Breaking Bad: ABQ (season finale)
by Allison Waldman, posted May 31st 2009 11:22PM
(S02E13) Cause and effect, random selection, grief, life and death... "My father is my hero, he's just decent." Breaking Bad covered all that and more in the season finale, setting up Walter White's life after successful surgery that bought him more time. The question was this when the end credits rolled, what will that life be for the New Mexico science teacher after all that's come before?
Anyone out there who thinks they know is lying because only creator Vince Gilligan has a handle on what's been going on and what's to come. What we do know after watching the season finale is this: Breaking Bad is as good as any other drama currently on television, and that includes Lost, Mad Men, House, 24 and the other potential Emmy nominees for Outstanding Drama Series.
Was everything that happened in the finale's final moments divine retribution perhaps? Karma? Random selection? The randomness of all it mirrors the meeting at the bar between Walter and Don. Could their meeting be as arbitrary as Walt's house being struck by falling airplane wreckage? And what were the chances that the air traffic controller responsible for the collision was a grief-riddled Don who should have never been allowed back to work?
But there was also the idea of cause and effect going on. If Jane doesn't die – because Walter did nothing to save her -- does Don make the mistakes that lead to the crash? One thing relates to the other, just like Walt's cancer is the cause of his becoming a meth man.
Amazingly, Gilligan leaves us hanging. It's maddening, but it's also brilliant. All the foreshadowing all season long, those scenes of the post-crash White home with the guys in the haz-mat suits, had us anticipating that Walt was responsible for the apparent violence at the house. We know that there are body bags involved, but logic suggests that it won't be Walt in one of them. And it can't be Sky or Flynn or anybody connected to Walter. It'll more likely be two passengers whose bodies land on Walter's property along with the pink teddy bear. The glasses, though, have to be Walt's.
In the previous episode, Sky asked Walter if he was learning about elephants when he was watching TV. Well, you know the old saying, "elephants never forget"? Sky never forgot that Walter didn't have an answer to her question about the second cell phone. Before the surgery, when she asked if had brought his phone along, he answered with the mutter, "Which one?" In that moment, Sky realized that Walter had never stopped lying to her. That utterance became the catalyst for her to walk out on Walt, taking with Holly and Flynn with her. She waited till he was well enough to take care of himself, and then Sky lowered the boom. Her indictment was sharp as a knife and Walter had no response and no way to keep her from leaving. It would seem that that decision probably saved her life and Holly's as well.
At Hank's office, the DEA remained on the trail of Heisenberg. How ironic that he put the collection jar for Walter's cancer surgery in the office in time for the business leaders, including Gus, to see his face. It's like Walter is hiding in plain sight, which is also reminiscent of Walter hiding the money behind the installation in the laundry room. However, will Gus remain a silent partner in Heisenberg's operation now that he knows how exposed Walter really is?
Saul once again was the key to Walter's salvation. After processing Jane's death, Walt anticipated Jesse's call and was ready to respond thanks to Saul's fixer, Mike. Jonathan Banks played Mike, a "cleaner," like Harvey Keitel's character in Pulp Fiction. He seemed like a former cop because he not only knew how to purge the crime scene, and thus protect Walt from being implicated in a forensic way (finger prints, fibers, DNA evidence), but later he took tracked down Jesse in the shooting gallery.
It was significant that Walter was compelled to go into that den of drugs and depravity to get Jesse out, even though their partnership was practically dissolved when he delivered the money last week. Clearly, if Walt were a stone cold killer, and not a "decent" man -- like Flynn boasted on the TV news -- would he have bothered to save Jesse? If he'd have left Jesse there and not placed him at Serenity to get clean and sober, he might have been rid of his loser partner forever. But he couldn't do it.
Walter's psyche is split between his pragmatic, criminal intellect and his humanity. Also, whether he likes it or not, Walter has an emotional tie to Jesse. They share a bond, strained as it is, that's as strong as blood. It's not one-sided either, because the way Jesse hung onto Walter was like a drowning man clinging to a lifeline. Jesse's family wasn't there. It was Jesse's partner.
Now we wait. Next season is a long way off. Too long to learn Walter's fate, but what choice do we have. Finally, the quality of the performances by Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk, Anna Gunn and the rest of the cast must be recognized. In front of the camera and behind it, Breaking Bad has delivered a stellar season.