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And When I Walk the Streets Kings and Queens Step Aside: How I'd End "Breaking Bad"

By Cindy Davis | Think Pieces | July 12, 2012 | Comments ()


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With the final season (soul-crushingly split in two) of "Breaking Bad" nearly upon us, I've been thinking about what a satisfying finale would be. For a television show that's graced us with four enthralling seasons, viewers are likely confident that Vince Gilligan will deliver us the ending we long for--but what exactly is that?

Regardless of Gilligan's declaration that he wanted to turn "Mr. Chips into Scarface," we can probably all agree Walter White has to die; it's the manner of death, not the will he or won't he, that will inform the "Breaking Bad" finale. Though the background threat always lingered, it's doubtful Walt's all but forgotten terminal lung cancer will kill him. The sympathy we once felt for that timid car wash employee is long gone, incrementally vanishing with each egotistical or amoral step Heisenberg took. It might provide the sentimental ending Lindelof would mindlessly vomit at his viewers but with Gilligan, we expect better--we know better. We will get better.

Whatever troubles lie in wait for Jesse and Walt, whichever evolution of Gus or Tuco is around the next corner, it's doubtful Walt will meet his end directly by a competitor's hand. I can't deny anticipating another delightfully insane cartel boss or some scrappy, new kid who'll get in the boys' way, but I don't see that being the way out either. Some people may think Jesse will be successor; just as Walt took out Gus, so should Jesse knock off his own dominant partner. But in my mind Gilligan has set up a fairly specific line of dominos to fell Walter White, to fulfill his destiny, and our bloodthirsty finale needs.

Just as brother-in-law and federal agent, Hank Schrader (inadvertently) led Walt to the crystal blue waters, so should he lead Heisenberg to his appropriate end. While Walt spent the past few years breaking out of humiliation and fear, we've watched an opposite transformation take Hank down. The formerly brash and over-confident macho man unknowingly tiptoed on and around Walt's yellow brick road so many times, it became almost comical--until in "One Minute," he got terrifyingly tangled up--and nearly killed. Hank is the way and the light; Hank must lead Walter White to his necessary end.

Whatever the Season 5 circumstances may be (I'm no scriptwriter), I imagine Hank continuing to regain his confidence, even as Walt's hubris instigates the inevitable mistakes that breadcrumb Hank right to Walt and Jesse's doorstep (again). The Season 3 and 4 explosions leave little doubt Gilligan and company can De Palma up, and give us a great final scene with Walt trapped, surrounded by armed DEA agents. Maybe he even takes a couple of guys out. In a brilliant monologue, Hank (as negotiator and accuser) works out everything that's happened--all the danger Walt has put the families in, Hank's own near death, the people Walt and Jessie killed... We get Walt's defiant, egotistical Heisenbergian speech and then either Walt goes super aggressive and tries to shoot his way out, or he purposely makes a move toward Hank (knowing he'll be shot); either way, we get a dead Walt by other-than-Hank agent (so Skyler and Marie have nothing to hold against Hank).

Now, I'm not saying Jesse doesn't matter; Aaron Paul has been a phenomenal actor and the character, a beautiful combination of pain and comic relief. But what happens with Jesse can go almost any way and we'll still feel good. He can escape the lockdown situation and head off into the sunset, clean. He can break off from Walt and start his own operation, leaving us to wonder if he'll turn into Heisenberg 2.0. Or, Marvelous Mike can set Jesse free earlier in the season, and maybe at the end we get a shot of the two meeting up on some tropical island (isn't that always the way), load of secreted cash in hand and bikinied women at their sides. In the "Breaking Bad" story, Jesse wasn't meant to go on and in the end, he's really just collateral damage. As an audience, we'd probably rather see him end up clean, but it is Walter White's proper ending that holds the finale key.

Whatever plans the writers do have, I'm confident we'll not be left with snowy screens or magic cave lights...maybe just a pink teddy bear.


CINdY DaVIS' love is chemical.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • stryker1121

    If Walt's going full Scarface than Hank's not going to make til the end of the series. Killing Hank will be Walt's 'no turning back' point. The series will end w/ the cancer roaring back w/ a vengeance, and Walt redeeming himself before death by getting Jesse out of the life. I just don't see a blaze of glory death for Walt..it will be a full circle thing where Walt dies powerless and penniless in a prison hospital.

