'Breaking Bad' Finale Recap: Who Lived, Who Died (& Who Got the Ricin)

Every television series I've fallen in love with has stumbled in terms of its storytelling at some point. A few episodes fall flat, or an entire season gets off-kilter. The wonderfully dark exception to the rule is Breaking Bad. If the writers have occasionally seemed unsure what to do with certain characters (sorry, Walt Jr.), the show as a whole has never been a disappointment.

Expectations for the Breaking Bad series finale were so high, tonight's episode probably left some fans unsatisfied. I wasn't one of them, though. I can't imagine an ending that would have pleased every single viewer, but I found the conclusion virtually flawless -- every bit as memorable as I'd hoped it would be.

If you're caught up with "Felina," the 16th episode of the 5th season, the final episode of the series altogether, the epic Breaking Bad finale -- join me to discuss the events that were unveiled tonight.


We start out with Walt back in New Hampshire, breaking into a snow-covered car. He's struggling with trying to pop off the ignition with a screwdriver when police lights flash behind him. Blue and red fills the car as Walt murmurs out loud, "Just get me home. I’ll do the rest." The cop eventually moves on, and Walt finds the keys in the visor. They drop into his hand like a gift from heaven.

He drives away with Marty Robbins' "El Paso" playing in the tape deck: "Maybe tomorrow a bullet may find me / Tonight nothing's worse than this pain in my heart."

Walt makes his way to a gas station in the southwest, where he places a call to sleuth out Elliot and Gretchen Schwartz's address. Next we see the Gray Matter founders entering their opulent mansion, chatting away about this and that and utterly failing to notice Walt's lurking presence until Gretchen finally spots him and shrieks. Elliot makes a trembly attempt to stave Walt off with a kitchen utensil, and Walt doesn't even blink: "Elliot, if we’re going to go that way, you’re going to need a bigger knife.”

If we all thought Walt was here to murder the Schwartzes, we're soon proven wrong when he makes them bring in his $9 million. He tells them that they are to create an irrevocable trust for Walt Jr. on his 18th birthday, using only his money. It's an astoundingly brilliant plan to hide his gift behind billionaires known for their charitable donations and anti-drug efforts. "I can trust you, right?" he says, and turns as if to leave -- but then stops and with a single commanding hand gesture, he makes this happen:

According to Walt, two of the best hit men west of the Mississippi are outside the home and laser-sighting on Elliot and Gretchen. He explains they will always be watching to make sure his demands are followed to the letter. "Cheer up, beautiful people," Walt spits with disgust, patting the terrified couple. “This is where you get to make it right.”

The two top-notch hit men turn out, awesomely, to be Skinny Pete and Badger ... armed with laser pointers. Bless you, Vince Gilligan, for including them in this episode. Skinny Pete and Badger tell Walt that someone's still cooking blue meth, and he realizes that it has to be Jesse.

We get a quick scene of Jesse hand-crafting a beautiful wooden box. I'm not sure if he's daydreaming about the thing he always wanted to be doing, or if he's remembering the box he made years ago (and sold for drugs). I'm choosing to believe the former, and that this is a glimpse of his future. Anyway, we cut from this peaceful moment to Jesse's real-life current situation: chained, beaten, and trapped in meth-slave hell.

A few brief glimpses of our previous flash-forwards go by (Walt's 52nd birthday, the M60 he bought, the ricin he retrieved from his home), and now we're checking in on another Lydia/Todd cafe meetup. Except this time Walt is sitting nearby. He abruptly moves to their table and tells them to hear him out: he's got a new way to cook meth without methylamine, and he'll partner with them for $1 million. Lydia shoos him on his way, but not before we get a long glance at her dumping the table's single packet of Stevia into her signature chamomile-and-soy. Ohhhhhhhhh yeah.

Cut to: Walt at the To'hajiilee reservation, where his money was buried and Hank was killed. He's building some sort of automated machine that hooks up to the machine gun. Buh? Is he going to have some epic standoff in the desert? No time to ponder, now we're in Skyler's new place as she talks on the phone to Marie. Marie's warning her that Walt's been spotted, and on the million to one chance he makes his way to her ... "Thank you," says Skyler, and as she hangs up the camera moves and we see Walt's been there the whole time. "Five minutes," she tells him as she chain-smokes (because I guess she's had enough cautionary tales for one lifetime and the whole lung cancer thing is probably off her radar).

