estimated time of arrival and hangs up. 

Gretchen and Elliot arrive home as planned later that night, passing right by a lurker Walt on their way to their front door.  Gretchen keys in the code and turns on some classical music on their fancy schmance alarm system.  Walt saunters in the front door.  He casually peeps at some family photos as the oblivious couple whines about needing to talk to the housekeeper about getting the right type of artisanal cheese, and how long it’s been since they’ve been to Napa.  Rich people problems, right?

As Gretchen goes to turn on the fireplace, she turns around and encounters a real life problem.  Walt.  He acts like it’s perfectly normal that he should be standing in the living room, and opens with, “Hello.  I really like your new house.”.  Walt is a total badass, completely owning the room as he goes on to tell them that he isn’t there to harm them.  He’s there to give them something.  Elliot weakly brandishes a cheese knife, and Walt responds wearily, “If you’re going to go that way, you’re going to need a bigger knife.”

A bit later, Walt instructs Gretchen and Elliot to stack almost 10 million dollars in cash on their living room table.  No matter how rich they are, I bet they’ve never done that before.  Walt explains that the Schwartzes will be giving this money to Junior to use “for college and the betterment of his family”.  Elliot asks what happens next, and Walt says they’ll shake on it.  They do, with Elliot needing to prod Gretchen a bit before she offers Walt her hand.  While Elliot pretty much just stammers his way through this exchange, Gretchen is clearly angry with Walt.  It’s a shame that we don’t get that flashback I was so hoping for explaining what exactly happened between the threesome back when they were still working together.

Walt asks if he can trust them, and Elliot says that he can.  And then, in a deliciously cunning move, Walt deftly flicks his wrist at the living room window and two red laser dots appear squarely on Elliot and Gretchen’s chests.  Message received - If Junior doesn’t get the money, they’re goners.  Walt leaves them with biting final words, “cheer up beautiful people, this is where you get to make it right.” 

On his way out, Walt pulls over to the side of the road and his two ‘hit men’ get in.  Skinny Pete and Badger!  Yay!  They have some funky feelings “morality wise” regarding the lasers, but those feelings are assuaged when Walt hands them each a stack of cash.  Walt asks them straight if the blue meth is still being sold.  To which Badger says “Its you, right?”.  Once Walt says no, they all deduce that it’s Jesse.  Walt has a decidedly different reaction to this than the two boys.  He clenches his teeth and drives away.

Flashback to a golden dappled memory of Jesse’s.  He is making the box he spoke about in an AA meeting back in season 3.  He carefully constructs the hinges, with a look of wonder on his face. Bringing it to his face, he breathes in deep, then cradles it in his arms.  In the present, Jesse’s reverie is swiftly broken as the lead on his dog run gets caught.  He is an unkempt mess, looking every bit the captive animal that he is.  He yanks at the cord to continue his cook.

Dennys!  The flashbacks from previous episodes are put into context.  We see shots of bacon numbers and a glimpse of the gun in the trunk. After he procures the gun, we see Walt extracting the ricin from the electrical socket hideyhole.  As he leaves 308 Negra Arroyo Lane for the last time, Walt has a flashback of his own in his living room, to two years prior on his 50th birthday. In his memory, Hank encourages him to go on a ride along to a meth lab, “have a little excitement in your life”.  Oh Hank if only you knew what trouble that offer would bring.  RIP Hank.  We miss you bunches and, hey, a big thanks for unknowingly introducing Walt to Jesse during that ride along. 

Later that morning, Lydia rolls her suitcase into the meeting place coffee shop, asking for her usual.  She inventories the sweetener supply, and extracts the single Stevia packet from the bunch as Todd arrives.  Apparently they’ve upgraded to sitting together, as he takes a seat directly across from her.  As they start chatting, Walt casually comes over and sits down.  Lydia’s face contorts in crazed panic and she indecisively bobs in and out of her chair like a Whack-a-mole.  Todd just coolly stares.  Point goes to Todd for being super chill.  Lydia settles back into her chair as Walt asks for two minutes of their time.  He says he has a new meth recipe.  No methylamine, and he’ll teach it to Todd for the bargain price of 1 million dollars. Todd voices that he thinks it’s a bad idea, but Lydia says ok, and then banishes Walt from the table as her tea arrives. Once Walt is gone, Lydia spells it out to Todd that he’ll be doing Walt a favor by offing him when he comes to ‘teach’ that evening.  She dumps the Stevia in her mug, and the camera follows the powder as it ominously swirls into her tea. 

Walt’s next stop is in the middle of the desert.  He sings a few lines from ‘Felina’ as he constructs an automatic rig for the gun, connected to some sort of remote keychain.  As he leans over, his wedding ring necklace falls out of his shirt and dangles from his neck.

Pan over Skyler’s tiny, sad, dark apartment.  The furniture is still the same.  We see the large wooden hutch, the orange crocheted afghan.  Skyler is chain smoking as she gets a call from Marie.  Her sister runs it down for her.  Walt has been seen popping up all over town, and as far as Marie is concerned, Walt’s headed to Skyler, to Junior, or to her.  (Don’t flatter yourself Marie, Walt has no use for you.)  Marie tearfully tells Skyler to be on the lookout, and they hang up.  The camera pulls in to reveal that Walt has been standing in the kitchen the entire time.

