All bad things must come to an end

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Felina brings a satisfying end to AMC’s hit drama Breaking Bad

artwork courtsey of CECELIA ROEDER
artwork courtsey of CECELIA ROEDER


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“Chemistry is the study of transformation.”

-Walter White

Sunday evening’s finale might have marked the end of Breaking Bad, but it kick-started public perception as one of the greatest TV crime dramas of all time.

Since its beginning in 2008, Breaking Bad has followed the journey of Walter White (Bryan Cranston) from chemistry teacher to drug kingpin. Along the way, we’ve seen the consequences of his actions affect those around him, from his former student-turned-sidekick Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul,) his wife Skylar (Anna Gunn) and children, to Skylar’s sister Marie, and her DEA agent husband (Betsey Brandt and Dean Norris.)

It seems like finding the right way to end a show is crucial to guaranteeing the success of a show. Nobody likes when a show “jumps the shark,” especially in the last episode of an entire series. A good example of this is Dexter, another anti-hero crime drama, also in its last season. Unlike Breaking Bad, many fans of Dexter have been disappointed, pointing out unrealistic and confusing plot turns. How did Breaking Bad manage to avoid this end?

I think creator and executive producer Vince Gilligan knew his limits. He didn’t have Walt do anything out of character. He didn’t draw out the story for numerous seasons. Like Walt, I think Gilligan was aware that all things come to an end, and prolonging the end is futile.

The final episode, titled Felina, may go down as the best ending in TV history, no small feat. Breaking Bad managed to give fans everything they could have wanted. Felina was a true masterpiece. No line uttered is unnecessary, every scene adds to the plot.

Felina wouldn’t have been able to manage such a spectacular ending without a stellar final season to back it up. The entire 5th season, split in half and aired over 16 episodes, was chock full of action, drama, and good storytelling. Gilligan left no loose ends, no question that needed answered.

My favorite part of Breaking Bad was always Jesse, Walt’s partner -in-crime or nemesis, depending on the time. Walt’s transformation into Heisenberg is forefront in the show, but I most enjoyed seeing Jesse journey, from a bumbling amateur meth cook, to a struggling addict, to a motivated criminal trying to turn his life around, and finally to a broken man, destroyed by the violence and drugs that surround him.

I’m sure there will be a few fans who complain that the finale didn’t elaborate more on Jesse’s future. However, I prefer not to know with any certainty. Jesse is the only major character who never “broke bad.” He certainly had some low moments, but he never truly turned evil.

Jesse wasn’t perfect, but he always had a conscience, and he always wanted to follow it. He had empathy for children, and he didn’t care about wealth or fame. Many of the bad things Jesse did were under Walt’s manipulation. The most satisfying part of the finale, for me, was that Jesse broke that cycle, and ultimately rejected evil.

Yes, Jesse killed a man again. But I truly got the feeling that it was the last life he would ever take. He did the world a favor by ending the life of a psychopath who showed frighteningly little emotion. Todd’s death was also a way for Jesse to avenge the lives Todd had taken, and the torture he had suffered. Some have also pointed out that Jesse and Todd are the inverse of each other. Jesse is highly emotional, intelligent, empathetic, and still has a sense of right and wrong. Todd is emotionally flat, socially inept, and seems to have no conscience.  It’s only appropriate that Jesse would end Todd.

Yet Jesse rejected his chance to kill again. Walt did a good number of bad things to Jesse, enough that many people could justify Jesse killing Walt. Jesse couldn’t pull the trigger. There could be many reasons why. I like to think that Jesse was forced to face his conscience. He had every reason to shot Walt, but he wasn’t going to commit any more crimes that would leave a stain on his soul. He was done compromising his conscience for Walt. Jesse refused to break bad.

The last we see of Jesse is him breaking out of his prison, finally free, finally happy. We don’t know where he’s going, and honestly, I don’t want to know. Jesse was able to escape his dark past, and that’s exactly what viewers needed in a show like this. If Jesse can survive hell and find redemption, who’s to say you can’t? I can’t think of a better message to send in a show that goes to very dark places.

Thanks, Breaking Bad. For five seasons, you gave me something to watch, analyze, and discuss. I’ve never been so emotionally involved in a TV show the way I have been with this one. Somehow, a story about the makers of crystal meth became a story that taught me about life. That’s not the kind of show you can find anywhere. Only time will tell if another series can top Breaking Bad.

I doubt it.

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