Why the ‘Breaking Bad’ Finale Satisfies
By tying all loose ends and righting the wrongs in his world, Walt quenched a collective public desire to see justice done. Viewers and critics overwhelmingly approved the ending in the last episode of “Breaking Bad,” “Felina.” This endorsed underlying beliefs of our legal system. Walt’s unorthodox methods of justice extended far outside the color of law – but nonetheless satisfied our need for a sense of fairness in the world.
The show’s success equally depended upon our capabilities of understanding the harsh complexities of being human. Although Walt committed terrible acts, the vast majority of viewers did not want to lock him up forever and to throw away the key. They could sympathize with Walt and his circumstances. “Breaking Bad” lasted five seasons because it’s in human nature to forgive. Our legal system also requires this capacity for compassion.
“Felina” surprised viewers with Walt’s unexpected ways of accomplishing his goals and exacting retribution. Walt convinces his former business partners to obey his final request. He admits to Skyler he built his drug empire not for his family but for his own sense of accomplishment and thrills. He kills all the bad people, while freeing Jesse from the neo-Nazis’ meth cooking torture chamber. Finally, Walt dies. The plot was clever but not ingenious. Much of it was a stretch, requiring viewers to suspend disbelief. With almost magical powers, Walt fulfilled an unrealistic fantasy. The gods blessed him with perfect timing, ensuring fates unfolded almost exactly as he had predicted.
Our satisfaction with the ending stems not from an impeccably tight storyline but more from our deeply held beliefs, chiseled in the principles of our courts.
A Judge’s Opinion
Judge Michael R. Panter, associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County, is a loyal “Breaking Bad” fan.
However, he said other endings could have proven even more satisfying. Panter did not find believable the trust fund that Walt forced his former partners to set up for Junior, using Walt’s drug money. The $9 million in cash would still have been difficult to launder. Panter suggested Walt instead could have revealed something about the company Gray Matter, forcing Gretchen and Elliot to acknowledge his contributions and to set up a legitimate fund for his family.
Walt told Skyler the location of Hank’s body as information to exchange for a plea deal. “That was so disgusting. It was a big turnoff for me,” Panter said.
He added that information probably was not enough for prosecutors to drop charges against Skyler. Instead, Walt could have arranged for Skyler to turn over Lydia in exchange for immunity. “Information on an international drug trafficker of mammoth proportions? I thought that would be a more probable trade,” he said.
Panter questioned Walt’s ability to get the ricin into a sealed Stevia package for Lydia. He thought killing Jack and the neo-Nazis by placing ricin in the HVAC system would have made more sense than Walt’s assault weapon rampage.
Finally, the judge wondered with the wide-scale manhunt for Walt, how long would Jesse be free? Wouldn’t the police also be searching for him? Where would Jesse go?
Reality – Narcotics Anonymous
In the real world, there are places, including Narcotics Anonymous, which welcome people struggling with addictions, including crystal meth.
“We meet regularly to help each other stay clean. It’s a voluntary organization. There are no dues or fees,” said John I, a representative of Narcotics Anonymous, through the Greater New York Regional Public Information Committee. “We have one singular purpose and that is to help addicts that want to recover to find a recovery. There’s sometimes a misconception people have to be clean before they can come to a meeting. The reality is you don’t have to be clean to come to a meeting. Anybody can call themselves a member of Narcotics Anonymous as long as they have a desire to stop using.”
The organization carries a message of recovery though 12 steps of the program.
Members host more than 61,000 meetings weekly, in 129 countries and in 41 languages. Anonymity and providing a safe place for recovery remain key aspects of the program.
Walt made TV history as an anti-hero going down in a blaze of glory. Perhaps he can remind us of the actual heroes brave enough to face the challenges of reality.