Skyler lights a cigarette and tells Walt he has five minutes.  He gives her the lotto ticket of death and tells her he should use it to make a deal with the DEA.  He explains about Hank, and then goes on to say, “all the things I did, you have to understand…”  Skyler stops him.  She doesn’t want to hear the same old bullshit again about how it was all for the family.  Walt goes on.  “I did it for me.  I liked it.  I was good at it.  And I was…really…I was alive.”  Skyler looks up at Walt with wonderment, like she’s seeing him for the first time in years.  She shakes her head at him and gives him a small smile, like ‘oh what will I ever do with you, Walt’.    

Walt asks to see Holly, and Skyler accompanies him to the crib.  Walt lovingly strokes Holly’s hair, and half of America breaks out in muffled sobs.  He smiles tenderly at his sleeping child that he will never know.  As he leaves, he and Skyler exchange a loving look for the last time.

Walt watches from afar as Junior gets off the bus, and then walks away into a blur.

As night falls, Walt drives up to the Nazi compound.  They unchain the gate for him, and he drives up to the clubhouse.  After making sure Walt isn’t wearing a wire they go inside, and Jack marvels at Walt’s full head of hair.  Walt asks if they can talk business, and Jack says no.  Todd says that he shouldn’t have come back.  One of the henchmen cocks a gun, and Walt goes berserk, saying that Jack owes him Pinkman.

Jack’s got some odd sense of pride, and bristles at Walt calling him a liar.  He tells Todd to go get Jesse, and when he’s done with Jesse he’ll put a bullet in Walt’s head personally.

Jesse wobbles over to the clubhouse with Todd.  While he’s waiting, Walt grabs hold of his keys that some henchman carelessly left on the pool table. Jesse is pushed forward into the room, and Walt’s face softens the moment he lays eyes on him.  The two of them lock eyes, and Jesse flinches away from Walt, not too sure of where they stand.  Understandable because the last time they saw one another, Walt sent him away to be tortured and killed. 

Walt wrestles Jesse to the floor.  The Nazis have a little chuckle over it, and Jack tells Todd to separate them.  As Todd starts to pull them apart, Walt presses the button.  Oscillating gunfire rains down upon the clubhouse for a good 30 seconds.  As Walt is propped up on Jesse’s body, he takes a rogue bullet in the side.  Nazis die en masse, excepting Todd and Jack.  Apparently Mr. White made himself a Scarface robot, his very own scientific ‘little friend’.  The robot runs out of ammo, and the words, “jeesus Mr. White” are barely out of Todd’s mouth when Jesse attacks him, violently strangling him to death with his chains. 

Walt looks on as Jesse struggles with Todd, but then realizes Jack is still alive.  Jack props himself up on the chair, and says, “wait” as he grabs his lit cigarette from the floor and takes a drag.  Honestly, Jack was in the running for most badass TV death of all time until he tried to bargain with Walt, telling him that if he pulls the trigger, he’ll never get his money.  Walt pulls the trigger anyways, and shiny red blood spatters onto the camera lens. 

Jesse, free of his chains, stands, waiting for Walt to do something.  Walt slides him the gun and says, “Do it.  You want this.”  Jesse says, “Say the words, say you want this.  Nothing happens until I hear you say it.”  Walt says that he wants it.  He wants to die.  Jesse looks down at Walt’s wound, eyes widening, and says, “Then do it yourself”.  

(Side note – At the climax of Walt and Jesse’s relationship, that father/son dynamic holds true.  Walt, in taking a bullet while protecting Jesse is the parent who sacrifices for the good of his son.  When Jesse sees the wound, he realizes that he can’t do it.  He can’t kill his father figure; no matter how much pain and suffering he has caused him.  He rebels by dropping the gun and walking out.)

As Jesse walks out the door, one of Todds wonderful ring tones starts up.  “Lydia oh Lydia…..”  Say what you will about Todd, but he’s the master of ringtones.  Walt rummages in Todd’s pocket, and answers the phone.  Lydia asks, “Is it done?” to which Walt replies, “He’s gone.  They’re all gone.”  Walt identifies himself to her as he watches Jesse walk across the compound.  He keeps his eyes on Jesse as delivers the crushing blow to Lydia.  “Feeling under the weather?  Like the flu?  That would be the ricin.  I slipped it into that Stevia crap you’re always putting into your tea.  Goodbye Lydia.” 

Jesse and Walt have a wordless exchange, almost imperceptibly nodding their goodbyes to one another before Jesse takes off.  Tearful, and cackling with laughter, Jesse speeds away, taking that damned barbed wire fence with him.

Walt stands alone, bleeding from his side.  He limps to the lab, casually tamping at the dials as the sirens begin in the background, much like they did at the start of the episode.  The first lyrics of ‘Baby Blue’ play as Walt caresses the equipment. “Guess I got what I deserved…” He slips away, his soul ascending skyward. (Final side note - Does Walt really belong in heaven?  Is killing ten Nazis and one really evil Stevia-loving bitch enough penance for all those other people he killed, and all that meth he cooked?)

As the police case the joint, Heisenberg lies dead on the floor of the lab, legacy firmly intact. 

And in the end, Walt won.


There are questions I could ask here, and some stray observations I could make, but I’m going to cop out.  I have loved this show for so many years, and I just truly and really want to express my love for the most fantastic show on television.  In my mind, the finale was perfect and left me feeling content with my commitment to the series as a whole.  I will most certainly watch it in its entirety several more times throughout my life, and feel confident that I will be amazed and satisfied each and every time. 

Goodbye Breaking Bad.  Thanks for the memories. 

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