    I trust Gilligan not to get all artsy and cute like some his contemporaries. no abstract bullshit or sudden cuts to black, please.

  • Leota1313

    The best ending for me would be Walt sacrificing himself in some way for Jesse. We know that Walt really does care about Jesse, and after all he's done, taking some sort of ultimate fall so that Jesse is OK would be satisfying to watch.

  • Robb

    If it were up to me and thankfully its not, Walt's world needs to collapse. It get to go all the way up the full scarface but it has to come all the way down. Not in a blaze of bullets as again thats not his hell. We'll see where they take us in the first eight but id bet the second to last episode ends w Walt killing Jesse. Now alone with his piles of money, nowhere to go, as the DEA is closing in on him, he has no one. He becomes the typical drug dealer the guy who intimidates and isnt intimitaded, everything he tried to be smarter then, because he was better then a drug dealer. In the end he spends the last episode trying to get free and run away, but its Skylar who hands him over to the cops in his ultimate betrayal as he did this all for them. And in the end the final shot is her and the two kids in a nice comfortable house far away from New Mexico (kind of the opposite of goodfellas spaghetti and ketchup) eating dinner w only three place settings.

    then again I have complete faith that Gilligan is smarter then me and will go deeper and darker and more blood curdling then i could come up with. Maybe it will just end with him watching Bob Ross paint happy trees from his couch in tiddy whities glass of red wine in his hand

  • in_heaben

    Yeah, I'm pretty sure there was an interview not too long ago where they were discussing the possibility of a film after the fifth season, so it's definitely not a foregone conclusion that Walt's gonna die. Sorry.

  • POINGjam

    Dangit. I hate when everyone's already said everything but I don't realize it.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I want an unequivocal death, a physical one. None of this "Michael Corleone is to all intents and purposes a dead living thing at the end of Godfather II" stuff. Right now, Walter White is a creature of fear and pride. He needs to die, preferably in a blaze of hubris-wrought carnage with Skylar and Walt Jr. The money gone. Nothing else left for him. Skylar is increasingly fashioning herself as his consgiliere, or, as I commented long ago, as his Andy Dufresne who will help Walt crawl through 200 yards of sh*t to freedom, but then DIE! I want Hank to win. Hank who is so smart, who has figured out so much with so little. He started the series so puffed up and his layers have been brutally stripped away like everyone else's.

    I'd like for Jesse to escape, but then I remember what he's done and I think misguided innocent (for he does seem to be one of nature's eternal innocents) or not, he is "the bad guy" and should be punished. And then I want Aaron Paul to get amazing movie roles. That man has an Oscar in him. One of the worthy ones, not one of the consolation or "it's your turn" ones.

  • POINGjam

    He was great in the Weird Al biopic.

  • bleujayone

    I'd like the show to come full circle of sorts. For four years now we've Watched Walter transform from a milquetoast kind of guy to the very thing his original self would have abhorred. Walter turned towards using his talents from a mild-mannered schoolteacher to methamphetamine kingpin out of desperation. He was sick & dying, had little means of combating his illness, had even less to leave as security for his wife, disabled son and unborn child and had very little hope of that ever changing in the short time he had left. Every time he did something a little worse, the person that he was deteriorated inside. I want this to be a internal battle for what's left of his soul. Think of it as the throwdown argument I would have wanted to have read about between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

    What I'd like to see is Walter have a heart-to-heart with his original self (perhaps in a chemically induced hallucination). I would like Present Walt to justify his actions to Past Walter. I want PresWalt to explain why everything he did was better than the alternative and that PastWalt shouldn't judge since he has yet to live through it. Then I'd like PastWalt to retort that he has. That no matter what shit was thrown his way, there was always a better way than what PresWalt did. That it might be better to be loved in a shorter life than to be feared and hated in a longer one. That the person that Walter has become is a monster who deserves to lose the very people he claims he's trying to help. And then I'd like him to make PresWalt to openly acknowledge to himself that he really doesn't give a damn about his family, that he's doing this because after a lifetime of following the rules and getting pushed around, there is something liberating about embracing one's dark half. He's said that to some effect already, but even now I really don't think he's ever quite let that sink in.