Walt hands over the lotto ticket with the GPS coordinates, and tells her to use the location of Hank and Gomez's remains as a trade for a deal with the prosecutor. He starts to explain why he did everything he did, and Skyler stops him, hissing that she cannot stand to hear him say -- again -- that he did it for his family. He says with raw honesty, "I did it for me. I liked it. I was good at it. I was alive."

My heart is broken and we're not even in the final minutes. (Also, this recap is getting long as hell, I'm sorry. Maybe get a drink or something, walk around a little.)

Walt gently caresses a sleeping baby Holly one last time, then watches Walt Jr. from afar. He walks wearily away from Skyler and doesn't try to touch her or linger. That's it. His last earthly glimpse of his family, and his children don't even know he's there.

Now Walt pulls up to Jack’s gated meth compound. The Nazis let him in and pat him down for weapons. He presents his no-methylamine deal to Jack, who blows it off. Todd says grimly, "You shouldn't have come back, Mr. White," and Jack orders Walt to be killed. As he's being dragged away, Walt yells that Jack never fulfilled his end of the deal to get rid of Jesse and instead partnered with him, and Jack gets all huffy about his besmirched reputation and calls for Jesse to be brought in. Jesse comes shuffling in, shackled, and Walt manages to grab his car keyfob and launch himself at Jesse. Walt and Jesse hit the floor as Walt pushes the button on the key. Outside, his trunk pops open, and -- holy FUCK -- his M60 starts firing.

Round after round after round pummel the clubhouse. Nazis are being hit left and right. Walt grunts: he's been shot too. The gun finally stops, and Todd makes his way to the window to see what in hell just happened. That's when Jesse throws his chains around Todd's neck and strangles him to death.

Jack's still alive, and Walt picks up a gun and aims it at his head. "Wait!" Jack says and scrambles for a cigarette. He tells Walt that if he pulls the trigger, he'll never find the rest of his money, but Walt blows him away. (The camera visuals in this scene must be noted: that was an amazing prismatic red spray.)

Walt kicks the gun to Jesse and asks him to shoot him. "You want this," Walt says, and Jesse tells him to tell the truth, that Walt wants this. Walt agrees, but Jesse notices the spreading bloodstain on his abdomen. "Then do it yourself," Jesse says and leaves.

Todd's phone rings: it's Lydia. We know it's Lydia because of his ringtone: "Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?" Walt answers, and when Lydia -- looking like hammered shit -- asks if the deed has been done, Walt agrees. "They're all gone," he says, then as she realizes with horror who she's talking to, he asks if she's feeling a little under the weather. He's walking toward Jesse as he explains that the reason she's experiencing flulike symptoms is because of the ricin he slipped in her Stevia. He and Jesse exchange a glance before Jesse gets in a car and drives away at top speed, barreling through the locked gate and sobbing and screaming in elation. Godspeed, Jesse Pinkman. Bitch.

At the compound, sirens are closing in. Walt's wound is worsening. He walks into the lab and picks up a gas mask, fondly touches the machinery. His fingers are trailing a piece of equipment when he falls away, leaving behind a bloody handprint. Walt collapses on the ground, his eyes unblinking. A pool of blood spreads around him as the camera pans higher and higher and "Baby Blue" plays: "Guess I got what I deserved ..."

Well, goddamn. I don't know about you, but I couldn't have imagined a better ending to a phenomenal series. Tonight's finale followed up on all of the flashfowards we'd seen and tied up the various loose ends in ways that felt true to the story. It was amazing, and I'm so sad it's over.

A final note: as some had theorized ahead of time, there definitely was a connection between the episode title "Felina" and the Marty Robbins song. Is Felina Walt's identity as Heisenberg? Maybe so.

Something is dreadfully wrong for I feel
A deep burning pain in my side.
Though I am trying
To stay in the saddle,
I'm getting weary,
Unable to ride.

But my love for Felina is strong and I rise where I've fallen,
Though I am weary I can't stop to rest.
I see the white puff of smoke from the rifle.
I feel the bullet go deep in my chest.

From out of nowhere Felina has found me,
Kissing my cheek as she kneels by my side.
Cradled by two loving arms that I'll die for,
One little kiss and Felina, good-bye.

What did you think of the Breaking Bad finale? Were you satisfied or left feeling disappointed?

Image via AMC

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