    To him, he's not a man who done truly evil things, he's D-FENS, doing the only thing the world forced him to for survival- a means to and end. I say this because despite everything that's happened, I'm not convinced that Walter has ever fully embraced the gravity of his action or the metamorphosis he's taken. Even now, for everything he's done, he's had excuses to back it all up, even if he's the only one buying it. I think the day he ever fully acknowledges what he has become, one of two things needs to happen; either he needs to be absolutely horrified and needs to try to atone for it in some way in an attempt at redeeming his soul, or he needs to cast aside the facade of self-delusion and fully embrace what he's become as his true self.

    And either way, he needs to die because either he needs to sacrifice his life in the act of redemption or forfeit it in the act of damnation.

  • sean

    I think it ends with Walt, dying alone in a prison hospital. His family shattered. Hank gets his man, but loses everything that he cares about. . Marie dead. Skylar, Walt Jr, and the baby flee, and live elsewhere. With the drug money. Jesse redeems himself. And lives as happily ever after as he can with the gf, and the kid.

  • Green Lantern

    Random thoughts:

    Jessie kills Walter after Walt double-crosses him and Jessie sees that "Heisenberg" has gone too far. After he finds he can't live with the guilt, despite a street-code justified shooting, Jessie kills himself too.

    Skylar is arrested as an accomplice in a drug laundering scheme. The stress from the events cause Hank and Marie to finally divorce. Walt Jr. and Holly are sent to foster homes.

    Don't do (sell) drugs, kids.

  • A. Smith

    A Lord of War-type ending would probably be the most satisfying. He loses everyone, wife, son, infant daughter, sis in law, DEA brother in law, Jesse, lawyer, his name everything. In the end, he loses everyone and himself, all he has left is Heisenburg and just when he thinks he's free his cancer comes back.

  • Skyler dying would be interesting. What if everybody dies BUT Walter?

  • Artemis

    This is maybe the first and only time in my life that I've had such complete faith in a showrunner/writer's room that I don't care how things end. I mean, I care in that I'm invested in the story. But whatever Gilligan and company decide to do, I think it will be the right choice. And given the track record of this show, I don't think it's going to be something that can be predicted this far back -- maybe the broad strokes (Walt dies, Walt goes to jail, etc.) but certainly not the specifics.
    The only, only thing I think the show *has* to do is have Hank realize that Walt is Heisenberg. He's been chasing him so long, he was paralyzed because of him, he got his mojo back by chasing him again, he's the only one who's on the right track -- and Dean Norris has just gotten better and better in that role, and I can't wait to see how he plays Hank's reaction to the reveal.

  • Guest

    My guess: Walt's cancer comes back. Walt becomes reckless. Hank figures out Walt is Heisenberg. A rival cartel boss comes along. Jesse is brutally murdered halfway through the season. Walter's family get's in danger. Walter get's killed fighting for his family, before Hank tells anyone. Hank covers it all up, so the family believes it was some kind of random incident.

  • Sarah Kosheff

    An other-than-Hank agent? That seems so impersonal, so arbitrary. Not a fitting end for Heisenberg. No I can definitely see Hank being the one doing it, and I can see Jesse doing it, I can see Mike doing it, I can see the cancer doing it, I can see Walt himself doing it.

    There are two pivotal moments that I'm waiting for. One is Hank's revelation that Walter is Heisenberg - that is going to be an extraordinary moment. The other is Jesse's discovery of Walt's misdeeds (i.e. Jane and Brock). I don't know how it could possibly come into light, but I feel like it needs to.

  • PyD

    well if anything was a dropped clue in season 4 it was the mysterious Germans who bankrolled Gus and that one thing - you know the one thing he did that was the thing, that he did, and everyone was like woah he did, that thing.
    There's also the large power / drug supply vacuum left in the wake of the season 4 happenings.

    I think the series story has worked on two levels - the widening implications of Heisenberg's role in the business and the tightening knot of the family relationships under the pressure- with Jesse being the 'wild card' that is knocked around between the two aspects of Walt's weird world.

    So it would make sense for that dynamic to play out into the end game.

    I want Walt Jr to work out what his dad does as a serious plot point - the Walt, Walt Jr., Hank triangle was a good one full of fun family tensions.

  • ed newman

    I am in agreement that Vince Gilligan will not let us down (BTW, you couldn't write this without another shot at Lost, could ya?), but I don't think that Walt has to die by Hank's hand, or even die at all, for everyone to be satisfied. Other possibilities:

    Walt and Skylar being led away in handcuffs while Walt Jr. finishes breakfast.

    Walt has a stroke and winds up in a chair like Tio Hector Salamanca. Jesse and Hank tortures him daily at the care facility.

    Jesse wakes up to Walt and gives him up to the Mexicans. Walt is slowly tortured (to death?).

    Walt eats some bad chicken and goes into a coma (Fring's Revenge)

    The whole thing is a dream--Walt wakes up next to Jane Kaczmarek.

  • Wednesday

    I'm actually hoping it'll be Skylar that does him in. I know most people hate her, but really, she's become an interesting character. She's a few months behind Walt in being seduced by the money and thrilled by the power of it all, but she's a quick study. It would be a terrific closed loop if the very wife and family Walt sold his soul to "save" were his undoing.

    My daughter and I now point out "Poor Jesse" moments to each other in real life. When you look at someone and realize the poor sap just can't catch a break.

  • Eblis O'

    It's my theory that Hank already has Walt figured out, that he has suspected Walt since mid-season 4, but doesn't want to believe it could be true.

    But as for the ending, I don't think Walt should die. I think he should be made completely powerless. The series so far has been the story of an ego growing to great size. Walter IS the smartest man in the room. It IS all about him. He can manipulate ANY outcome to suit his needs.

    The ending Walter deserves is to have that ego crushed. Were he to become paralyzed or something, drooling and under Hank and Marie's guardianship; or maybe if he lost some of his intelligence that he values so much...he deserves more pain than just to be caught in a big show down with DEA.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I don't know how you could really bring Walt back to that point, though. He's well and truly stopped being somebody who would settle for that, and I think if he found himself in that kind of situation and could actually appreciate that *was* his situation (which he'd have to be able to for it to matter), he'd do whatever he could to end it, right up to killing himself. This isn't the kind of story where he could just be shunted back into his prior "crappy" life; he will not allow that now.

    I definitely agree Hank has some nearly serious inklings, though. Hank's never been dumb, even if the early cockiness made it seem a bit like that. I'm not sure what's keeping him from really buying into them yet, but I don't think it's a lack of willingness to suspect him; more likely it's that his Walt is a guy he's known for decades as a timid weasel, and how the hell could *he* be Heisenberg? I think Hank's feeling about Walt currently is that Walt would love to be that guy, but that there's no way he is.

    For my part, I feel like Walt's downfall is a largely internal thing. He goes on and on about how he's doing this for his family and it's always about them and making sure they're taken care of, but that's been blatant bullshit since he turned down his old college buddy's offer of basically a paycheck in exchange for nothing. What he's doing, it's all about Walt, money for Walt, power for Walt, pride for Walt. He couldn't get it in industry; he failed to get it teaching; his family loves him but come on, they don't really respect him.

    I think he's a suicide. Maybe suicide by Hank if it gets that far and he decides Hank deserves not to have his career fucked by living with Heisenberg for a year, but still essentially a suicide. Jesse kills him? Sure, great, he'd have ample reason. Same with Saul or Mike or whoever you like, but the only person who can really put Walt down the way Walt has it coming is Walt himself, because only he knows just how big a pile of bullshit he's selling himself. Anyone else doing it, he goes out the hero in his own story of not taking the shitty life he thought he had to live until he decided to break bad.

    If it's a tragedy, and I think it is, either Walt's doing it to himself or whoever does do it to him is basically just assisting a suicide.

  • Puddin

    Exactly. The ultimate punishment for Walt isn't to die in hail of gunfire, but to be forced to go back to his mundane existence. But this time, without Skylar and Walt Jr. (and Walt Jr.'s breakfast).

    And I really, really, really want Jesse to go straight, find a nice girl, have a few babies, and be happy.

  • sean

    Hmmmm..Walt back at the car wash. Applying Armor-All to tires. Good last scene.

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